I knew before I got there, that there would be marketing buzzwords galore (infobesity anyone?), I knew balancing tweeting with actual listening, talking and eating would be hard, and I knew that I should stay well away from Twitter after 6pm. But there was still plenty to discover at the AMA Conference.
Working in Spektrix’s marketing team, I found it really interesting and inspiring in terms of getting me to think about what I do in my work. But as Michael mentioned in his post-dinner speech, one of the main reasons why we sponsored the AMA Conference for a second year is because Spektrix’s software developments are directly informed by the things we learn at the AMA Conference every year. It also really helps the Support team to know what kind of things our user community want to learn and how best to help them.
So we brought along plenty of us to have a chat with as many people as possible, because the AMA Conference is much about collaboration and conversation with other delegates as it is about attending keynotes and breakout sessions. Our Spektrix Social drinks were a particular success and we’re really pleased that so many people came along for a chat in the sun. It was a highlight for all of us at Spektrix so thank you to everyone who came!
We also gave the first public outing of our Fundraising module at the TTI Pop Up Event where all things ticketing were discussed which was a great warm-up to the main event and opportunity for organisations to get clarification on the new ticket fee regulations (read our thoughts on this topic here).
Now that we’re back in London and suffering from the post-AMA Conference blues, it’s the perfect time to go through my notes and wade through over 2000 #AMAconf tweets to look back on the key issues and ideas that were raised and discussed. Here are some of my favourite themes from the conference:
Big on Data
Anthony Lilley’s session was a bit of a clarion call to stop thinking about data as a dry, scientific thing that you have to fight your way through and which is only useful for accountability. Instead its value is really in providing a practical way of getting closer to audiences. The value of data, he said, is found in its uses for segmenting audiences, supporting human decision making, transparency and reinventing business processes. He talked about semantic analysis and how during the Obama presidential campaign you could track how fast sentiment spread on social media in reaction to his campaign. The fact that all this is possible for arts organisations too is extremely exciting and opens up all kinds of new engagement opportunities.
With the recent launch of Audience Finder, it looks like big data will continue to be a big subject of conversation for arts marketers long after the conference. Audience Finder marks a move towards increased collaboration among arts organisations around the UK by taking an 'open' approach to data collected by the box office. Participants will be able to see a local, regional and national picture of audiences and non-attenders, and use it to make effective business decisions.
With the theme of the conference being Game Change, it was hardly surprising that there was plenty of talk of risk taking. It was clear from many keynotes speakers that the decisions with the greatest impact are the big risky moves - and in the case of Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of Liverpool Everyman - the ones most likely to get a tear out of the audience. Knocking down the old Everyman in Liverpool meant knocking down a much-loved theatre with a rich history rooted in the community to start all over again. Taking us through some of their plans to rebuild it was a fascinating glimpse into what it would be like if you could start all over again and re-imagine every detail of a theatre building to put the audience at its heart - from its outer facade (which will literally be made up of pictures of the people of Liverpool) to even its urinals!
But it was also comforting to hear encouragement from Ron Evans and Roger Tomlinson to experiment with risk on a small scale, and that you don’t need a wrecking ball to make long lasting impact. “Micro-experiments” are a great way for arts professionals to implement experimental strategies without the need for board approval by doing smaller things like introducing wallet-less nights, and conducting A/B testing in email marketing, making sure always to measure impact and report how it went, whether successful or not.
The keynote from Owen Hughes of Wolff Olins was a personal highlight for me. The worldwide trends he pointed out reminded me that we’re living in really exciting fast-changing times with lots of opportunity for shaking up the status quo by those who aren’t afraid to try. And the impact of all this on arts marketing is palpable. People are much more demanding in how they expect organisations to talk to them, they want more input, they don’t want to be talked down to and will scrutinise the messages you send to them. And because time is compressed, they want things to happen on their own time. My favourite takeaway quote from Owen Hughes’ keynote was: “Business ideas from the least expected players and angles will disrupt your brand faster than advertising can save it.”
It was clear from the breakout session with Kim Mitchell, that MoMA is one organisation who are great at recognising wider trends like these and incorporating it into their digital communications by bringing ideas from the bottom up with their ‘I went to MoMA and’ campaign. They are also really prepared to make use of the windows of opportunity presented by the arrival of disruptive technologies. For example by looking ahead, they were one of the first to create an iPad app, leading to a brief love affair between MoMA and Apple when Apple featured their app in an iPad advert.
Thanks to the AMA for having us. We’re already thinking about next year and looking forward to seeing everyone again soon!