By Experience

Happily_events_live_caption_broadcast

Best Practices For Live Captioning A Happily Broadcast

Live captioning means a human is live transcribing speech into text during a broadcast using software that merges seamlessly with live streaming technology, such as Zoom.

The text from the spoken words could be in the original language (eg. English) or can be translated into another (eg. English speech into Spanish text). It will instantly appear along the bottom of a live streamed virtual event for attendees to read. They are commonly referred to as CART captions, which stand for Communication Across Realtime Translation.

The alternative to live captioning is using an AI software to automatically transcribe all speech-to-text. Again, AI tech can generate a transcription into the original language, or a translation into other languages. AI Speech-to-Text Software is advancing all the time and can be an ideal option for making translations available into all languages with a widget plug for attendees to choose from.

However, live captioning is recommended for single translations (eg. English speech to English text, English speech to Spanish text). The final result will be a more accurate and smooth speech-to-text experience for virtual attendees.

Why Have Captions During a Broadcast?

Including captions to any video content, including a live broadcast, is always an advantage. Captions and subtitles are now common practice on social media, and is a simple step towards accessibility. As a society we are accustomed to and almost expect the option for captions on our content.

For those tuning in with limited audio

Ideally we assume attendees are watching and listening to a broadcast in a quiet space, with headphones and no distractions. However, a part of the appeal and advantages of events in the digital space, is that attendees can attend from wherever they find themselves at that time. For example, on public transport, or with their children running around, or outside in a park ect. Having captions will significantly allow attendees to stay engaged with the event program in the circumstances that they are unable to fully hear the audio.

Accessibility for the Deaf and Hearing Impared Community

As an alternative to an ASL interpreter, having live captions is a necessary and welcome addition for any attendees who are hearing imparied. Find a blog dedicated to adding an ASL interpreter to a virtual event here.

Happily_events_live caption broadcast

Here are some tips from our Happily Broadcast Team when live captioning a virtual event

1. Make sure to hire the right people for the job

If the livestream is only being shown in Zoom, anyone who has experience typing speech-to-text should work. However, if the livestream captions are intended to be shown on an external website or inside the Vimeo / YouTube player live, then the captioner also needs special equipment.

2. Make sure to hire enough people

Typing fast is hard work and to improve work conditions as well as quality of output, we should let the captioners switch off every 30 minutes. In this case, always hire two people instead of just one. The only exception to this might be in a one hour meeting.

3. Write and share a script

It’s really important to let speakers know that there will be captioning and a script will be helpful to the captioners. No script? At minimum, share the run of show with the correct spelling of speaker names.

4. Include translators in tech rehearsals

Conduct a tech rehearsal just with the captioners to test that you can get their captions into the player and/or website. Zoom is very easy. Broadcast is not and requires specific captioning equipment from the captioner.

October 12, 2021

Microsoft Mesh Marketing Video Still

What Is the Metaverse & What Does It Mean for the Future of Events

Before we step in, the Metaverse is an extensive and comprehensive topic, with a long and interconnected history. Below we are only going to dip our toes in and give a brief introduction to this emerging universe.

As some readers might remember, in the early days of the internet it was really hard to understand what this new, strange thing called ‘the world wide web’ was. We can now watch old archival footage of experts trying to explain the internet to the public and chuckle at their baffled expressions. For the common person, it was nearly impossible to fully understand how the internet would forever change every aspect of their life.

We are in the very early days of the Metaverse, so in the same way as the birth of the internet, there is no single, all-illuminating way to define it. Now that we are fully accustomed to the internet and technology has skyrocketed since then, it is a little easier for us to imagine what the Metaverse could be, than it was for people back then to understand the idea of the internet.

Video: “Ready Player One” the 2018 sci-fi film, offers a stylized and dramatic glimpse into the future technology and the idea of the Metaverse.

So, what is the Metaverse?

