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7th August 2014 Sara Lock

AMA conference 2014 part 2

In the second of three blog posts, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks back at the first day of this year’s conference through the words of our members and delegates.

The first day of AMA conference 2014 kicked off in Colston Hall, Bristol, with introductions and our opening keynote. With more than 600 delegates in attendance, it was set to be our biggest conference ever.

The 2014 AMA Conference was a great opportunity to take a step back and examine the wider arts marketing environment. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the speakers and the themes that were covered, from managing “short attention spans” in a world of new technology to re-examining organisational structures so that our institutions are flexible enough to change and grow with our audiences.

I particularly enjoyed that the lectures and social events were held in local theatres, cinemas, and galleries. It was a great opportunity to see how these organisations were run during the conference and offered a fantastic chance to engage directly with arts organisations in Bristol.

Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Communications & Public Engagement Manager, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

Our first keynote of the day was from Ben Cameron of the US-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Ben’s barnstorming speech compared recent changes in the dynamic between audiences and arts organisations to the religious reformation: huge technological advancements, and the rapid spreading of information mean traditional business models are crumbling. He posed the challenge of responding to these changes, setting the tone – and a high bar – for the rest of the conference.

Attending the first Keynote on Wednesday morning after a whirlwind social the night before was most definitely the most interesting and useful component for me. Ben Cameron spoke with such passion, inspiration and clarity on so many relevant and thought provoking issues that it was impossible to not maintain that momentum for the rest of the conference. It was a delightful and invigorating way to begin my first AMA and I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard him speak.

Tahnee Craven, Marketing and Education Assistant, The Riverfront

I enjoyed the keynotes most. Ben Cameron’s opening keynote was a definite highlight, especially when he inspired most of the room by rebranding us as social activists!

Julia Baker, Digital, Development and Communications Assistant, Sound and Music,

Everyone I spoke to and met during the conference couldn’t help but mention the inspirational opening keynote speech from Ben Cameron – what a start! Not only was he a captivating speaker, the examples used throughout the presentation were interesting and for me, were a stark reminder that things have to change if we are to continue to engage and capture people’s attention – it also stirred up ideas on how that could be achieved.

Helena Brassington, Campaigns Officer for the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North, Leeds

Ben Cameron’s opening keynote speech was an inspiring, uplifting way to begin the conference. He spoke with real knowledge and passion about innovative ways of developing new audiences. On a sleepy morning in a rather warm auditorium, it was exactly what we needed to get us started!

Jessica Birtwistle, Marketing Campaigns Officer, mac birmingham

After a refreshment and networking break, delegates went off to their first breakout sessions of the day. For the first time at an AMA conference, we had a fundraising track (as part of our partnership in the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme) running alongside the marketing sessions.

Most of the breakout sessions I attended provided an interesting insight into the work of various organisations. Rebecca Taylor’s Creative Digital Marketing for a Participatory Culture offered plenty of practical tips and techniques that we have already begun implementing back at mac.

Jessica Birtwistle, Marketing Campaigns Officer, mac birmingham

The session that I found the most interesting was “Ready to Engage”, led by Guy Turton of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre. Particularly interesting was the discussion around how transactional messaging could impact on brand equity and the importance of building an emotional connection with audiences. I felt that this session included a great balance of practical steps that you could take back to the workplace as well as bigger picture thinking.

Sarah Johnson, Senior Communications Officer, Curve Theatre

Lunch followed, and then the second keynotes of the day, from Danny Homan (formerly of Historic Royal Palaces), and Annette Mees of Coney. The theme this time was changing the way we think about our audiences. First, Danny explained how HRP had overlaid several segmentation systems to get a very clear picture of their audience.

Next, Annette explained how to turn audiences into advocates for your work.

That may have been the last of the day’s sessions, but the conference action was far from over – we still had the annual tradition of the Wednesday night social. Held in Goldbrick House, an eclectic warren of rooms on Bristol’s Park Street, the event featured a blood-red cocktail specially created for the AMA’s 21st birthday. Following a competition to christen the cocktail, it was finally named ‘SurveyDrunkey’ by Tom Davies of Theatre Centre:

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