Our Associate Director Flo Carr shares her takeaways from the 2023 AMA conference in Leeds.
This year’s AMA conference at the fabulous Leeds Playhouse was filled with inspiring, engaging and varied sessions. Speakers from within and outside the sector shared their wisdom and experience on the theme of ‘audiences at the heart’.
The Indigo team loved catching up with clients old and new, speaking to our tech partners and making new connections.
For me, there were a number of moments which particularly resonated, when a speaker said something with simple clarity which made the room really sit up and listen. These are my five AMA conference takeaways and how they relate to the work we’re doing at Indigo.
1. Get to know your audiences before inviting them into your space.
Keranjeet Kaur Virdee (South Asian Arts and one of the Leeds 5) made the compelling point that you probably wouldn’t go to a wedding if you received an invitation out of the blue from someone you’d never met. We need to do more to get to know potential audiences before trying to sell them tickets, particularly if they are not people we’re used to seeing in our venues.
At Indigo we regularly work with organisations to help them understand the local population they serve, their wants and needs, and how engaging with culture can help them with that.
2. Take inspiration from what your audience is already talking about.
Dom Dwight (Taylors of Harrogate) told the story of Yorkshire Tea finding its voice on social media. He demonstrated that the most impactful content responds to what your audiences are already saying – about you but about other things too – and that’s how you really build connections.
3. Think about the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ – this is what audiences of the future care about.
Oliver Mantell (The Audience Agency) explained that young audiences are just as motivated to attend by the experience as by the artform. Regardless of genre, a truly great cultural event is one which delivers that special sense of being with your community and experiencing the unique intensity of live art together.
This is something we’ve seen through our Covid, Act Green and Indigo Share research projects, and are helping to refocus organisations on experience-driven (rather than programme-driven) marketing for these audiences.
4. Be curious, creative and critical.
Jo Burnham (Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival) encouraged us to set aside time to explore emerging AI tools and be open to the possibilities they offer. But with new technologies constantly emerging and the responsibilities of marketing teams ever growing, I felt their advice could probably apply to most areas of an arts marketing role.
At Indigo we’re been experimenting with AI in our research. We are honest and open with clients about when we’re using it, and whether we think it adds value to the project. We’ll continue to share our learnings (and any reservations).
5. Get comfortable making mistakes.
Sian Booth (Mansfield District Council) shared her tips for effective leadership. She encouraged us to be open with our colleagues, own mistakes and create a space where people feel able to try near things even if occasionally something goes wrong.
When we relaunched Indigo in 2021, we adopted a new set of company values, with openness being one of them. We look for weekly examples of where we’ve demonstrated this, and encourage each other, and our clients, to share learnings - good and bad - in every project.
If only there were more hours in the day… But as outgoing AMA Chair Tim Wood said in his rousing call to arms for arts marketers: “You can do this. You have to do this.”
We have a responsibility to audiences to ensure that the conversations and issues discussed at this year’s conference have progressed when we all come together again next year.
At Indigo we’ll continue to create ways to centre the audience voice and bring the sector together to reflect and take action. Currently, our Act Green survey is tracking audience views on the climate crisis and the role of cultural organisations in tackling it, and our Indigo Share Subscription surveys are capturing audience feedback on experiences at venues across the UK.
I’d love to talk to you about your reflections from the AMA Conference if you were there and hear your thoughts on how you want to put audiences at the heart of your organisation’s marketing plans this year and beyond.
- Flo Carr
- Associate Director