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My favourite AMA conference 2018 Session — Gabriella Lee

Gabriella Lee, Marketing and Press Assistant, York Theatre Royal

My favourite session was “Building the Basics” with Sarah Ogle. I found it really useful to go back to the beginning with marketing and focus on the building blocks of a good campaign. When you’re so busy it can often be easy to overlook these basics and be constantly trying to race ahead to the next task or the next event and only look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s good to take a breath and remind yourself of the fundamentals and theory that you already know and build from there. When these foundations and fundamental building blocks are in place (and secure) you can start to experiment with different approaches and ideas and it was good to be reminded of this. She spoke passionately about where she works and what they do and this was great to hear.

What was especially useful was that Sarah also works in theatre (as I do) so everything she spoke about was completely relatable and relevant to my job.  I’m looking forward to implementing the practical tools she spoke of (and borrowing some of her ideas!) in future campaigns. Know your art, know your audience and then build connections between the two. Create wonder. Keep building.

Sarah also gave us a quote from Tassos Stevens that she often thought of. I loved this quote and have it on a post-it next to my desk now as a reminder that the audience should be kept at the forefront of your mind:

“The experience of an event for its audience begins when they first hear about it and only finishes when they stop thinking about it.” – Tassos Stevens / Coney

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— Maintain a work / life balance – you can’t take everything on

— Knowledge is power

— If you go to hen party in Bristol, leave your phone in the hotel – Tom Rainsford, giffgaff

My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Ffion Strong

Ffion Strong , Digital Marketing Officer, Galeri Caernarfon

As someone who is generally quite shy, the AMA conference was a great experience for me! The first timers meet up was a great opportunity to meet new new people. I met my North Wales rep, Crayg who helped introduce me to Nancy from Theatr Na Nog who I had been emailing about a show recently.  I also met a very old friend (from secondary school which was a bonus!) and along the way to the first night mixer I met new people had some very interesting conversations.The first night social/ mixer was hugely important (for me) to get to know people and other companies in an informal setting, before the conference began. It also made me more confident in approaching other delegates during the week.

The keynotes (all of them) were a main highlight of my time at the conference. The opening keynote was engaging and funny but also highlighted important issues that need to be addressed in the industry. Tom from GiffGaff  was very engaging and very funny. His ‘activity’ meant I met someone from another theater in Wales, who otherwise I probably wouldn’t have talked to during the conference.

My favorite breakout session by about resilience with Erin Coppell from Tessitura. It wasn’t something I had really thought about before. Her tasks were enlightening in how I view myself (how others may view me) and how I can alter my attitude or methods to become more resilient and make the company I work for, more resilient.

The closing keynote, was exactly what was needed to close the conference (in my opinion). A conference like this really gets you motivated and thinking of all the new and wonderful things you’ll be doing with this new found or rediscovered information. Tatina’s ‘The Joy of Missing Out’, made me realise that to be successful in your work and achieve your goals doesn’t mean you only have to be engaged with work. You need to engage with your family and friends and take care of yourself in order to accomplish your goals.

I am so grateful for the bursary that meant I was able to attend the AMA Conference this year. I would encourage anyone in the sector to attend and gain some useful knowledge, information and make new friends and contacts. Fingers crossed I will be able to attend next year!



My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Stephen Phillips


Stephen Phillips, Marketing and Communications Officer, Artes Mundi.

I’d only been to Liverpool once in a fleeting visit to catch a ferry to Ireland but could tell it was quite a punchy and dynamic city. So it was the perfect location for what turned out to be a really punchy and dynamic conference (and let’s face it, these aren’t words people often use to describe conferences).

The keynote speeches were rousing and varied and the sessions and seminars carefully and thoughtfully programmed. Two particular highlights for me were being able to hear members of Museum Detox speak about their work in decolonising the museum and heritage sector and Alice Procter’s keynote speech on her Uncomfortable Art Tours. Artes Mundi’s shortlist for the biennial exhibition and prize is by its very nature diverse given the international scope of the organisation, but these talks and sessions got me really thinking about how we can creatively connect with communities who might not feel welcome in a museum or see themselves represented in contemporary art. Museum Detox’s session opened up so much discussion it could have gone on much longer than the hour slot and they should be thanked for carrying the weight of this discussion.

The conference theme of ‘The Power of Play’ infused many of the discussions and sessions I attended with a sort of sense of curiosity and confidence, and left me feeling much more comfortable with taking some risks and trying out a few new ideas.

