ESOMAR Insights Festival

How Esomar Annual Congress, the flagship event, was moved virtually - Take-aways & call to action



Every year for more than 70 years now, Esomar, the Global Voice of the Data, Research, Analytics and Insights Community, organizes its annual congress. Congress is the place to learn about best practices, to share thoughts and knowledge with your peers from all over the globe, to meet people to develop your business, and ... to have fun!


The location and the venue had been planed more than one year in advance and was supposed to be hold in Toronto, Canada. Due to the sanitary situation this event was moved to a new format 100% digital. Of course it was very different from a face-to-face experience where you meet colleagues and friends in person, but I must say that this virtual conference has been a success.

This very first experience for Esomar to organize such a big conference online was a challenge: new business model and revenue stream, potential impact on the brand image for a flagship event, technology issues, new networking practices and new behaviors.


The Insights Festival was free for Esomar Members and for partner Associations. It gathered 2,500 registrants, over 4,300 viewers live, 180 speakers (including myself), from 99 countries offering the highest quality of professional curated reviewed content by a Programme Committee.

Over 4 intensive days, from Oakland and Manila to San Francisco and Lima, were hosted papers, open discussions, commercial presentations and more relax sessions on multi-channels and platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Microsoft Teams, Esomar AI ANA,...).

Day one started by our traditional Annual General Meeting with two sessions. Esomar Execo - Joaquim Bretcha Boix, President, Kristin Luck, Vice President, myself in the role of Treasurer, Finn Raben, Director General, and , Marie-Agnès Mourot de Lathyle, CFO, presented the key initiatives and the 2019 financial results.


Later (quite late indeed), I was delighted to be part of a panel discussion (video below) on our Insights Community. With my peers, Guilia Fabrizi, Almar, Italy & Esomar Representative for Italy and Jasper Grosskurth, Dalberg Research, Kenya & ESOMAR Representative for Kenya, I could share my experience of Esomar Community Circles locally (Italy, Africa) and globally, as well as the strength and the relevance of these open discussions to engage our Insight Community with best practices and more strategic topics.


On the following days were hosted the Esomar Associations and the Representatives meetings which always offer great opportunities to share needs, challenges and initiatives at a local level and to see how to articulate them with the global one. This year, in these times of uncertainty and budget cuts for companies everywhere in the world, most expressed the need to preserve core values like ethics and trust, to strengthen the sense of belonging to communities, and to work on new revenue streams and economic models.

The programme was so intense that I couldn't find the opportunity to follow all presentations but here are some highlights and take-aways:

  • I really shared Richard Thorogood's (Global Head of Consumer and Market Insights at Colgate-Palmolive) vision in his 'The Future of Insights' interview. Richard insisted on how it is crucial for brands to have strong values and to activate them in these times of crisis, and to concentrate on people - rather that consumers -, their emotions and aspirations in their relationship to products and brands. He also expressed how agility is not only synonymous with speed and costs. Agility is much more: going through new situations with adaptation, gaining learning quickly with the proper tools or technology to make relevant decision making.

  • I loved Ennio Armato's paper on Voice Assisted Interview (VAI). I was particularly interested in opportunities in the Research Dialogue skill for spontaneous discussion and in the IoT skill. Congrats Ennio for your bright paper and your excellent video presentation!

  • I really got inspired by the panel discussion on UX & MRX (Consumer Experience & Market Research) in which Susan Fader (FaderFocus, USA) and panelists discussed the similarities and the differences between these two worlds. This highlighted the need for our Industry to adopt a wider vision on the role of Insights and Consumers/Customers in companies.

  • I found Brent Smart's paper on cultural insight very compelling with messages around simplicity, intuition, culture, empathy, humanity ... and less data.


On last day we enjoyed a yoga session and a DJ party!

This day was also dedicated to our traditional and unique 'Déjeuner des Francophones' (Francophones' lunch), a ritual we have every year at Congress (and I must say the only place where you can have wine!). I was honored to open the session giving my great thanks to the francophone community, to our French Representatives, to agencies and to end-clients, for their commitment during the Crisis. Lots of content and data on feelings and behaviors were given for free showcasing the value of our profession.

This virtual format was very positive overall, giving access to attendees to join for free from all over the world. This would not have been possible with a face-to-face event. What I personally really missed are true networking sessions through a dedicated platform and the possibility to interact physically.

Maybe the right balance is an in-between, with a mix of physical and digital. We have good examples of industries like the Retail sector which offers online and offline experiences.


Having been involved in our Insights Industry and in Esomar for years, I do believe in our Community and in its People.

I do believe in their capacity to innovate and to reinvent themselves to showcase the value of Insights to companies and our societies, for brand growth, ethics, trust, progress and freedom.

I do believe in their ability to keep watching, listening to people and citizens' emotions and behaviors with curiosity, openess, diversity and inclusivity.


The pandemic is like blizzard said Joaquim Bretcha Boix, Esomar President in one of his speeches.

It is a drama and a gift.

As Insights providers we are all good thinkers.

Let's reinvent ourselves, let's be more intuitive, more agile, more human and closer to businesses and societies.


I hope that you enjoyed this post, I am happy to discuss your views and comments.


See you next year in Toronto and/or virtually!