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31st July 2015 Verity Sanderson

What did you think? #amaconf

We asked some of this year’s conference delegates to write about their experiences. Watch this space for a series of insights into what went on, highlights and learning experiences.

First up is Tobias Oliver, Director – Marketing and Communications at Mr Bugg Presents, the producers of ‘Miss Nightingale – the musical’.

Tobias Oliver photo July 2015

I have a confession to make. I am a lapsed attender. For years I loyally went to the AMA Conference every summer. Then I stopped because the focus of my work shifted, and budgets and time were prioritised elsewhere (the usual story). In fact the last conference I attended, before this year’s, was back in 2001. Strangely enough this was also in Birmingham.

However, it was really good to be back. There were hundreds of new faces and networking remained one of the most useful parts of the conference. The chance to spend time with people working in the same field is invaluable and invigorating. I had so many fascinating conversations both connected to arts marketing and not – my attitude is that everyone has something interesting to tell you, the challenge is simply getting them to share it. What’s more, I never thought I’d voluntarily attend a stand-up comedy workshop but thank you AMA, I really enjoyed it and learnt some joke writing techniques that will also come in very handy for creating copy.

As a touring theatre company based in Sheffield it was good to have time to connect with arts marketing professionals from my region, not to mention city, because day-to-day we’re simply too busy. It was also excellent to meet the-person-behind-the-email from many of the venue communications and marketing teams on our 2015 Autumn and Spring 2016 tour of ‘Miss Nightingale – the musical’. Even better to discover that they’re as excited about the show as we are.

The keynotes and sessions provided lots to think about. In particular, much of what Russell Willis Taylor said in both her keynote and session chimed with me. In particular, “empathy is the only thing that can save us” and “arts and culture create meaning outside the market – a radical act in today’s culture”. Reminders of the importance and responsibility of the field we work in, as well as the importance of seeing our ‘audiences’ as fellow human beings! And I not only loved Kerry Michael’s assertion that at Stratford East “our new writing policy is our audience development policy” but also the proof of just how successful that approach had been.

Carolyn Royston’s session on ‘Digital Transformation’ was incredibly useful and also one of the most enjoyable. I found it stimulated many, many useful ideas and practical know how to help my organisation move even further towards a model of “circulation not distribution”, in other words to create shareable content that encourages “audiences to do your work for you.”

I came away determined to ‘Stay Curious’ and reassured that it was still possible to teach this old dog some new arts marketing tricks.

Tobias Oliver is Director – Marketing and Communications at Mr Bugg Presents, the producers of ‘Miss Nightingale – the musical’.


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