Basically it is the term used to describe the anticipated next incarnation of the internet, and where all our advancements and increasing familiarity in social technology is organically leading us. The term Metaverse combines the Greek word ‘meta’ meaning ‘beyond’, and the suffix ‘-verse’ from ‘universe’.

We must emphasize that the Metaverse will not replace the internet, but rather simply expand it. At the moment we have ‘access’ to the internet through our computers and mobile devices. The Metaverse will allow us to be ‘within’ an embodied or 3D version of the internet.

Here is a definition by Matthew Ball, a prominent thought leader in the space:

‘The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, data, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence’.

Framework for the Metaverse, by Matthew Ball, Jun 29, 2021

It is important to remember that how the internet was understood in the 90s is a lot different than it is understood by us today. Despite all this talk about the Metaverse, it doesn't technically exist yet. We don’t know what it is because the technology is still advancing in its direction, and we as a society are still learning how to use the Metaverse through our familiarity with social technologies.

By that last part we are referring to the idea that as a society we are not fully capable of using and embracing the Metaverse just yet. To summarize an example by Matthew Ball, the very first Apple iPhone did not need to have a dedicated ‘home button’ at the bottom. Having it there was not about technology capabilities - it was about our user capabilities at the time. It was not till a decade later that we were ready to adapt to having no dedicated ‘home button’ on our smartphones.

Is the Metaverse augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR)?

The short answer to that is both. AR is an interactive experience of a real world environment with those real world objects enhanced by computer-generated information and graphics. The game Pokémon GO really helped to bring the concept of AR into the mainstream all over the globe.

On the other hand, VR is a completely simulated and enveloping experience into a computer generated environment, that can be either similar to or completely different from the real world. VR tech companies such as Oculus, as well as the gaming industry, are again leading the way on our understanding of virtual reality.

The Metaverse will likely be a communal cyberspace, which connects augmented reality and virtual reality. This combination is referred to as mixed reality (MR).

Video: Microsoft Mesh is an example of an emerging mixed reality product.

What the Metaverse is not...

  • The Metaverse is not a user-generated virtual world or virtual world platform. For example, Facebook is a social network focused on user-generated content (UGC). The Metaverse will not be solely driven by UGC experiences and it is not a social network.

  • The Metaverse is not a video game. Of course, there will be games in the Metaverse, but it is not the Metaverse itself.

  • The Metaverse is not software like Unreal, Unity, WebXR or WebGPU. This is similar to the internet being more than just TCP/IP, HTTP, or a web browser.

Will there be avatars in the Metaverse?

Yes, you will be able to enter the Metaverse as an avatar. Thanks to the gaming industry, we have become increasingly familiar with the idea of an avatar that represents our physical presence in a digital space. Those avatars may look a little different than we think of at the moment. Perhaps they will be a more realistic representation of our physical appearance and less cartoonish. Or maybe your avatar will look any way you want it to.

When will the Metaverse be here?

The evolution of the Metaverse is ever growing and all the components have been slowly - and then very rapidly - coming together for years now. The first mention of the idea of the Metaverse was in the early ‘90s, and the ‘00s - ‘10s have seen an increasing rate of developments and milestones within the space - even if some of them barely got off the ground.

Over the last few years there have been many platforms and innovations that have been constantly trailblazing and pushing the boundaries to bring the real world and virtual reality spaces together, and thus, organically forming the Metaverse.

Together with crypto-currency, NFTs are making way for a revenue model for Metaverse. Non-fungible tokens, aka NFTs, are rapidly increasing in popularity and social acceptance. NFTs are collectible digital assets that can be owned in that digital form. Anything that exists in a digital form can be sold as an NFT; like digital art, video, music, even Tweets and more. And just as it were a real-life object, the value of an NFTs can go up in time. The same way that Bitcoin is ‘digital money’, NFTs are ‘digital objects’.

