In this blog post Lauren Morton, Marketing and Communications Assistant Town Hall & Symphony Hall, gives us an insight into her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Lauren was one of over thirty lucky AMA conference bursary recipients.
As soon as I heard about the AMA conference I knew that I had to be there in Belfast this July. Having set my attendance at the AMA’s as one of my goals this year, I was delighted to be awarded the AMA bursary for people in the early stages of their career.
After choosing all of my sessions and writing numerous checklists I finally arrived in Belfast on Tuesday morning. As I had a good few hours to kill before I could even properly check into my hotel, never mind the evening’s social event, I headed to The Ulster Museum to take in some Northern Irish history and culture.
The Tuesday night social at Titanic Belfast was a great start to the conference. The dining room was inspired by the Titanic and even had a replica staircase. It was wonderful evening with old friends and new – I even managed a cheeky selfie or two on the staircase!
On day one of the conference there were two stand out sessions for me; How to be a Marketing Superhero with Sarah Ogle and The Power of the Unexpected with Zoe Seaton.
Sarah’s session really reaffirmed to me that as arts marketers we need to think about the audience in everything that we do – “Audience knowledge is power”. A helpful point was to ‘assemble your superhero sidekicks’ and engage with your colleagues who regularly come into contact with audience members, as they are in the best position to gauge the audience’s wants and needs.
Zoe spoke about how Big Telly Theatre is using participatory projects to reach non arts audiences. Their Creative Shops Project demonstrated an example of how one initially dismissive member of the community went on to curate his own model lorry exhibition, which particularly resonated with me and I wholeheartedly agree with Zoe’s statement that we need to “engage people in the arts in a way they wouldn’t expect to”.
The opening keynote on the second day Channel Me with Tim Armoo was fascinating. The rules of marketing have undeniably evolved in recent years and engaging content now reigns supreme in what used to be a world dictated by those with bigger budgets. The session reaffirmed to me that content is key in marketing and I particularly loved how Tim said that he was envious of us being in the arts as we have the advantage of endless culture and heritage to create our content.
My favourite breakout session on Thursday was undoubtedly Empowering your young audiences with the team from Art31 at Gulbenkian Theatre. They aim, through their youth led programme, to challenge ideas and ignite change in the arts – “no decisions about us without us”. The work the team carries out with young people is truly inspiring and it was fantastic to see that a former Art31 member Jess was now in full time employment with the theatre and speaking at the conference.
The AMA conference was an invaluable opportunity to not only learn from other organisations around the country but also to socialise with my arts marketing peers and chat about upcoming projects, successes and failures and make new connections who share a mutual passion for the arts! I left the conference with a notebook full of inspiration and a head full of ideas to share with my colleagues back at THSH. I would like to thank the AMA for the wonderful opportunity to attend this year’s conference; I certainly hope to be back next year in Liverpool!