FestForums Santa Barbara

FestForums in Santa Barbara was held at the Fess Parker Hotel right on the beach and I was invited as part of the Nature Track Film Festival team. As a first-year film festival, attending the FestForum was really helpful. I highly recommend this event to anyone who is interested in event related technology, entertainment and management.

FestForums® is a conference for ALL FESTIVAL industry leaders that takes place biannually in Santa Barbara, CA and New York City.  Addressing cutting-edge technology, talent, ticketing, sponsorships, scheduling, merchandising, operations, sustainability, charitable work, innovation and safety, FestForums® brings together festivals and events of all sizes for collaboration and professional development.
The large screen made it easy to watch the speakers from any distance in the room.

The large screen made it easy to watch the speakers from any distance in the room.

Top marketing examples and takeaways from FestForums

The event industry is meeting cultural and business needs to provide lucrative and valuable experiences that last a lifetime. Many industries collaborate to pull off big events with economic impact and although the rewards are big but so is the investment!

A big topic at the conference was ticketing and infrastructure challenges related to the demand for Internet-based services at locations that might not have reliable electricity. Another major topic was about the cultural challenges like security. Security is a concern on a large scale, like mass shootings. It was also a topic because of the #metoo movement and sexual assault

Link to more info on my top takeaways:

The Gestalt principle used to manipulate people with images

The mind can plays tricks on us and Gestalt principles can be used to manipulate people. Psycologists try to understand how and why we can’t always trust what we see at first glance. Learning how you see is valuable if you are interested in understanding yourself and the world better. The Gestalt theory of study has been critisized by other scolars, but the idea is widly known. Gestalt is where the saying, 'The whole is other (not greater) than the sum of its parts.' comes from. The basic components or parts of any visual image are described in terms like shapes, points, lines, and curves. Our brains look for patterns and there are many terms to describes this, such as:

Classic Visual Tricks

Classic Visual Tricks

  • Similarity
  • Continuation
  • Closure
  • Proximity
  • Figure/Ground
  • Symmetry and order
  • Read more about the theory

An example of looking closely at an image

I selected this image from my Facebook feed as an example of manipulative and false images. What seemed off to me when I looked at this image was the odd mix of religion, sports, and politics. In political images for campaigns, manipulative images are everywhere!

Politcal Image from Social Media

Politcal Image from Social Media

What Makes the image suspicious?

  • Position and scale of politician
  • Surprising and surreal size of crowd
  • No credit or photo attribution

This image of Berny Sanders stuck out to me because it is different from others. He is wearing more casual clothing. The size of the crowd and arena is very surreal. On closer inspection, I noticed that the Facebook image had no linked source. Curious about when and where the photo what taken I did a google image search.   

Doing image research and looking closely

With a google image search I quickly found an exact match to a Tumbler blog site where again there was no attribution to the photo, but there was a comment about the large crowds at his March 2016 rally in Salt Lake City. A quick search for news from that event revealed that this image was not taken there because Bernie dressed differently. In taking a closer look, I realized that it was two images collaged together.

Detail showing audience scale mismatch

Detail showing audience scale mismatch

Becuase of the similarity, continuity, and desire for the closure of the area, the two pictures merge into one. Also, the drastic difference in scale between the crowd and the projection of Bernie make the smaller differences between the crowd shots less noticeable. By doing a google search for the top section, I immediately found a match and photo credit in an LA Times article from August of 2015. The bottom from Bernies time in Portland. What more, the original images show the real perspective of the journalist’s viewpoint and scale of the audience. The text in the top photo is actually mirrored and that indicates he is behind the projection.

My marketing plan notes for 2018

As a visual designer, my business is a sole proprietorship which is an enterprise owned and run by one person where there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity. I review my marketing at least once a year and use LivePlan to manage it. The graphics below are from last year. I will be making new graphics for 2018 based on these notes.

The marketing strategy

Marketing mapping

Marketing mapping

My marketing strategy matches Foreverbird Studios brand position. Foreverbird Studio advocates meaningful connection, sustainable design, and original creative work.  To communicate this I use intimate content marketing strategies, and that means I publish original content in my name and write in a casual, conversational tone. However, I don't talk about myself all the time. I talk about the people I collaborate with and creative work that inspires me. You can meet the people I collaborate with on my Creative Community page. 

It's taken me years to figure out my strategies, and it is still a work in progress. Reporting shows I had a spike in people liking my content even though I had a dip in visitors. More likes and comments are what I want to see, and I'm not concerned about a dip in overall page views. Imagine a bull's eye target, and the small center is also the most valuable. I intend to reach people who appreciate what I do. In 2018 I will be publishing less frequently but spending more time on each article.

The marketing budget

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A marketing plan usually is about 7-10% of operating costs. If you are a startup, that could be upwards of 30%. Most of my marketing is person to person networking. I do not do any paid advertising, but I do promote some ads in social media. 

I  benefit from my past work in content marketing. I have been blogging for eight years, so people find my site from search, social media, and direct links. I expect to have over 6k people in 2018. To put that in perspective, Yelp recently charged me $14.74 per click. If I planned to pay Yelp for 6k visitors, it would cost me $88,440 next year in advertising.

The most significant cost in my budget is my time. In 2018 I plan to spend about $30 on event fees and 8 hours of my time each month. 

The sales funnel


It's vital that my marketing efforts lead to sales because I need to make money. Sales and product pricing is the area of marketing I will be working on and my focus is on in-person sales in 2018. I will continue to optimize and clean up my online and retail presence by writing user experience cartoons. I plan to translate these so I can utilize the new MailChimp automation email capabilities.

My top 3 favorite talks from TedX Santa Barbara, Outside In

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Here are my top 3 favorite talks from TEDx Santa Barbara's 2017 event. If you don't know, "in the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection."

