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2nd August 2013 Sara Lock

Game changing in Sheffield

In the second of three blog posts, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, continues his look at our 2013 annual conference through the words and pictures of the people who were there. You can also read the first part.

On the morning of Wednesday 17 July, delegates at the AMA conference began heading for Sheffield City Hall, the main venue for this year’s conference. The impressive venue housed the rooms and halls where all the conference sessions took place – and, fortunately, had air-conditioning.

As conference-goers arrived, there was a chance to collect this year’s conference bag and programme, and to visit the exhibition area, or attend Mind Unit‘s breakfast briefing on web portals. Once everyone was in the building, we headed for the Oval Hall, where Jo Taylor kicked off conference in earnest with her opening keynote.

A keynote from Owen Hughes, Creative Director at Wolff Olins, followed. Owen inspired the audience with his advice on taking risks and innovating to build deeper relationships. You can read one delegate’s taken on Owen’s keynote in this blog post by Katie Parry from Supercool.

I found Owen Hughes’ talk on peoples’ changing relationships with brands an interesting reminder that we need to work to fit in with people’s new lifestyles when we’re communicating with them, and move away from the ‘summoning’ voice.

Adele Curtis, Senior Marketing Officer, Royal & Derngate Northampton

Seminar in progress – photo by Leo Cinicolo

After a refreshment break, we all headed to the first seminars of the day. There was a choice of six sessions to choose from, including a session on the changing world of online PR from Rebecca Storey of The Corner Shop PR, who recently worked on promoting The Book of Mormon.

The workshop led by Rebecca Storey was really useful. It was interesting to hear their strategic approaches to gaining coverage for a high profile production like The Book of Mormon with very little budget. As a Marketing Officer who is very used to working with smaller budgets, it was inspiring to hear examples of how they used online resources to create a successful campaign for very little cost. It certainly renewed my confidence in finding new ways to use online resources for future campaigns here at New Perspectives.

Kayleigh Hunt, Marketing and Administration Officer, New Perspectives Theatre Company

I found all the seminars and keynote speakers very useful. In terms of the passion and philosophy behind arts marketing I felt the Reaching Beyond the Building seminar by Abbigail Ollive and Alexander Wright was really inspiring. In terms of the practical elements involved in creating arts marketing campaigns and strategies I found Rebecca Storey’s Online PR seminar particularly beneficial. Sorry if that’s cheating, but it’s hard to choose between those two!

Following lunch in the exhibition space, delegates returned to the Oval Hall for the second keynote session of the day. First to speak was Jonathan Allan, Sales Director at Channel 4, who explained the channel’s aim to ‘be first, make trouble and inspire change’.

Next, Andy Jasper from the Eden Project explained how the gardens were bringing in a new audience by staging arts events. He also talked about the need to learn from experience when trying new things – whether they go to plan or not.

We also officially announced the location of next year’s conference, which will be held in…


After a refreshment and networking break, the second seminar session took place, and included a popular session with Kim Mitchell, Chief Communications Officer at MoMA. She continued the theme of innovation and risk-taking, and spoke about how marketing teams can generate not just good, but remarkable campaign ideas.

I most enjoyed being inspired by real examples of Game Change. Probably the best moment was when Kim Mitchell showed us some of MoMA’s fantastic campaigns and urged us all to ‘jump into uncertainty’.

Flo Carr, Marketing and Front of House Manager, ADC Theatre

Kim Mitchell’s presentation on MoMa’s ‘remarkable campaigns’ gave some inspiring examples of creative marketing ideas and making the most of your staff’s different strengths. Her example of a failed campaign usefully illustrated the fact that if we’re going to take risks and try new things, we can’t expect to always get it right.

Adele Curtis, Senior Marketing Officer, Royal & Derngate Northampton

After the seminar sessions, some delegates went on a tour of the Crucible theatre. We were taken underneath the stage in the main auditorium, famously home to the annual World Snooker Championships, and were also shown the smaller studio theatre, as well as dressing and rehearsal rooms.

That evening was the main conference social event. As well as a delicious buffet meal, it was a chance for everyone to relax and socialise. It also heralded the return of the slightly dodgy dancing which goes hand-in-hand with conference – and which we won’t reproduce in this blog post.

The thing I enjoyed most was the brilliant balance that was struck between the formal and informal aspects of the conference. The way the conference events and the social and networking events were balanced throughout the three days really made an impression on me.

Sometimes things can seem very contrived, where there are those really cheesy ‘ice-breaking’ sessions, or speakers who attempt to make themselves too informal to ‘connect’ with the audience, but the balance here over the three days was just brilliant. It all felt very organic and very natural, and that creates a perfect platform for learning and engaging.

Will the delegates survive the night to make it to the final day of the conference? Find out in the third and final part of our conference blog. Follow @amadigital on Twitter so you don’t miss out.


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