Research at conferences? Yes, we can!

Doing research at conferences is a great way to recruit participants and get some input into your product’s roadmap.

Exhibit Hall

In order to get some high level feedback, we had attendees select a marble based on their role (so that we could map concerns to job roles) and select what area they had the most problem with.

My role in planning this particular activity was actually more from a logistics side. I helped organize our presence at the event and I’m the one who actually identified the designer who planned this activity as someone who would be willing to step up and help. He didn’t volunteer, but I asked him if he’d be willing to help and he was!

I helped decide based on the research needs which activities out of the ones he thought up that we could do.

Breakout Design Thinking Session

Design thinking activities are great to get customer input into your overall process from the beginning. At the Analytics University Conference (2018) in Miami, we had participants work with us to create a persona ecosystem of how they’re working with data at their company. We had a data maturity activity to gauge how mature their company is when working with data.

A con to doing this is that you have to CLEARLY communicate that you’re asking them to participate in the session abstract. We’ve had the problem before where people arrive and realize “Oh, I can’t just sit in the back?” and then quietly “go to the bathroom” and never return.


After seeing the sometimes lackluster response to forcing participants to engage in a session by standing up, I decided to do a compromise. I wanted it to be interactive, but I also don’t want only some people’s voices to be heard.

What I’ve done is go through a demo and set up a poll. I have some key polling questions that I ask at the beginning to get them used to the tool and then while I’m going through the demo, I have them submit questions to an open ended polling question.

I realized you have to be willing to pivot though! If it’s a smaller group, just be willing to have a discussion or some other backup plan.