The wildly popular virtual reality game Fortnite by Epic Games, hosted a concert experience of rapper Travis Scott in April 2020. It was attended live by approximately 12 million Fortnite players, with a further 3 million viewing it via stream. This empathizes how the gaming industry has been and continues to bring virtual reality experiences to the mainstream.

Video: Trailer for Travis Scott’s Astronomical on Fortnite

We have also seen the rise of ‘ubiquitous computing’. This brought about the ability to access the internet through everyday objects such as speakers, refrigerators, watches or a pair of glasses. Back in 2013 ‘Google Glass’ tried to show us how to access the internet hands-free with smart glasses. However, as a society, perhaps we weren’t ready to embrace it. Same goes for the launch of Snapchat’s ‘Spectacles’ in 2016. Fast forward to 2021, and the launch of Facebook and Ray Ban’s ‘Stories’ smart glasses. Although it is not there yet, these glasses are seen as taking another step towards augmented reality glasses that seamlessly overlay graphics onto the real world. The development of this tech will be important for the Metaverse.

Video: Marketing campaign for Facebook and Ray Ban’s ‘Stories’ smart glasses.

This is all to say that the Metaverse is being formed and introduced all around us. In 2021, so called ‘big tech’ such as Epic Games, Microsoft and Facebook have all announced their intention to actively develop towards the Metaverse. In the next few years we can expect some big strides to be made towards it. However, when will society at large fully embrace and understand the Metaverse? That may take a little longer.

What will it be like to experience an event in the Metaverse?

At Happily we anticipate that the Metaverse will enable the ultimate experience of a hybrid event as the real world and the digital space will harmoniously meet inside the Metaverse. The onsite attendees will have a seamless augmented reality experience, and the virtual attendees will have a truly amazing virtual reality experience.

  • Virtual sets and costumes are going to be bigger and better than ever. We can all flyyyy now!

  • Collaboration will be easier. We won’t just be sharing ideas and data, we’ll be building and playing with them in real-time, from anywhere with digital projection and natural language processing combined.

  • Physical demonstrations of products will be more enhanced with added layers of information. You’ll be able to see inside the tiniest products, put heavy objects in motion with ease, and test products in a variety of environments.

Here are some more readings for anyone interested in digging a little deeper into this topic:

September 23, 2021

 Billie Eilish's WHERE DO WE GO? virtual concert

What Is an XR Studio & Why It Is a Game Changer for Events

There is a world of technology emerging that is ‘changing the game’, as they say. We are talking about technology that places virtual worlds at the centre of a production.

Have you noticed how realistic sci-fi movies are becoming? Or the immersive performances of the 2020 MTV VMAs? That is because they are filmed virtual-first using XR. And basically it means that green screens are so 2019.

BILLIE EILISH XR Studio Example

Image: A behind-the-scenes shots of Billie Eilish's WHERE DO WE GO? virtual concert performed live from the company, XR Studios LA.

So, What is XR?

XR is part of the augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) world of evolving technologies. XR stands for extended reality and combines virtual with a real-world environment. This means that a human can exist within a virtual space, directly feeding into their own experience of that pre-designed environment. So, again, no uninspiring green screens here.

XR technology means that the virtual space is designed first, and then the filming of the talent is done within that extended reality environment. Not the other way around. The talent can then see the virtual extended reality environment they are in, allowing them to work within that space and fully perform and be present in the moment. It also allows for more integrated lightning, camera movements, object placement, and all those little filming details that make a shot feel 1000% more realistic.

Video: Katy Perry on American Idol performing live with a custom XR experience from Silent Partner Studios, with set designed by Yellow Studio. Discover the behind-the-scenes into Katy's XR performance here.

How Does a XR Studio Work?

XR borrows and adapts technologies and software developed by the gaming industry. Software such as Unreal Engine, which allows a complete animated 3D world to be designed.

This custom 3D environment is then placed in real-time on large LED screens that make up the film set and studio. Using cutting-edge camera tracking technologies from companies such as Stype, the movement of the camera is directly connected to the 3D environment on the LED screen. The camera becomes a view into this 360° space, similar to the perspective experienced by a player in a game.