Oh and in the interest of being playful: to the delegate I fell into while trying to sidle down a packed row of chairs as I was late to a session, I’m sorry!

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— A renewed sense of vision for campaigns

— Reassurance from Building the Basics seminar

— A great opportunity to network with peers, especially those not in the visual art sector

My favourite AMA conference 2018 Sessions — Nolly Bouameur

Nolly Aicha Bouameur, Marketing Campaigns Officer, Midlands Arts Centre.

So I have been working in the sector, as a marketer, producer and general passionate arts person, for around 5 years. Over the course of this time I was harbouring a secret, I didn’t really understand ‘digital marketing’, I mean I knew how to practically use digital marketing tools, but I didn’t really know how to use analytics and tools to help inform my campaigns.

So, up for a challenge and eager to come away from the conference with some cold hard skills I attended two breakout sessions lead by Daniel Rowles, SEO 101 and Do You Measure Up? Throughout the break-out sessions, Daniel provided resources, tips and tricks to navigate the depths of your website and google analytics. Talking us through specific examples and just general online myth busting, Daniel instilled a sense of ‘you’ve got this’, and I have!

The Friday after the conference, I sent round a free resource that Daniel had provided called the Digital Marketing Toolkit, to my department. We spent the afternoon clicking on each resource and just seeing what happened. We did all sorts of things like looking at our social media engagement to see how engaged our audiences are online; we had a little look at the quality of links to our website and even looked at a website called which is totally hypnotic and basically tells you how many people are on the internet, using Facebook, sending emails, signing up to Twitter and Instagram.

Something that really resonated with me, not only from Daniel’s breakout sessions but from the conference as a whole, was that you need to know the basics, have a foundation or even a structure to enable play.

I learnt that without an understanding or even recognising the constructs of some of the aspects of digital marketing, how can you break the rules, play and be daring.

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— Don’t be the next Blockbuster: Be progressive, question everything, never rest on your laurels

— The flow of slow is good: Sometimes it’s OK to let go!

— Know your stuff: Then you can make informed better decisions, once you know what the mold is only then can you break it

My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Victoria Larkin

Victoria Larkin, Deputy Director, Oxford Contemporary Music

The word play is a familiar friend. At OCM, we regularly describe our events as “playful”. But it’s easy to fall into the mind-set that play isn’t something we do in our behind-the-scenes work. When I saw the focus of this year’s conference, “The Power of Play”, it really resonated. What if we could inject more playfulness into our marketing? Couldn’t that both communicate our work more effectively and nurture a richer relationship with our audience? Would it allow us to be more agile in the communication of our range of events and presentation contexts? What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d leave the conference aspiring not only to make our marketing more playful but to embrace play in an holistic way; using play not only as a tool but contemplating the profound impact that a playful mind-set in general could bring.

Serious play

I’ll admit, when I’ve thought about the use of play in a work context in the past it’s often brought to mind either an over use of memes or the kind of ad campaigns that only big corporates manage to pull off. In his beautifully eloquent keynote, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp instilled the idea that “serious play” is not to be dismissed; in fact it’s necessary for our future. Then I was humbled by the case studies in how to use play as a vehicle to challenge the status quo from Alice Proctor’s keynote (The Exhibitionist & Uncomfortable Arts), and from Museum Detox’s “The White Privilege Test” (I got almost full marks; the session was a good tonic).  And I got my masterclass in how the corporates do it from Tom Rainsford (founder/director of Giff Gaff). His side splitting, compelling keynote demonstrated the incredible power you can harness if you realise that “play can be smart…play can have a point”, and the encouragement to make play a part of our internal culture, not just a feature of our comms.

Playing with form

Debora Williams (The Creative Diversity Network) absolutely blew me away! She swept aside the conventional keynote speech format and instead played the part of a white middle aged man to deliver some searing satire; she played with form to shine a light on the current discourse around diversity and equality. Playing with form cropped up in many of the sessions I went to over the course of the conference. The Art Fund gave a valuable case study in how to have fun with your crowd funding campaign, and PatronBase explored taking an iterative approach to web design with the ICA’s extraordinary new website. While Elizabeth Heague presented the Liverpool Philharmonic’s ambitious “Leap into Live Music” model in audience development with genuine impact; “leave the building” is still ringing in my ears.

