Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

AMA Conference 2015 – Day #1 Notes

So here’s a few notes from day #1 of the AMA conference here in sunny Birmingham. I’ve truncated much stuff as I’m heading to drinks in an hour so only have 20 mins to write this!


  • We’re all doing too much, losing the time to innovate and experiment, and, I might suggest ensure that what we do is of a really high standard – perhaps we are spreading ourselves too thinly.
  • Failure needs to be an acceptable part of our working culture. To fail is to learn.
  • We need to claim time to experiment and to work creatively. There is probably a massively good reason to give staff 20% of their work hours to creative projects of their choosing – boosting morale, experimentation etc… How we work will link to audience’s experiences of us.
  • However this experimentation time needs to be embedded in the DNA of a company.
  • Eureka moments are rare, slow realisations are more regular.
  • Disruption helps innovation – innovation is a byproduct of success, ironically success breeds a lowering in the willingness to disrupt, thus stopping the innovation cycle.
  • Ideas could be incubated over short, but intense, periods of time, applying to both administration and creative strands.
  • Boards need more age diversity. There is an interesting conundrum that we seek experience while often failing to recognise that experience often carries with it baggage. Young, unsullied minds are needed on boards (alongside experienced ones…). Balance is key.
  • Artistic process & programming needs to relate to the audience more. Often we talk to our communities, listen to our communities but fail to act upon them. We need to ask if our work is intrinsically important to our audience, current and potential, if not we risk becoming obsolete.
  • If a show doesn’t relate to a venue’s audience it is an artistic wank (my phrasing) – it’s for the benefit of the person who programmed it only.
  • Organisation culture should not beat strategy into submission.
  • Fixed costs and reducing them should be at the core of planning.
  • NEVER blame the customer. It’s not them, it’s you.
  • A cash reserve allows you the opportunity to take risks, that’s why it should exist.
  • Resources are often allocated historically. Do we need to reexamine our spending – look at organisations in a fresh way and question everything.
  • FOH spaces shouldn’t be static, they should inspire and draw audiences in.
  • Live feeds and interactivity are key to developing engagement.
  • We should be questioning how we make our spaces feel inspirational and welcoming.
  • Why we do something needs to be at the core of everything. Vision needs to be clear.
  • Good questions for audience survey’s – Your intent on visiting again and when – Top 5 motivations for attending.

Top quote of the day

During  the opening speeches to describe the Spektrix hangout area – “We’ve got grass” – perhaps explaining why Spektrix clients always seem so happy and all the marketing is green.


The Hotel La Tour is excellent, lunch needed more cakes with chocolate, Spektrix pens are the best, Birmingham Library is beautiful, Edgbaston is really not that exciting when there’s no cricket on, it’s just a piece of grass surrounded by seats, not instagram worthy.