In this blog post Laura Rodwell, Communications & Marketing Manager at the Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, tells us about her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Laura received an AMA bursary to attend the conference at a discounted rate.
I’ve been the Communications & Marketing Manager at the Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield for almost five years now. I’ve achieved a lot here, but as with any small organisation it’s hard to take time away from the day to day churn and focus exclusively on strategy and the big picture. My manager and I recognised that there was a real need for me to be able to do this to help drive the organisation forward. I applied for the AMA conference bursary for this reason – I wanted a chance to step back and spend a few days learning, networking, sharing, reflecting and being inspired. As our training budgets are small and our marketing budget has been reduced in recent years, the organisation wouldn’t have been able to afford to send me to the conference without the bursary.
I found a lot of the smaller sessions I attended useful and inspirational. If I had to pick a favourite it would be the Audience Manifesto session with the Royal Exchange – as someone who lives in Manchester I’ve been watching this project with interest and hearing from someone who’s not a marketeer and thinks completely differently about the relationship venues have to audiences was challenging and thought provoking – definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind going forward!
My favourite speaker was Amy Lamé whose keynote was about authenticity. For writing this blog I went back and checked my notebook from the conference – from some sessions I have pages and pages of notes, but for her session I’ve literally just written her name. Nothing she said was a tangible action point I could write down but the speech will be the one that stays with me the longest – she was an incredibly passionate and articulate woman who has obviously had an amazing life and career through refusing to compromise on who she is – her session was not so much an arts marketing lesson as a life lesson.
I don’t have one particular favourite moment from the conference – I just had a wonderful three days. From arriving on Tuesday and taking the afternoon to explore a city I’ve never been to before (including going to the docks where my granddad served his apprenticeship), to doing the discounted Titanic Museum tour that AMA recommended (I’m a bit of a Titanic geek so this was amazing), to the gorgeous welcome meal, the wide selection of inspirational seminars and sessions I attended on all kinds of subjects, to meeting some really great people who I would never have met otherwise. It was all really enjoyable.
I can be quite shy in new situations and the thought of formal ‘networking’ sends shivers down my spine, but everyone was in the same boat as me and so friendly! If people were there that knew each other they were happy to include you, others, who like me, were alone were very friendly, and everyone had at least one thing in common – their job. I knew about six or seven people who were going to the conference but actually I only spent a small portion of my time with them and the rest of the time talking to new and interesting people I’d never met before.
The key thing I’ve taken away from being at the conference is the importance of taking time out to reflect and to challenge yourself. Every time I have a conversation with someone in our sector the key thing I always hear is that there’s not enough time, that work-life balance can be poor, and I feel this way myself. But it’s so important to not just do the same thing over and over again, because it works or it’s easy or you don’t have to think about it, but to push, stretch, challenge, create and think! I’ve come away from the conference with two or three big ideas about things we can do better or differently as an organisation, and hundreds of little ideas I’d like to try, but of course I have to make the time to develop these ideas into fruition.
If I could sum up my AMA conference experience in one word it would be: inspirational.