So, after a crazy but brilliant week which started in Glasgow, peaked in Edinburgh for the AMA Conference 2016 and ended in Manchester with the City of Manchester Business Awards (where we were finalists for ‘Digital & Creative Agency of the Year’), I’m only just getting round to writing up our highlights from the annual Arts Marketing Association (AMA) Conference. In fairness, I’ve also since been off on annual leave for a week - so the lure of the sunshine can take some of the blame for my tardiness.

Besides the copious free beverages (a shout out to our friends at Tessitura for the champagne reception, Culture Republic for the cocktails and Spektrix for the craftily named #Ginterval) and an opening dinner in the spectacular Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh (featuring a waiter that was the spitting image of Andy Murray), the really tasty nuggets came from the amazing speakers and sessions throughout the 3-day event. So, here’s a rundown of some of our key takeaways from the AMA Conference 2016.


“Share stories and invite people to have great social experiences together.”

Nina Simone, Executive Director at Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History explored how can we be relevant in the lives of our communities, audiences, visitors and funders. After joining the Museum at a time when audiences were stagnant and required diversification in order to create sustainability, she took the drastic move of completely changing the Museum’s focus. She created a social space where the local community felt welcome and could come together to share their own work. In doing so, she changed the programme and offering and dramatically grew their audience levels.


“Performative perfection - audiences curate their lives to present themselves in a certain light. Give them a platform to project themselves.”

Meabh Quoirin, Managing Director of Future Foundation, presented key consumer trends highlighting how these changes to our behaviour as audiences will impact our relationships with organisations. We can pay with the swipe of a phone or the click of a button (think Amazon one-click purchase path). Netflix has driven mass box set consumption, with 28% of people now regularly binge watching TV shows online. Around 25% of people in the UK upload images of themselves to social media every single day. We spend more of our lives online than ever before and yet arts organisations still remain wary of offering experiences that cater to these needs. Importantly though, she emphasised that as consumers we present ourselves online in the way we wish to be perceived (cue “performative perfection”) and not necessarily as we truly are - therefore, we need to be smarter about how we read and react to this information. We need to support them in achieving their personal objectives.


“Digital novices and natives - Don’t just transform. Evolve.”

We kicked off Thursday morning with a mildly sore head and our sold-out breakfast briefing. Our session looked at the shifting digital landscape, a landscape that will not stop changing, and the need for organisations to keep up. Too many strategies have been laboured over, printed and put away in a drawer never to be seen again. We believe that in order to truly leverage digital’s full capability you need to develop a constantly evolving roadmap, with phased deliverables and actions, and most importantly people at its heart. Using examples from your across industries, we explained our philosophy around why we don’t believe ‘digital transformation’ is your ticket to success. Instead, we showcased how ‘digital evolution’, with a real focus on people and leadership, is the only way to ensure continued progress and prosperity within a complex and vibrant marketplace.

You can read more about our Digital Evolution process over here.


“Money follows vision not the other way around.”

A great statement from Bush Theatre that emphasises the need to have a more commercial and long-term focus, understanding the investment that is needed in order to drive results.


“Go on your personal transformation. Be authentic. Be curious. Be welcoming.”

Donna Walker-Kuhne, the VP of Community Engagement at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, talked of the need for an open mind and an appetite for exploring other cultures in order to really beckon in true diversity. Diversity goes beyond race, it should also encompass geography and class. If we do not truly embrace diverse individuals and make them part of our own team she argues that we will not be able to create an environment in which everyone feels welcome. Artists too need to craft their programmes with the audience and inclusion in mind, only then can we build an environment that is truly diverse. Her final pointer - always smile, it goes a long way to making people feel more welcome.

Watch her presentation (and all the other keynotes) online here.

That’s just a few of the great snippets from the Conference, never mind the endless fascinating conversations we had with new and old friends, clients and arts aficionados. Plus, we heard a few great new buzz terms including elastic media, crowdemotion and the aforementioned performative perfection. We’re happy to elaborate and explore these topics in more detail, just contact us (although our elaboration will be capped somewhat to a measly 140 characters if you’re chatting on Twitter).

We were pleased to see people take centre stage at this year’s conference - not just physically but as the dominant theme - with a clear focus on strong leadership, culture, collaboration and inclusion. As something we regularly stress, we believe that it’s your people (both internal and external) that drive your success. We look forward to hearing about how arts and cultural organisations put their learnings into practice!