‘Ouch, I have some of the traits of a fixed mindset.’ Such is my reaction as I’m listening to the keynote by entrepreneur and author Melanie Yusebe at this year’s two-day Arts Marketing Association (AMA) conference in Newcastle. Ironically, I envisage her telling me that this is the embodiment of a fixed-mindset - fearing that I’m doing something wrong and not appreciating that there’s something I can do about it.

During this 45-minute presentation at the end of our first day, Melanie gives us some great insights into the fixed versus growth mentality. At 28, you stop coasting on natural ability and you have to work hard, which explains the extra two pounds I can’t shift since turning 30. Another memorable slide is that talent can be cultivated through strategic effort, risk-taking and learning from failures. Something that we tend to hear a lot from senior leaders and inspirational speakers. But how do we build our resilience to take these risks in the first place? Our Director of Actor Training at RADA talks about ‘failing spectacularly’, which sounds quite fun.

In its most basic form, I understand the growth mindset to be allowing yourself the time and space to really get in to something new, or more familiar. Melanie gives us an example of grooming her Bichon Frise dog. She explains that hours and hours go by as she combs and trims her pet, yet she’s so engrossed in the process that she totally loses herself in learning. She asks us when we’d last experienced this. Binge watching series one and two of Fleabag last month? I don’t think that’s what she means. How about the process of building a relationship with the AMA and giving our organisation a voice?

Earlier in the day, RADA Business ran its first practical session for arts marketers. Rewiring the body with tutor and RADA-trained actor Imogen Butler-Cole aimed to give participants a taster of the communication skills we all need to speak about our creative ideas with confidence. It offered insight into how we can hold our space when under pressure, and how we can give our messages more impact through using our physicality and voice.

Our session was over a year in the making. I’d first worked with the AMA as Communications Manager for arts charity Stagetext. We set up a live subtitling partnership to ensure the conference was accessible for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing delegates. As an avid attendee of the conference over the years, I always feel inspired when it ends, but lacking the practical, soft-skills to put these amazing ideas into practice. RADA Business works with individuals and organisations around the world but building relationships with an arts network is close to my heart because I want as many people as possible to benefit from these skills. Finding the right fit for RADA Business was a challenge that I relished and this year things fell into the place - take that, fixed mindset!

To answer my previous question, I don’t think we can begin to take risks (personally or with our brand) until we understand the power of our voice and the part our story plays. Producer Tobi Kyeremateng touched on this earlier in the day when she spoke about the idea of belonging in the arts and who feels that they do. I think that knowing (and learning how) you can have the same impact as anyone else is vital to overcoming this.

I’m back in the room, applauding Melanie and deciding that I’m going to start asking more questions at conferences, and not have a quiet word with the speaker afterwards if I have something to ask. I'm about to speak but realise there is no more time for questions. I was totally lost in that presentation!

About the author

Emily Gallagher heads marketing for RADA’s Short Courses and RADA Business. She brings creative ideas and strategy to life in a coherent and structured way and is responsible for leading and delivering content-led, multi-channel marketing for a variety of courses, products, projects, advertising and brand campaigns.

She brings a mixture of marketing, communications and account management experience to her current role, with a varied perspective of working in the arts and charity sectors, as well as the wholesale trade industry.