It’s rare in the course of day-to-day life, let alone in a busy workplace, that we have a chance to really reflect on what it is we do, how we do it and why. But a few weeks ago I had a perfect opportunity to do this, at the AMA’s Retreat 1 for new marketing managers. For three days me and 20 or so other arts marketers at a similar career stage were closeted away at the Moller Centre in Cambridge, talking about arts marketing. Our days were divided between practical sessions and time for reflection, all interspersed with frankly ridiculous quantities of coffee and biscuits.
The practical sessions were thorough and easy to understand. Trainers Carol Jones of The Audience Agency, Jo Taylor of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and consultant Roger Tomlinson took us through the process of marketing campaign planning. Setting objectives, applying segmentation, measuring ROI, budgeting, timetabling and strategising were all on the agenda. We put this all into practice in a case study, worked in groups and presented at the end of the retreat. Working like this gave everyone a chance to properly digest each session and talk through what we’d learnt. In amongst this Alastair Cant led ‘management masterclass’ sessions, encouraging us to think about how we could communicate more effectively with colleagues, how we could influence our organisations and what kind of leaders we could be.
Reflection sets offered a chance to think about what we’d learnt in the context of our own organisations, and talk through work quandaries with an understanding group (Chatham House rules, of course). Having got fully in to the ‘retreat’ mentality by Wednesday morning there was a little bit of group therapy going on as well at times, but we kept it professional. What would we be putting in to practice when we got back to work? How would we address challenges in new ways? How quickly could we put our new ideas into action? Why couldn’t all working groups be so supportive?!
By the end of Thursday afternoon I fully understood why this course is called a ‘retreat’. At that point fully institutionalised at the lovely Moller Centre, I felt I’d been given the time to think clearly about the bigger picture in terms of my organisation’s marketing, and my career more broadly. With such an intensive programme to focus on, and such engaging conversations happening around it, it just wasn’t possible to be distracted by everyday emails and to do lists. I felt I had been through a transformative experience with a fantastic group of people.
Leaving the retreat, I felt full of enthusiasm to put what I’d learned into practice, and to keep learning. It was an intense few days, it was at times strangely emotional, and it was extremely bad for the waistline, but it was so very valuable in terms of professional development. I learned something from every single person there and would recommend it to anyone embarking on the next stage of their career in arts marketing.