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16th July 2012 Sara Lock

AMA Conference 2012: connect engage inspire 4

Rebecca Davis, AMA member rep for East Scotland, continues our series of guest posts from AMA conference 2012: connect, engage, inspire. Previously, she worked in arts development in Somerset before moving to Scotland to support craft communities. This involved a range of projects, from partnership exhibitions with Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, to the development of a craft trail App for visually impaired people. She is now Festivals and Projects Manager at Puppet Animation Scotland.

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Shake, rattle and roll

The first day of the AMA conference normally sees me in a daze, grasping a herbal tea and enviously comparing breakout sessions with fellow delegates. This year was no exception, especially after a less than early night at the previous evening’s reception in our rather fabulous venues in Brighton.

It was with my regular conference daze then that I entered the Dome auditorium to be awoken by our first keynote from Andy Mckim. Andy’s presentation was a fabulous start to the conference with valuable insight into the inspirational, vision led, Theate Passe Muraille.

I often find the AMA conferences give me a metaphorical shake, serving as a poignant reminder of what I ‘should’ be doing. Andy certainly contributed to this ‘shake’ emphasising the power and value of engaging with our audiences and linking our communities of staff, artist and audience alike. I was inspired by his open minded approach to ideas to engage new audiences such as their Ryan Gosling inspired meme and ‘clothes optional’ performances. This underpinned Andy’s further emphasis on the importance of listening and responding rather than broadcasting at audiences – the skill being in the listening. By the end of this inspiring keynote, my ears were certainly open and ready to listen to what the rest of the conference had in store.

Despite my envious glances at others’ seminar schedules I was treated to a fascinating day, from conceptual behavioural economics (not as scary as it sounds) to the more practical applications of word-of-mouth marketing.

My session with Hetan Shah – Learning from behavioural economics, presented the seven principles of behavioural economics and challenged us to consider their possible applications in arts marketing.

This form of economics, considers the general public to be more than purely rational beings, who actually use behavioural shortcuts to make their daily decisions. These include looking around to see what everyone else is doing, our inherent habits and being loss adverse. These impact on our behaviours in both psychological and physiological ways. For example, you will gain more pleasure from drinking a wine purchased at a reduced £3.99 than if you drank the same wine purchased at a ‘normal’ price of £3.99.

We discussed these fascinating principles and their influence on areas such as pricing and donations. I particularly liked Chapter Arts Centre’s club points system, where they offer double points to users who will try riskier shows.

Coming down from my conceptual morning, Jessie Hunt’s session was a practical one on creating buzz around the British Museum’s recent Grayson Perry curated exhibition. Jessie took us on a really valuable journey through her strategy development for the exhibition campaign. This included her practical application of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s Culture Segments. It was really useful to see how these could and had actually been applied to campaigns. Jessie’s session prompted me to write ‘must start planning’ in my notebook, as it really inspired me to think creatively and strategically about marketing our up and coming Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival. I may also now be brave enough to try using the culture segments – watch this space.

IMAG0020Jessie’s approach included a stunt bear competition and a Twitter craft debate (which I actually participated in) and had hugely positive results for her organisation, as well as some surprises she was happy to share.

So on Day One, I wasn’t just motivated by the conference programme, but also the generous community I feel so proud to be part of each time I attend one of these fantastic events.

Rebecca Davis, Festivals and Projects Manager, Puppet Animation Scotland @rdavis_creative

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