Here is a great little explainer with a behind-the-scenes look into the filming of The Mandalorian with a virtual-first XR studio.

Video: ‘Why 'The Mandalorian' Uses Virtual Sets Over Green Screen’ via Insider

Control your brand’s narrative by bringing a little XR into your work life

For the future of events, XR has many exciting possibilities for our clients As an events company that thrives in the space where technology and creativity meet, here at Happily we are excited to bring this ‘Hollywood magic’ of XR to our virtual and hybrid events, and make this tech accessible to our clients.

Depending on whether you are looking to go ‘Full Mandalorian' or something a little more low-key, Happily can help you take advantage of the virtual-first wonder of XR.

The future of work will mean transforming underutilized physical spaces into the foundation of your remote office environment. So basically, if your office has a conference room that is barely used these days, why not turn it into something way more useful and practical - like, your own custom broadcast studio.

With your own Happily XR Studio you could professionally film and broadcast from your office at a moment’s notice. This will give your brand full control over the production environment to generate better creative, increased content and enriched storytelling.

As a Happily XR Studio is fully customizable to the space, goals and budget of an organization, each one will be unique. We would love to chat to you about what a Happily XR Studio could look like in your office space, as well as our Happily team of specialists for on demand support, so get in touch with us today.

Happily XR Studio Build Before and After

September 20, 2021

The Portal at AREA15, Las Vegas

Virtual vs Hybrid: Why Hybrid Experiences Should Be Virtual-First

Technology is constantly innovating, elevating, and shaping our daily lives. More than any other industry, tech is fundamental to how we communicate, experience the world and access content.

So why, when it comes to events, do we think of the internet as the secondary platform, and onsite as the headliner? If you ask us, virtual is the main stage.

A Happily hybrid production takes a virtual-first approach to programming and experiential design. Why?

As we explored in ‘What is a Hybrid Experience?’, harnessing the power and potential of broadcasting is the magic ingredient for hybrid online-offline interactions. Today, we are going to think through what a virtual-first program looks like, and explain how critical this approach has already become to modern productions for events and any kind of content.

The Portal at AREA15, Las Vegas

Image: The Portal room at AREA15, Las Vegas. A 6,584-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling projection mapping. Can you imagine digital attendees mapped along the walls?

A virtual audience is larger than any onsite one could ever be

If you focus on an onsite audience and leave the online audience as an afterthought, you are not directly communicating and engaging with as many people as you could be.

An online audience lives in the present, and they also live in the future. A virtual-first event can be fully experienced by a virtual audience long after the studio lights have been turned off. It can be shared and replayed across the country and around the globe, and there won’t be any feeling of having ‘missed out’ on something.

However, if you create a hybrid experience for an onsite audience, it is more likely to live and die in that moment. It was a ‘you had to be there’ thing.

Virtual Audience Wall on Britain's Got Talent

Image: Virtual Audience Wall on Britain's Got Talent

Virtual participation stimulates conversations

By planning virtual-first, your fresh ideas and creativity for audience engagement will pour into the places that most leave as an afterthought. Live chat can be a fun and powerful experience that onsite guests will actually miss. Some of our favorite moments of a talk happened in the audience comments, not on the stage.

Take a little extra time to creatively leverage the capabilities of technology - both familiar like chat and fringe like augmented reality - to spark more conversation both onsite and online.

Imagine how much more interesting an onsite experience can be with virtual community participation:

  • Express the collective conscious with real-time polling data surfaced as art pieces
  • Stimulate critical thinking by surfacing hilarious or insightful chat comments during a talk
  • Cross-pollinate research and ideas from anywhere with shared whiteboards

Build better, longer-lasting outcomes with your sponsors

At Happily, we’ll work on both sides of the fence. Sometimes we are helping event organizers develop their sponsorship product strategy and other times we are helping sponsors make a splash and get the most out of their sponsorship dollars.

