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28th July 2016 Verity Sanderson

This Girl Can #AMAconf

Natalie Watson, Marketing and Development Manager at The Spring Arts Centre, was a recipient of an AMA bursary for this year’s AMA conference – On a Mission to Matter. Here she explains what inspired her the most while she was there.

After starting working for The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre only 2 months before the AMA Conference, and having never been to any kind of work conference before, the thought of travelling up to the other end of the country to attend a conference by myself was a slightly daunting prospect to say the least! Luckily, I can now say, how wrong I was!

The AMA Conference 2016 was a fantastic opportunity, and one that I would definitely recommend to others. It was a jam-packed (if shattering!) few days, where I met so many like-minded people from a wide variety of organisations, heard some inspiring speakers, and of course, made the most of being in the fantastic city of Edinburgh.

I arrived on the Tuesday evening in time for the opening dinner at Dynamic Earth. As I was an AMA conference first-timer, I took up the invitation of attending drinks with fellow newcomers before heading over to the venue. I think this was a lovely idea and a great way to meet some other delegates informally, as well as meaning I didn’t have to turn up to the dinner alone! Dynamic Earth was a fantastic venue, particularly the drinks reception areas. I thought the ‘sticker game’ was a great way to get people networking initially, as one of the things I find hardest about networking is thinking of ways to start a conversation without sounding either like I am interviewing them or starting to reel off my CV.

The opening keynote on Wednesday morning by Nina Simon was a perfect choice to get us motivated for the days ahead, and her notion of insiders and outsiders, and whether potential audiences have the ‘key’ to enter the ‘room’ of our organisations was particularly relevant and has really stuck in my head. Thursday morning’s keynote by Donna Walker-Kuhne from New Jersey Performing Arts Centre was also particularly inspiring for me, in her point that diversity is something all arts organisations must commit to, and the different methods and ideas that she implemented to engage and create diverse communities.

The most inspiring breakout session for me was by Kate Dale who spoke about Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan initiative. I took away a number of lessons about how the campaign was planned and implemented, and what I particularly learnt was the importance of going to the people you are trying to reach and joining in their conversations, making yourself relevant to them. On another level, the reason that I have chosen this session as a highlight is for the way that the message delivered in the #ThisGirlCan campaign resonated with me. The phenomenal success that the campaign has had so far in inspiring women to do something that they never thought they could do showed how the right type of marketing can create something fantastic and make your work truly matter. For me personally, it also made me realise that I can achieve things that I might not have thought possible, both professionally (in my first role in marketing management and attending my first conference alone), and personally too – including inspiring a walk up to Arthur’s Seat straight after the session!