Last week I was talking with a (much) younger researcher about their perception of the market research community.  I shared some of my distant memories of MRS summer and winter schools, various MRS conferences as well as talking about Research Club, R-Net and BIG.  What, they wanted to know, did I gain from each of these?  It was a good question.

Coincidentally, over the past year or so, members of the BIG committee have spent much time discussing important questions about the group.  What is our ‘Raison d’être’?  What can we do for the industry?  And perhaps most importantly, how do people benefit from being a member?  This May will mark 10 years since I joined BIG and so now seems a good time to reflect on my involvement with the group.

Without doubt, my decade as BIG member has provided me with a significant amount of knowledge and learning.  The Forum programme and annual conference provide a crucial platform which allows for the (sometimes heated) discussion of the ever-evolving role of B2B research.  Papers and sessions present by some incredible speakers have covered hugely varied but always interesting topic matter – behavioural economics in B2B Research, the impact of political polling on the industry and viability of SME panels to name but a few that spring to mind.  But as well as encouraging debate, BIG sessions can have huge practical value.  It was a spring forum session last year which provided the encouragement I needed to tackle GDPR.  Who knew we would need so much time to prepare?

Through BIG I have also had the privilege of attending social functions at many wonderful venues ranging from the world-famous HMS Belfast to the less well known but equally fantastic Royal Institution of Great Britain.  Glamorous black-tie awards dos, wine tasting under the Borough arches and post-Forum gatherings at The Blackfriar pub will all live long in the memory.

But thinking back over my time with BIG, what I am most grateful for is the sense of community and more specifically the people.  One such group are the people with whom I have served on the committee.  This has afforded me opportunity to work with and learn from many highly intelligent, funny and hugely generous researchers (and non-researchers).  But more than that, through the committee I have been very lucky to have found some true friends.

BIG has also given me the people with whom I have developed a working relationship.  Through BIG I have also been lucky enough to have found a number of important clients and suppliers.  A chance discussion at one of my first BIG events resulted in the commissioning of an admittedly tiny piece of fieldwork.  Within a year they had become my biggest client and remain so today.  I most certainly have BIG to thank for that initial introduction, but I would also put the longevity of our relationship down in part at least to our continued shared interest in the group.

Meeting my most important client was a life changing experience of sorts, but it was another introduction through which BIG truly changed my life.  The final group of people for whom I have BIG to thank are my family.  It was at a BIG conference in Chepstow that a fellow delegate introduced me to my now wife!

Whilst BIG membership is unlikely to change your life in quite so extreme way as mine, it will undoubtedly give you the invaluable opportunity of meeting other members of the research community.  Organisations such as BIG are an excellent vehicle for disseminating best practice, sharing ideas and sparking debate but just as importantly, in my opinion, they provide an arena where people can actually meet.  There is no doubt that we are all ever increasingly reliant on technology, social media and remote working.  And whilst this undoubtedly has significant benefits, we mustn’t forget the importance of the most basic of human interactions, the one upon which trust and relationships can be most easily built, a face to face discussion.

Author:  Jon Wood, Critical Research