In either case, the secrets to a great partnership for a hybrid event are:

  • a deep understanding of how to capture the interest of target audiences
  • a laser focus on conversions for the call to action
  • a post-event strategy that extends the ROI and shelf-life of the sponsor product

A virtual-first hybrid model allows us to offer strategic value for our partners with evergreen content products, tailored to their brand and target audiences.

While this does take more effort from producers and event hosts to understand a brand and curate content, there is tremendous upside for sponsors and organizations

  1. Reduced operating expenses on virtual products
  2. More likelihood to achieve or increase partner ROI with targeted evergreen content
  3. A more collaborative, meaningful partner engagement reduces churn

Exclusive sponsor content can have endless uses for remarketing, future promotional material, community engagement and allow your event to live on well beyond the day.

The opportunities in these VIP and sponsorship spaces is really tailor for the hybrid event or hybrid summit, however, here are some examples:

  • Sponsors can have an interview opportunity with a VIP guest, record it without them having to worry about all the tech side. The result would be a shareable video with a high production value and the event’s logo branded all over
  • Keynote speakers and influencers can record a quick video optimized as ‘ready-to-go’ content for social media (30 - 60 secs) that can be quickly uploaded and shared. Eg. a ‘thank you message’; answering a quick and relevant question; providing expert advice as an extension of their presentation
  • Have a ‘media wall’ filled with the logos of sponsors that would be used as the backdrop for these videos, meaning their brands would be given enduring exposure
  • Sponsors each are able to record content promoting their service or product in a professional space that can be broadcasted on a screen at the venue, used for web content, remarketing material ect.

Winky Lux, Image source: Beautycounter

Image: Inspiration of a VIP room? This is a Instagramable room from Winky Lux, a NYC cosmetics brand, designed for customers who enjoy creating social media content. Source: Beautycounter.

The venue selection process needs to include virtual criteria

Just like any onsite production, the venue is selected, designed and planned to achieve the goals and accommodate all the various elements of the event. A hybrid event that puts virtual first will certainly reflect this as well.

The venue of a virtual-first hybrid event will combine your stage, space and studio all in one. The location should offer a visually appealing backdrop and ample open space for a stage that can be equipped for sound recording, lights, and cameras to move easily across the space.

The layout of the room and placement of all the AV tech should allow panning shots of the audience, as well as what is happening on stage. Just like a TV set, these audience shots will allow virtual attendees to connect to the onsite experience.

And, don’t forget to ask about the wifi - both the cost and the speed. The higher the upload speed, the better the quality of your live broadcast will be. We recommend two dedicated lines for every tech table - one for comms and one for broadcast with a minimum upload speed of 100mbps.

You’ll also need to consider how many dedicated lines will be required for any hybrid exhibits or activations. We’ve seen costs for wifi quickly surpass the cost of renting the venue! So make sure to get your wifi quote before signing your deal.


Customize your own virtual-first hybrid event with Happily

Going virtual-first will look differently, for different events and clients. So let’s chat about what it could look like for you!

Each of our Happily productions is unique to your brand. Whether you’re looking to host a hybrid fundraiser, a hybrid webinar, a hybrid summit or even a hybrid podcast live event! You are soooo close to making it happen.

September 6, 2021

Happily Hybrid Experience

What is a Hybrid Experience?

Productions are always evolving and innovating, that’s for sure. Yet we’ve never seen innovation explode the way it has worldwide during the pandemic.

We have all been thrown into the deep end of remote work and virtual meetings, and now calmer waters are taking us upstream into hybrid experiences.

For most of us, and perhaps now more than ever before, much of our lives are online and so it makes sense that our events should be experienced there, too.

Onsite productions are (cautiously) becoming an option again, and these days the benefits of a virtual production are more widely understood and experienced by both the industry and the general public. So hybrid experiences, it is your time to shine.

