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7th August 2018 Jemma Green

My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Helen Willmott

Helen Willmott, Programme Director, Made in Corby

This year I attended the AMA conference for the first time and, as a very grateful recipient of a bursary, I was asked to write a blog about my favourite session of the conference. With this in mind, I travelled to Liverpool ready to be inspired and invigorated, complete with a notebook with plenty of empty pages and ready to identify (and write about) my favourite session.

Then the conference started and I was in trouble – almost every session of the conference was my favourite so far. From Deborah Williams’s kick-ass conference opening keynote, which ended with the statement “Diversity is like a naked Donald Trump. You can’t un-see it” to Meg Williams from the New Zealand Festival making me want to hop on a plane to the other side of the world to visit Wellington, “the headquarters of the verb” and Kenneth Tharp’s passionate reflections on the importance of play and creativity in education. And later on day one, the whole audience fan-girling over Emma Rice’s provocation to make our offices more playful. I’m trying to figure that one out, the email I sent to my team suggesting we get a karaoke machine for the office still hasn’t had any replies!

In breakout sessions, I learnt about crowd-funding, cultural tourism, the value of fundraisers and marketers working together, Hull’s City of Culture year and future proofing our organisation. I listened to inspiring case studies, heard top tips for success and discovered new tools to help me implement what I had learnt. A special shout out needs to go to the  ‘Future Proof your Organisation toolkit’ written by Julie Aldridge (download it here) that is going to be invaluable when we go into future planning mode later this year. The Empathy Map Canvas exercise we completed during the session has opened my eyes to how differently we view stakeholders and potential funders compared to our potential audiences and I can see it radically changing what we do going forward.

And then there was the keynotes on day two. The main bleary eyes amongst delegates soon disappeared into panic and then laughter as Tom Rainsford from giffgaff challenged us to handover our unlocked phones to a stranger to introduce how brands can be playful using the technology in our hands to relate with our customers in a whole new way. And his mantra of “Disrupt, Challenge, Win” will soon be seen on our office wall. The conference concluded with a timely reminder to take care of ourselves, as Tatiana Simonian discussed the flow of slow and JOMO (the Joy Of Missing Out), with a challenge to seek out stillness, to stop hyper-focusing on problems and try something new.

The conference felt like a years’ worth of inspiration and motivation packed into two days. I have returned to the office, via a train journey spent playing ‘spot the AMA delegate’ with some new marketer friends, with copious notes to digest and reflect upon, but ultimately to with a desire to change how we do things. To play more practical jokes in the office, to include a wider range of play in our work, to not be afraid of challenge and to do a better job of looking after ourselves in the process. For, in the words of Emma Rice “If we’re all gonna go under, we’re all gonna go under, so we might as well have FUN doing it.”


My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— A renewed confidence to take risks and challenge the way we normally do things

— A practical tool (Future-proofing toolkit) to help map out of the future of our programme

— A better understanding and self-awareness of how i act as a leader and how that impacts on other people