Play and harnessing creativity

It turns out I’ve been neglectful. I’ve neglected the fact that in order to use play I’ll need to nurture my own playfulness to release creativity.  Jake Young (Young Design Studio) gave some superb tips on how to harness your own creativity when you most need it. I’ve already put some of his advice into practice (and I’m not a graphic designer!).  And then there were two incredible women whose words have buzzed around my head for the last week. Emma Rice (Wise Children) showed us how to tackle the enemies of play, the biggest of which is fear. She talked about our need to re-learning how to play, how to create a different work culture with different reward systems, and value of leaving some space for your own curiosity and creativity. Then Tatiana Simonian spoke about using mindfulness in leadership, nurturing relationships (not connections) and empowering others. In her keynote she spoke about using mindfulness to be a better, healthier human and to be more creative; slowing down, getting away from your inner censor, giving your mind the space to think creatively, and practicing gratitude. I felt genuinely privileged to have heard these two women speak in person. I’ll be aspiring to follow their advice, both in and out of the office, for the rest of my career.

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— I gained the inspiration and conviction to harness the power of play in an holistic way

— I met some lovely, brilliant, inspiring people and possible collaborations are already being discussed

— I experienced a little of wonderful Liverpool – I’ll be back!


OCM is a unique producer that presents extraordinary live music and sound-based experiences.

My AMA conference 2018 Highlights — Helen Hartstein

Helen Hartstein, Audience Development Lead at The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM), Exeter

My first AMA conference is over and what a fabulous experience: inspiring, exhausting, challenging, moving and fun! So, after an intense couple of days, what have I taken away from the conference?

Deborah Williams’s opening keynote, a disabled black woman, speaking about diversity in the voice of a white, able-bodied man, set the tone. We need to see things in a different way. Things are not what they seem.

Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp talking about the value of the arts – “A young person does not need to learn about the value of the arts, they just need to do it.”

Yellow brick and PlayARK – the value of play in bringing people together and starting new conversations. It made me think about how we could connect with audiences through fun, playful experiences. We already do a lot of this at RAMM, but we could do more.

The practical tips from Daniel Rowles about how to develop an influencer strategy were incredibly useful. Often at conferences you find yourself inspired but don’t know how to put what you have heard into action. Daniel’s session was full of great practical advice.

Emma Rice’s fabulous keynote was playful, challenging and inspiring and the audience loved her. She left us with some memorable quotes such as, “If we are all going to go under, we might as well have fun doing it!”

The mindful leadership session with Tatiana Oliveira Simonian made me think about how I could be a better manager – and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house during Tatiana’s story about her dad during the keynote.

In keeping with the theme of play, there were some special outings to choose from. I plumped for the Terracotta Warriors in the World Museum. It was such a privilege to get a private view of this amazing exhibition and skip the queues.

The AMA knows how to throw a great party. The evening social events were fab and my surreal moment of the conference was finding myself listening to Eminem played on a ukulele at Constellations.

As a first timer (and recipient of a bursary – thank you AMA!) what I appreciated the most was the opportunity to connect with colleagues in other organisations, share ideas and experiences. They are a committed, barmy bunch of people and it was great to see how much they care. My only slight regret is that I didn’t meet more people from museums (if you are out there, do get in touch – @helenhartstein1)

I left feeling energised (if physically exhausted!) and fired up to make some changes. Well, as Emma Rice said, “What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s not death, why not give it a try?”

My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Rachel Long Smith

Rachel Long Smith, Creative Director, Narrate

Firstly, I absolutely loved the opening of the conference, it was a really unique and an interesting way to get people engaged and everyone was talking about it throughout the rest of the conference.

This strong focus on diversity in the industry felt spot on. It is such an important topic right now so it was really great to know that the AMA was also focusing on this.

I attended the user experience field trip/workshop, ‘walking in your visitors shoes’ and I found this really helpful to consider the visitors perspective. It made me realise that there are lots of instances where it would be helpful to develop personas before delving into any design work. This will be particularly useful to me when working on signage projects for arts institutions.

Chelsea Slater, Liverpool Girl Geeks

One of the talks that stood out to me was by Chelsea Slater from Liverpool Girl Geeks. She gave some great information on how to engage with young people and how to think about your audience, what makes them tick and how to respond to their needs.

 On the Friday evening I went to one of the Destination Dinners, and from this experience I would highly recommend doing this. I met a great bunch of women (sadly no men our table!) who were really interesting, inspiring and super fun! We chatted all evening and have since connected outside of the conference. Oh, and there food was really delicious too.

