For those who have toyed with the idea of attending the MRA’s Annual CEO Summit, but just haven’t pulled the trigger, here’s what you missed.

The CEO Summit is not a generic “what’s happening in research” conference. I’d describe it as a “what’s happening in research and how can we help drive this change” event for C-level executives from market research providers.

That phrase, “help drive change”, is not taken lightly at this event. It was very inspiring to see the leaders of our industry’s largest firms talk about seismic issues like new demographics, process improvement, and new business metrics.

It’s not for everybody, and it isn’t supposed to be. This conference is designed for C-level executives from market research providers (mostly full-service research firms), and it is made by them. Sort of a “by the people, for the people” feel. And in this spirit, our Lincoln-esque event leaders were two research industry rockstars: Steve Schlesinger, CEO of Schlesinger Associates, and Merrill Dubrow, CEO of M/A/R/C Research. These gentlemen led the event, acting as facilitators of focus and engagement throughout.

As a special bonus for me personally, I was with a group of people who run businesses. At some points during the event, the fact that we all run market research-related business was irrelevant. Indeed, some of the meatiest conversations I had at the CEO Summit were with people who also face a continuous stream of business decisions about sales management, lead generation, client nurturing, staff development and so on.

CEO Summit Speakers Who Inspire Action

Unfortunately, I did not see every session, but I must recommend two speakers I found highly motivating.

Karen Walker of OneTeam helped me take a brutally honest look at the issue of “dumbing down” a team’s performance. She also demonstrated another leadership challenge that resonated with me: “a strength overdone becomes a weakness.” While I had heard these ideas before, Karen has a way of activating them in my brain—such that I was able to think of several actual ways I could apply them.

Scott Hess of Spark presented a riveting analysis of the generation following Millennials—a generation that does not yet have a universally-agreed upon name. While professional market researchers certainly know that many values and behaviors vary by generation, Scott’s descriptions showed me an even broader (dare I say, profound?) way of thinking about generational differences—and like Karen, activated in my brain some specific opportunities this means for my own business.

So, will I go again next year?

It was good for me, so I will most definitely be back. Did you attend? Was it good for you, too? Please share any comments below—I’d love to hear from others.


Kathryn Korostoff is the founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar LLC. She also welcomes comments and questions at