Worre Studios in Las Vegas, photo by Jerry Metellus

Image: Worre Studios in Las Vegas. Photo by Jerry Metellus.

A hybrid event is not the same thing as a hybrid experience

Simply put, most hybrid events at best will connect in person and virtual audiences to a stage but will fail to connect virtual and onsite audiences with each other.

In a hybrid event, the onsite audience might see interactions from the virtual audience, but they can’t engage unless they log into a virtual platform to interact in the same environment that the virtual audience exists. Technically, once you log into a virtual platform, you are a virtual attendee. This ultimately disrupts - not enhances - the onsite experience.

In order to move from a hybrid event to a hybrid experience, we need to create ways for onsite attendees to stay out of platforms and hands-free from their devices. And we also need to find ways for virtual attendees to more freely navigate online to build ideas and relationships that emotionally tie them to the community.

Is that even possible?! Yes, with the right technology for broadcasting in place.

Happily Types of Events

Why broadcasting is the magic ingredient

In the diagram above, the happy face in the circle represents the audience at an onsite event, and the rectangular faces are a virtual audience.

At an onsite event, it is much easier for an attendee to build a shared experience. They can navigate through spaces with more fluidity, host an unofficial event on the fly, and have more sensory inputs to feel connected to the people around them who are sharing the same time and space. If you’ve ever sat around a firepit to hear someone tell their story, you’ll know that things just hit differently. The glow of the light, the smell of the flames, the heat warming your skin, the tiny vibrations you hear in the narrator’s voice… All of this contributes to really experiencing a story.

With virtual events, technology reduces our ability to create shared narratives to a ‘call and response’ format. Sure, you might be able to hop from breakout room to breakout room or you may be able to spin up a new Discord channel to kick-up a new interest-based conversation, but you are dependent on a bunch of 0s and 1s to get you there. And, oftentimes, in a virtual space you are reduced to a username in a chat box.

Adding a virtual event platform as an offering to your onsite event will technically make a hybrid event, but you’d be still very far from developing a colorful hybrid experience. Virtual guests in a platform are simply never seen and heard by an onsite guest unless the onsite person logs in (effectively making them another virtual attendee) OR we bring the virtual attendee to life in the physical space.

Happily adds an interactive layer to broadcasting to join the onsite and virtual audiences together in the same room - whether that’s online or onsite. This fixes issues on both sides of the platform: virtual guests are now visible to onsite guests without requiring those in-person to glue their eyeballs to a personal device.

Happily Types of Broadcasts

Broadcasting is the critical component that closes the loop and can turn a one-directional hybrid event into a multi-dimensional hybrid experience. So let’s first break it down a little into the basic kinds of broadcasts.

A Studio Broadcast happens in a controlled, indoor space, and with the possibility to have a live audience who can be heard clapping and laughing, etc. The content is being made in and broadcasted from the Studio.

A Field Broadcast is brought to where the content is, and broadcasted from that location. For example, a live sports event, a festival, summit etc.

A Virtual Broadcast is where the entirety of the production - the audience, the team, and the talent - all meet in the digital space. The production is not exactly broadcasting from an anchored location in the way that Studio and Field do. Virtual broadcasting and livestreaming is the most recent innovation in the industry.

A Hybrid Broadcast pulls from any number of these broadcast studios.

Happily Hybrid Experiences

This is a hybrid experience

A hybrid experience allows the embodiment of everyone in the same space. Video games like Fortnite are wildly successful experiences because everyone is together, roaming free to express themselves. Of course not everyone is willing or able to fire up a gaming console or put on a VR headset and show up to a professional event as an avatar. And the technology to allow thousands of individuals to stably show up in HD camera quality at once exists primarily in Zoom.

Virtual guests are going to be ok - maybe even prefer - not to be seen by onsite attendees, but churn will slowly rise the more that they are not engaged. Event organizers who partner with creative production teams like Happily who are testing the latest interactive video technologies and programmatically know how to evoke social behaviors across media platforms will be the most successful at turning hybrid events into hybrid experiences.