Overall the AMA Conference experience was great. It was informative, inspiring and fun and I will definitely be going next year.

My AMA conference 2018 Experience — Claudia Haberberg

Claudia Haberberg, Freelance Marketer and Copywriter

I applied for a bursary from the AMA without any clear idea of what to expect. I knew there would be networking, panels, and learning sessions, but I didn’t know what that would look like. The conferences I’d been to previously, while interesting and helpful in their way, had been male-dominated, predominantly white, and focused on quite a narrow range of topics.

Imagine my joy, then, when the first keynote session opened with Deborah Williams of the Creative Diversity Network – a black, disabled woman – parodying the very attitudes that had made me feel like a fish out of water elsewhere. The collection of short speeches that followed emphasised the importance of action, disruption and improvisation, and I started to feel a rare rush of excitement about what I’m doing and what my work could be.

This feeling was the perfect setup for the Hackathon, which took place for the duration of Wednesday between keynotes. For someone with the kind of anxiety I experience, the Hackathon was perfect: it gave me a task to focus on and a way to bond with the people around me, and at the end I felt a real sense of achievement from what we came up with in such a short span of time.

I hope to keep in touch with the other participants in the Hackathon and work towards making those concepts a reality. I also hope to stay in contact with some of the people I met at the freelancers’ lunch, where we were able to share our spectrum of experiences and offer each other solidarity and support.

I’m not really used to feeling solidarity and support in my work. Freelancing is a pretty lonely business – many of us work from home, and it’s rare to be linked to a single project for long enough to build up a sense of community with any one client. Having that space at a conference was a real gift.

I particularly appreciate the way conferences offer the opportunity to reconnect with the basics of your practice – partly because it’s always important to do that, whatever your profession, but also because everyone has a slightly different idea of what the basics are and how they should be implemented.

The sessions I attended on Thursday gave me a really valuable insight into which basic concepts of SEO and marketing for theatrical performances I might have been neglecting in my recent work, which ones I perhaps hadn’t considered fundamental, and how I can support my clients to build and maintain the strongest possible foundation.

At the AMA Conference I found forward momentum through challenging ideas; a group of innovators who want to take action for accessibility; a community of freelancers who can share experience and vulnerability; and a generous group of knowledgeable professionals to learn from. All of these things will carry me through the coming year, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring.

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— Confidence in my ideas, expertise, and skills

— A better understanding of how to use SEO

— Hope for the future of the industry! It may sound trite, but it really made a difference to me to see such incredible women and BAME people on the stage, sharing their ideas and celebrating change and progress

My favourite AMA conference 2018 Session — Megan Leahy-Donnan

Megan Leahy Donnan, Marketing Assistant, Awen Cultural Trust

Being relatively new to Awen Cultural Trust, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the AMA conference when asked. I was keen to gain a fresh outlook on the industry from not only other attendees but from renowned industry influencers. I was excited to explore hands-on-workshops, debates and discussions which would no-doubt give me tips and information that would help develop my position in the organisation. Oh, and of course I was super excited to visit Liverpool’s vibrant city as I had never actually been before (but always wanted to go).

Without a doubt, my favourite session of the trip was with Daniel Rowles titled ‘SEO 101- Getting the most from your online presence’, something I’ve been working on since starting at Awen in January. As I’m writing this blog I’m going through my notes from this session and it really is remarkable how much I learnt within an hour. Daniel discussed user journey, page optimisation, search engine spiders, keyword placements and LOADS more. He also shared many helpful (free) tools that can help manage our online content and the optimising process…which I am going to live by now I’ve had the chance to suss them out.

As well as Daniels sessions (I think I went to them all), I also thoroughly enjoyed the Keynote speakers. All of them were passionate about the theme (The Power of Play) and got everyone thinking about how Play can be used in a normal day at the office (if there is such a thing). Tatiana from Tumblr really got me inspired to think about mindfulness both during and outside the workplace. I’m definitely going to be following her work.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first AMA conference. To have had the opportunity to go so early on in my marketing career and meet like-minded, genuinely inspiring and creative people was amazing. I learnt so much and the delicious sandwiches were a scrumptious bonus.

Thanks to AMA for awarding me a bursary to attend. I will be back!

My AMA conference 2018 Top Three

— An increase in confidence to release my creativity

— Connected with other like-minded and creative individuals

— Got to explore parts of a super vibrant and cultural city

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

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