Every November Made Media attends the Tessitura European Conference (TEC) to meet with arts and culture venues from across the UK and Scandinavia.
This year the conference was held in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre, and we were proud to be the platinum sponsor for the event.
To reflect on what we learnt during these two days, we decided to share our conference diary…
With our sponsor table beautifully set up (if I do say so myself), it was time for the welcome address. After a word from Tessitura’s Jack Rubin and Chuck Reif, David Pearce, Strategic Director at the Centre, took to the stage to welcome the delegates, providing an insight into the history of the venue and its connections with the conference. With a rousing rendition of “Oggy, Oggy, Oggy” from the Welsh, followed by a fair amount of confusion from the overseas visitors in attendance, the conference began.
Made dived straight into the conference, holding our sponsor session in the first slot of the day. Titled “Reimagining the Mobile Experience”, the session centred on how arts organisations are no longer simply competing with other venues, but instead must look at the digital experiences of completely separate industries and services. The session was presented by Jake Grimley, Made’s CEO, who discussed how users today are looking for an efficient process that fits easily into their lives and their phones, forcing venues to reevaluate their own output. While a few of the proposed ideas, such as removing Select Your Own Seat, drew some raised eyebrows from the room, many of the suggestions seemed to strike home, and led to conversations throughout the conference with delegates interested in changing their approach to ticketing.
With one talk down, the rest of the day was spent attending sessions covering topics from the SOAP to REST migration, to retaining customers online. This really highlighted not only the variety of issues being addressed, but also the wealth of experience available at the conference.
With the day coming to an end, Jake and James prepared for their talk the next day, while Jessica and I headed out on the tour of the Centre. Led by the excellent Phil, we learnt about the construction of the building, including the iconic Welsh steel lettering, before getting to head backstage to see the inner workings of the Centre. Exploring the dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces and production areas left us feeling suitably ready for stardom, and the tour ended in the beautiful theatre itself, giving us a sneak peek of the set for the venue’s upcoming original production, the Welsh musical Tiger Bay.
Having shaken the urge to pursue a career on the stage, the Made team joined forces again and headed to the Networking Evening held in the Centre’s restaurant spaces. Away from the formal settings of the sessions, it was great to unwind with representatives from some of the most prestigious venues in the world, enjoying the official Tiger Bay beer specially brewed for the new production.
Despite the networking event the night before, Wednesday morning saw us up relatively bright eyed, and more or less bushy tailed. We split up, some of us heading to sessions while the remainder manned the sponsor table, buoyed by a steady stream of caffeine.
Soon it was time for Made’s second session. Joined by Missy Mills from Royal Opera House, Jake and James discussed online resources for teachers, whether that be teaching materials, or easy ways to book school trips. While these are two very different aspects of educational offerings, both demand a level of customisation. It is vital that your digital landscape is flexible enough to meets their needs and help create a relationship, avoiding the traditional prescriptive view of teaching resources online.
Relieved to have our talks behind us, we packed up the last of our badges and migrated to the Exchange Hotel with the rest of the conference. A final discussion of GDPR was followed by the end keynote, in which Miranda Bishop shone a light on harnessing social media as part of your digital strategy.
And that was it, TEC done for another year. Time to head for the train, to sit back and think over what we had learned at the conference.
The theme that seemed to run through each session at TEC was a progressive shift in how arts organisations deal with digital.
So what’s the takeaway?
While conferences always centre on the latest developments, the theme that seemed to run through each session at TEC was a progressive shift in how arts organisations deal with digital. On the most obvious level this can be seen in changes in API, or new versions of software, but beneath that, there seems to be a far more subtle transformation taking place.
In the past, arts organisations compared themselves to one another, focusing on competition from the nearest theatre or museum. However as audiences have become more focused on digital to meet their needs, the competition is arguably no longer within the arts industry, but beyond. Rather than trying to be the best venue in a geographic area, venues are fighting on a digital landscape, to occupy a space in users’ lives through their phones and tablets. This involves making viewing productions and buying tickets as easy as possible, fitting in with the quick and effective processes digital audiences have come to expect from apps used to book taxis or hotels.
These shifting user expectations are occurring against a backdrop of changing regulations, GDPR guidelines and new technology. This makes it more important than ever to consider your digital output, its audience and its place in the wider world.
Adapting to the evolving expectations of a digital audience can be a daunting prospect, but conferences such as TEC help to bring together venues and agencies alike to look into the possibilities this provides together. It is this culture of shared knowledge and thought provoking ideas that make it really worthwhile. That, and the welsh cakes.
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