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12th August 2013 Sara Lock

Goodbye Sheffield

In his final blog post on our 2013 conference, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, reveals what happened through the words and pictures of the people who were there. Make sure you read the first and second parts too.

Day two

Keynote photo by Leo Cinicolo

Marketers were up bright and early and eager to learn on Thursday, the final day of conference – most having very sensibly had an early night. For those who needed a wake-up call, the day was set off to a cracking start with a bright keynote from Dan Efergan, Creative Director at Aardman Digital. He talked about unlocking creative potential, focusing on Aardman’s work with Tate and thousands of children to produce animated films. He explained how trusting the idea and the audience – giving away creative control and allowing a community to develop – led to some fantastically creative results.

Working for Writers’ Centre Norwich, a literary development agency, and living in Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, I am always surrounded by stories. The time I spent in Sheffield for the AMA Conference was no different.

Whether I was listening to Kim Mitchell from Moma discussing campaigns, or Dan Efergan from Aardman Animations, the message seemed to always be the same – tell good stories, and get other people to tell their stories too. So (once I’ve finished sorting out my emails and catching up with everything I’ve missed) I’m going to tackle my to do list, and keep the words once upon a time at the front of my mind.

Next, David Carlin of RMIT and Circus Oz spoke on how artists and academics worked together to create a ‘Living Archive‘ of the company’s work. The archive proved useful not only for artists to be able to refer back to previous shows, but also as a marketing tool to allow audiences to comment on shows they’d attended.

This is my third AMA conference and I always say how valuable it is to meet other arts marketing professionals, share ideas and best practice. You’re reminded that these people are facing the same challenges as you and we can draw on each other’s experiences for inspiration. I always come away with a couple of stolen ideas, and always make new friends. And, as someone who works in a circus venue, I was very happy that contemporary circus had lots of mentions this year.

Ashlie Nelson, Marketing Manager, Jacksons Lane

After a further round of refreshments and networking, it was time for the next set of seminars.

I found Andrew McIntyre’s seminar on future direction really interesting. It’s easy to get weighed down in various strategies and Andrew talked about how to stay artistically-led and audience focused, and how to include the whole organisation in planning, rather than just handing down complicated business plans. Some of his seminar really split opinion in the room too, but that just created a really balanced and interesting discussion.

Ashlie Nelson, Marketing Manager, Jacksons Lane

The most useful parts of the conference were the breakout sessions which gave me practical advice which I could take back to my venue and easily start to implement. Mary Butlin and Helen Jones’ session on understanding motivations of attenders was particularly useful as we are just starting to explore using surveys regularly. This session gave me a great insight both into the ideas behind this kind of data collection and how it can be used by an arts organisation.

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

After lunch, there was a further set of seminar sessions. These included Roger Tomlinson and Ron Evans, who won fans with their persuasive blend of psychology and marketing – and the free sweets they handed out at the beginning. Their exuberant session on experimenting with arts marketing assumptions was dubbed ‘The Ron and Roger Show’.

I went to Ron Evans and Roger Tomlinson’s seminar on ‘experiments: exploring and testing arts marketing assumptions every day’. I had my doubts – the words experiments and testing made me think it was going to be very heavy and maybe not overly practical for a person in my role. How wrong I was! It was not only incredibly interesting but extremely useful.

It was inspiring to listen to two people who are so excited about what they are doing it got me to think of quick things that we could do at Compton Verney, and that I could do in my department. They gave some useful and simple tips on testing and segmentation that you can do quickly and effectively and they explained what motivates our visitors and how we can use this to our advantage. I have already put the things I learnt into use, and have others planned.

Sarah Moreby, Marketing Officer, Compton Verney

Other popular sessions included one from breast cancer awareness charity Coppafeel on how they plan their effective, award-winning campaigns aimed at young people, and Mary Butlin and Helen Jones, whose seminar looked at how to better understand the motivations of attenders and potential attenders.

For me the most interesting part of this year’s conference was the shift to a focus on data. From Anthony Lilley’s Big Data to the micro experiments with Ron Evans and Roger Tomlinson (or The Roger and Ron show), it seemed to crop up in every session I went to, with some great thoughts as to quick and easy ideas that I’ve already started using now I’m back. Data is our best way to back up what it is we’re trying to do, to prove what’s working (and what isn’t!), and it’s fantastic that so many people are now discussing the best ways to collect and use it.

Jen Pearce, Marketing Assistant, Soho Theatre

It was great to hear the passion and enthusiasm from speakers who gave great examples and case studies. Only on one occasion I felt I was covering old ground but the information acted as a reminder about doing it. The most useful thing for me was the pop up sessions around the conference where I learnt about the new Advertising Regulations.

The quality and diversity of speakers, the tips and of course the opportunity to network with colleagues from other venues. I enjoyed the hands on advice from Rebecca Storey, Roger Tomlinson and Ron Evans, as well as hearing from external industry speakers such as Coppafeel. For me all these elements made the conference one of the best for a long time.

Suzanne Carter, PR and Campaigns Manager, Sherman Cymru

Break-time discussion – photo by Leo Cinicolo

Finally, it was time for the closing keynote session. The focus was on the future – how the arts must be positioned as a key part of society. Kate Brindley, Director of MiMA, told us how our organisations must focus on civic responsibility, particularly where there has been significant local investment in a venue or company. She also called for an ‘upside-down triangle’ management structure, where staff at all levels in the organisation feed into how it is managed.

For the closing keynote of the conference, Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, told us the story of how the Everyman was closed down, knocked down, and rebuilt, and how audiences were involved at every stage.

My favourite keynote was Gemma Bodinetz from the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. It was a great reminder that when you ask audiences what they value most about your organisation you sometimes have to be prepared for unexpected results! Also to hear such genuine passion and enthusiasm for their enormous task of rebuilding of a theatre was really inspiring and a such a high note to leave the conference on.

I also thought Gemma Bodinetz was a perfect conference closer. Her passion for Liverpool Everyman was infectious and hearing of the process behind knocking down their old building, whilst managing the expectations of a fiercely loyal local audience was fascinating… even if the short film she showed had half of us in tears.

Ashlie Nelson, Marketing Manager, Jacksons Lane

Aside from the lovely weather and some truly wonderful Wednesday night dance moves, what I most enjoyed about this year’s conference was the infectious enthusiasm from both delegates and speakers. The last keynote in particular from Kate Brindley (MiMA) and Gemma Bodinetz (Liverpool Everyman) showed the fantastic passion that it’s so important to have in the arts, and sent me off on my train back to London bubbling with eagerness to get cracking, and as Channel 4 would say ‘Be first, make trouble and inspire change.’

Jen Pearce, Marketing Assistant, Soho Theatre

And with that, it was all over.

Thanks to everyone who tweeted, took photos and wrote to us with their experiences. Below is a word cloud highlighting some of the key words we saw again and again at conference – if your tweets haven’t been featured above, then you’re probably in here!

Word cloud

We’ll give the final word to you, our members.

I really enjoyed the varied programme of workshops and key note speakers available to us. All the workshops I attended were very relevant to my professional development and on leaving the conference I felt inspired by what I had heard and also quite refreshed. I learned such a lot in such a small amount of time and was very excited to go back to the New Perspectives team with a renewed approach to arts marketing – Thank you AMA for a great conference!

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

This was my first conference, and as I am new to the sector of Arts Marketing, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was also going on my own and didn’t know anybody who would be there which was very daunting! I enjoyed every moment at the conference, especially as people were eager to meet new faces and share their experiences – I learnt a lot and came away feeling inspired.

Sarah Moreby, Marketing Officer, Compton Verney


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