Are you an AMA member? Please log in
9th October 2014 Sara Lock

AMA conference 2014 – part 3

In his third and final blog post on this year’s AMA conference, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks at the last day of the event through the words of those who were there. (Conference photography by Leo Cinicolo)


Having watched colleagues attend AMA conferences for several years and hearing about how much they had gained from and enjoyed the experiences I was excited and eager to attend my first conference. I found every element of the conference well planned and executed and used the guidebook app to help schedule and plan my experience with ease.

Tahnee Craven, Marketing and Education Assistant, The Riverfront

Our third and final day of the AMA conference 2014 started with a keynote from Matt Locke, of creative storytelling agency Storythings, and Clare Reddington, of Bristol’s experimental Pervasive Media Studio.

The theme of the morning keynote asked whether it was time to change how we think about audiences. First up, Matt described five new patterns of audience behaviour, and suggested that the way we work as arts organisations must change to match them.

Clare Reddington then spoke about ‘getting comfortable with change’. To tie in with the theme, she asked Jon Aitken of Rife, Watershed’s magazine led by young people, to design her slides, which she presented sight unseen. You can view Clare’s blog post about her presentation here.

Thursday’s Keynote was particularly interesting – “Is it time to change how we think about audiences?” presented by Matt Locke (Storythings) and Clare Reddington (Watershed). Matt’s comments about the lack of control organisations have over the circulation of content/ campaigns as we move towards transgression were of particular interest. He mentioned 5 new patterns and metrics for engagement which present a useful tool to have to help us consider where our organisation’s content sits. Clare then went to on to talk about dealing with and adapting to change which paired with her brilliant Cat slides grabbed the attention. Particularly interesting to hear how they move/ swap desks around in the office and re-invent meeting formats to force change – however not sure we’ll be adopting that!

Sarah Longstaff, Marketing Campaigns Officer, Birmingham Hippodrome


Following the keynote, delegates attended the day’s seminar sessions. Here’s what some of our delegates had to say about the sessions.

Mary Beth Smith held an interesting session entitled More knowledge = Increased Impact, on innovative ways to equip audiences with the right amount of context and knowledge to increase engagement with the San Francisco Ballet’s work. There were many methods I could transfer to what we do here at Sound and Music, where we are constantly developing new audiences for ground-breaking new music, which, at times, can be challenging for those not well acquainted. From providing interactive guides that unpack the art form for new audiences, to giving your core community of followers the chance to tell others about it, Mary proved that knowledge is clearly something to focus on where content is concerned.

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

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to listen to a seminar by Mary Beth Smith of San Francisco Ballet to see what kind of strategies our contemporaries are doing across the Atlantic. Although her seminar raised many questions for us it also provided affirmation of many of our plans to continue to develop the Northern Ballet brand. The idea of a ‘Ballet Appreciation Curriculum’ was especially intriguing as it is true with any art form, not just ballet, that the deeper your understanding, the more appreciation you have for it and the more likely you are to engage with it.

Lauren Godfrey, Communications Manager, Northern Ballet

I really enjoyed Mary Beth Smith’s seminar. It provided a great example of a marketing team moving forward and not only trying something new but actually talking to and acting on what they hear from their audience.

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


Catherine Holden’s practical session was all about how to be a good influencer, i.e. how to persuade your colleagues to do what you want! She started by outlining the key elements to good influencing: Expertise, Confidence, Preparation and Timing. To be a good influencer you also need to be a good listener, have empathy with others, and know what’s driving them: where do their priorities lie?

Catherine referred to Susan Cain’s TED talk, where she celebrates and encourages the qualities of being an introvert (apparently one in two people are introverts – I never knew that!). It’s well worth a look if you haven’t seen it. She asked us to think about how we come across to our colleagues, particularly in emails where tone is harder to control; for example, for one person bullet points might seem clear and to the point, while to another they might seem blunt and demanding. Body language is also important and says more about you than what you’re actually saying.

Bea Grist, Marketing Manager, Almeida Theatre

Finally, it was time for our closing keynote of the conference. Following her hugely popular seminar session in 2013, we listened to the calls from AMA members to bring back Kim Mitchell, Chief Communications Officer at MoMA, as a keynote speaker. Kim spoke about developing a compelling brand portfolio.

There were some excellent examples of inspiring women leaders in the arts; I particularly enjoyed Russell Willis Taylor’s seminar Relationships not Journeys, and Kim Mitchell and Clare Reddington’s keynotes, all of which shifting the way we think about our audience, or should I say the ‘people formerly known as the audience’.

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


The thing that I always enjoy most about conference is the opportunity that it gives you to meet and network with other arts marketers. Taking time away from the office to speak to others in the industry and hear about examples of best practice is invaluable and always ensures that you return to work with lots of fresh ideas.

Sarah Johnson, Senior Communications Officer, Curve Theatre

It wasn’t just marketers at this year’s conference: our separate fundraising strand brought fundraising and development professionals; there were also artistic directors, freelancers and more.

Of course, there were those who missed out. To make sure you don’t miss the next AMA conference, join the AMA today or sign up for our non-member email bulletin.

A final word from our delegates on what they enjoy about the AMA conference:

Just the general atmosphere was constantly enjoyable, but for me the best part of the conference was re-invigorating my thought processes and ideas for campaigns and working relationships and coming away with solid ideas to take forward for my organisation. It was almost like a process of enlightenment with the day to day pressures of the job being lifted and the ability to enjoy a moment of clarity and process new ideas taken from other inspirational and passionate arts practitioners.

Tahnee Craven, Marketing and Education Assistant, The Riverfront

It was great to put a face to so many names of people who I work with but are often hidden behind emails. The “collect 6 different stickers’ on the Tuesday evening networking event was a great idea and easy way to break the ice with people and get to know fellow arts employees. Also lovely to bump into people I hadn’t seen for ages and have a good catch up!

Sarah Longstaff, Marketing Campaigns Officer, Birmingham Hippodrome


The opportunity to be gathered in one place with so many arts specialists was the thing I enjoyed the most about the conference. Many of us face the same challenges and this conference provides a great opportunity to network, meet like-minded people and exchange ideas and anecdotes. This aspect was especially interesting for me having worked in the arts for less than a year, following more than 6 years in tourism, so it was great to immerse myself in this kind of environment and continue to get to know the industry.

Lauren Godfrey, Communications Manager, Northern Ballet

Coming from the Cayman Islands, a small country with a population of 60,000, the AMA Conference was invaluable platform for me to engage with other arts marketers and creative institutions. It was reassuring to know that other arts organisations are going through similar challenges and a breath of fresh air to be able to make new contacts and learn about developing trends in the field of arts marketing.

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

As someone who is fairly new to arts marketing, the conference was fantastic as it provided me with practical, take-away nuggets of advice, but also, and perhaps more importantly, gave me an invaluable insight into some of the most renowned arts organisations’ strategies and concepts. I took a great deal away from the conference, including many of ideas that will inform what I do here at Sound and Music, as well as connections with interesting people from a range of arts organisations. I’m looking forward to the next AMA conference in Birmingham, where I hope to gain just as much if not more – the pressure is on…

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

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

Watching the sun set from the terrace at Mshed on the first night was pretty special. I also enjoyed putting faces to names and catching up with old friends and colleagues. We spend so much time communicating via email, but there really is nothing better than meeting in person. The AMA conference is unique in that respect – where else in the world can you be in the same room as 600 other arts marketing professionals? Thank you Bristol and the AMA, you were great. Here’s to 2015 and Birmingham!

Bea Grist, Marketing Manager, Almeida Theatre

Leave a Reply