Event | AMA 2016 Daily Blogs - Howard

Seasoned AMA conference-goer Howard Buckley blogs about what to expect from this year's AMA Conference...

‘’One should always have something sensational to read on the train,’’ said Oscar Wilde, and whilst I haven’t brought a copy of my own diary for my trip to Edinburgh (mainly because I haven’t kept one, and moreover it’d put a glass eye to sleep), I have been tasked with writing the first of The Audience Agency’s AMA 2016 blogs. Each day, we’ll try and bring you a flavour of the conference, what the hot topics were, the thoughts from around the conference and also our own take on the discussions that have been taking place.

However, nothing much has happened as of yet other than the usual manic diving onto the train and the very British: “…erm I’m really sorry, I think this is my seat, ’ non-confrontational squabbles that proceed long journeys; but the grey of London is starting to fade and my thoughts are turning to what’s in store for the week ahead.

I honestly can’t remember how many AMA conferences I’ve been to now. I do remember that the first one I attended was by accident in 2000 when I worked the cloakroom as an intern at The Green Room in Manchester. The conference has shaped not only mine, but many people’s careers, and I’m happy to say it continues to do so.

If you’re a first timer – welcome! You won’t find a nicer bunch of folks – it’s an old cliché, but in this case it’s true. By the end of the week, I can guarantee you will have new friends and colleagues that you can call upon for help whenever you need. In our sector many of us are working alone, sometimes organisationally or geographically and, on occasion, both. This is the one chance a year we really get to catch up, discuss, imbibe, console…I remember speaking to a friend after their first conference in Bristol who said: “I feel like I’ve been to a festival, but managed to wash.” Yes, it’s tiring, but it is worth it.

This year, the AMA team have put together a fantastic programme, as always. I’m sure you’ve picked out what sessions appeal to you and are excited at the prospect of learning from and with your colleagues. I’ve got my own highlights to look forward to – especially, Roger Tomlinson’s guide for staying safe with your data compliance (@brandinyourhand). Roger holds the record of being at every single AMA conference and has taught, guided and mentored many of us throughout the years. His always insightful, eminently sensible work in data has been ahead of its time. So, go see him if you can.

Having only left the AMA 18 months ago, I know first-hand how hard they work to put this on. It’s often said, but each conference does take years of planning with Julie (@julie_aldridge) and the team always working on how to improve the experience for all of us. Please, if you get chance, say thank you to one of their staff, or simply tweet it – I know how much they’d appreciate it.

At The Audience Agency, the conference is a chance to speak to and catch up with all the people we work with. On Wednesday morning we’ll be hosting a Breakfast Briefing - going through new developments, focusing on Show Stats, announcing some exciting new tools you’ll be able to use and updating everyone on how we have all worked together, across the sector, to create the biggest cultural dataset in the world. It’s going to be quite a start to the conference and I hope I’ll see you there.

I also hope you’ll be able to make it to our Head of Digital, Katie Moffat’s (@katiemoffat) breakout with Jessica Suess from Oxford University Museums (@jessicasuess) about their adventures in understanding audience data.

All work and no play, does not a good conference make. It is much more than just seminars, keynotes and breakouts. To acknowledge that, The Audience Agency wanted to get things started in style on Wednesday evening - teaming up with our sister organisations, Culture Republic (@culture_public) and Audiences NI (@audiencesNI) to bring you #cocktailsandculture. Go straight from the final keynote to the Milburn Foyer at the Festival Theatre and whet your whistle for the evening ahead with free Mojitos and live music, before moving onto the AMA’s evening social.

I hope that everyone has safe journeys today, and that you have a frankly fantastic AMA conference. It’s good to be back.

Follow Howard's AMA 2016 tweets on @normid