1. The World Needs a New Definition of Activism | Lea Ann Mallett

This delightful storyteller, activist, mother, and TEDx speaker, Lea Ann Mallett is worth a watch if you would like to do more good in the community without having to endanger your livelihood by climbing a redwood tree or spending time in jail for civil disobedience.

Her definition of activism is very similar to what is taught in the program Enchantavism: Changing the World with Story, Myth, and Inspiration. I attended the four-part series at Pacifica Graduate Institute this fall and I highly recommend it! 

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"For more than thirty years, Dr. Chalquist has collected resources for bridging reflection and action through the medium of reenchantment, hope, imagination, and story. Change the story and you change the system. He calls this approach Enchantivism. Quiet people can do it. Burned-out activists can do it. You can do it, and it’s fun. Unleashed, Enchantivism can help communities find renewal and creative ways of affecting positive change for a future we can all thrive in."

2. What Civilians Need to Understand About War | Andy Carroll

This talk is about letters and communication between active duty military service people and civilians. It brings out the depth of feeling and meaningful connection between individuals and family by showing some example from an archive of real letters. The preservation of history and culture is so inspirational to me.  I have been working on the theme of Mermaid Love Letters for the last year and aspire to create a similar feeling in that fantasy game project.

3. Ending Preventable Blindness: reinventing cataract surgery | Jeffrey Levenson

Wow! This talk took me by surprise because of the amazing scale in impact being accomplished with simple surgery methods. Vision is a HUGE part of my life and knowing that organizations are out there preventing blindness and giving people their sight back just blows my heart open. It made me think, what misconception do I have about resources and procedures that limit the potential good I could be doing for others? 

Graphic Design for Emergency and Disaster Relief

You might not think that a graphic design career has anything to do with emergencies and disaster relief, but I do! During the recent Thomas Fire in California I evacuated and worked from a safe distance. The power outages and toxic smoke were motivation enough for me to relocate during the 14 days this fire was going strong. 

I worked on two projects related to the Thomas Fire. I published announcements in social media for the Sandbox Coffeehouse, launched a website VenturaFire.Info, and created a Facebook page and group for the Ventura area. We wanted to let people know what was going on and where to find official information during and after the fire.

Photos by Jeanne Hughes

Photos by Jeanne Hughes


  • People
  • Printed Signs
  • Phones
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Websites

The more, the better

I lost my home in a firestorm, and I was eight years old. The experience impacted my drive to create a mobile sustainable lifestyle. Thanks to laptops and mobile devices it's possible for people to zip around and work from anywhere with electricity and cell phone reception. I'm not the only person who is doing this. An event like the Thomas Fire highlights the extensive collaboration possible. All forms of communication technology were used and needed in response from both volunteer, amateur, official, and professional sources. The public incident report lists the following agencies: 

CAL FIRE, Ventura County Fire, Ventura County Sheriff, Santa Barbara County Fire, Santa Barbara County Sheriff, City of Ventura Fire Department, City of Ventura Police Department, USFS/Los Padres National Forest, CAL OES, Red Cross, Southern California Edison, CHP, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, SoCaGas, Crimson Pipeline, Wildfire Defense Systems, CA Resources Group, Santa Paula Police, Santa Paula Fire, Ventura County OES, Santa Barbara OEM

Group Genius

In my studies on innovation, it is clear that group genius is where it is at. Witnessing the spontaneous community mobilization during an emergency is nothing short of numinous. Emergency situations like the Thomas Fire are not desired, they can and do lead to amazing innovation. 

After decades of disaster research, we know that improvisational groups are often the fastest and most efficient in the uncertain and rapidly changing conditions caused by natural disaster. (P.23) Sawyer, K. (2008). Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. Basic Books.

Everyday Creativity

We don't need to wait for a natural disaster to benefit from the creative potential of groups. Sawyer lists out the elements for us to follow. The seven key characteristics of effective creative teams are: 

  1. Innovation emerges overtime
  2. Successful collaborative teams practice deep listening
  3. Team members build on their collaborators ideas
  4. Only afterwards does the meaning of each idea become clear
  5. Surprising questions emerge
  6. Innovation is inefficient
  7. innovation emerges from the bottom up

We don't know yet what the Thomas Fire will mean for our community. It's still burning today and 100% containment is not predicted for another few weeks. Whatever it means, it is big! The Thomas Fire is already the third largest fire in California history and the largest mobilization of firefighters in history. Hopefully the outcome will include better innovation in fighting wildfires in California.

If you would like to help with the recovery in the community, consider getting involved with a Facebook group. There are many:


    TED Radio Hour, The Power of Design

    Keeping up with innovation is easier thanks to the TED Radio Hour podcast.

    Joe Gebbia is one of the presenters featured in The Power of Design episode. All of the presenters covered in the podcast are worth listening to. Learning about innovation and sharing of knowledge inspires me to work smarter while also reminding me of the joy of exercising new human skills and abilities. 

    I share Joe Beggia's experience of hosting. The first time I hosted someone from Couchsurfing I had the same feeling of anxiety about the guest. I consider myself a friend of all the guests I have hosted and I highly recommend hosting strangers.

    The Power Of Design

    Design is all around us, but much of it could be better, bolder, more elegant. This episode, TED speakers on the essence of good design in buildings, brands, the digital realm and the natural world.

    About Joe Gebbia's TED Talk

    When a stranger shows up at an AirBnB rental, what ensures that all goes well? Careful design of the website that brought them together, says Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb.

    About Joe Gebbia

    Joe Gebbia is a co-founder of Airbnb. Gebbia serves as a part-time design partner at Y Combinator, the startup incubator that helped launch Airbnb. He earned dual degrees in Graphic and Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).