The immediate future of hybrid productions lies in our ability to embody both virtual and onsite participants in the room. This can be either onstage, with large screens behind a presenter but it can also be on the sidelines with screens in the room perimeter.

Happily Hybrid Experience Image render by Happily

In the diagram above, the stars represent the talent, the happy faces in the circles represent the onsite audience, and the rectangular faces are a virtual audience. The boxes are the broadcast as a whole; the solid one is the Studio and the hollow one is the virtual, both working in sync. By bringing everybody together in that same place, built around and feeding into and out of the broadcast, is when a hybrid experience can happen.

Talent is also able to come in either virtually, or into a studio and onto the main stage. The talent, onsite audience and virtual audience are all able to see each other and feed off each other's reactions. For example, there would be chats, comments, faces and emojis from the virtual audience brought into the physical space, via screens curated into the set design. This would all be seen and interacted with by the onsite audience and talent. That is when we actually are starting to have a high rate experience again and the central broadcast element is vital for that.


Happily brings the best of being online and onsite together

We’ve already learned the hard way on hybrid events so you don’t have to. For more on producing a hybrid experience with Happily, please reach out to us below click here.

August 28, 2021

Happily Earth Sustainability

10 Ways to Produce an Eco-Friendly Event

The world needs us all to do what we can in the name of climate action.

With the recent release of the IPCC report, a summary of all the climate research done in the last 10 years, we know that immediate action towards reducing carbon emissions needs to be a part of everyone’s work and life.

When it comes to producing an event and sustainable event management, there are so many things that can be done to lessen the carbon footprint and reduce the impact on the environment. Productions come in all shapes, sizes and budgets, so making whatever changes to combat the climate crisis that are possible for you is something to be commended and to be proud of.

Happily Eco-Friendly Events

Here are some considerations, tips and advice for anyone looking to make their event more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

1. Think virtual-first and avoid air travel

Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and it is the biggest contributor to an event’s carbon emissions. Out of all the types of transportation, and all the components of an event, if guests, talent, and shipping are flying in to attend, the carbon footprint will increase by about 95%.

If a lot of the audience is interstate and/or international, there are a few simplified ways to decrease or eliminate air travel.

The first option is to go completely virtual. The second is to have a virtual component and go hybrid, allowing the audience to be a mix of onsite and online. The third is to have smaller and more localized events, instead of one major event.

Virtual events have a very small carbon footprint. At Happily we make them carbon neutral by measuring the carbon emissions of a Happily event and offsetting any emissions from computers or tech by planting the corresponding number of trees in our Happily Forest.

For more, check out these Happily Virtual Case Study.

How does Meeting Format Impact Total Event Emissions? Graph Image: Graph adapted from this original article by Shawna McKinley.

2. No plastic water bottles, switch to water stations

Having drinking water readily available for attendees is important, especially for long, onsite summits.

Traditionally the most convenient way is to hand out plastic water bottles. Even though plastic water bottles are recyclable, the majority still end up in landfill. It will take about 1,000 years for them to break down, and not to mention the devastation it can have on marine life if found in the ocean.

Rethinking how attendees access water during the event can be a big step towards sustainability. We suggest having multiple water stations (no one likes to wait in a long line) with biodegradable cups, or use it as an opportunity to have some cool, branded bottles as swag that attendees can take home and reuse as well.

3. Clearly labeled recycling bins

Wherever the event may be, make the recycling bins a point of pride.

Make them clearly labeled for people to understand what they can put into it, with a rubbish bin right next to it for everything else. Have them easily accessible and brightly colored so they are not difficult to spot.

4. Eliminate paper, go digital

Decreasing the amount of paper that is handed out to attendees or used by staff is a good step in reducing the carbon footprint of the event. Plus, converting to tech can create a better experience for attendees and a more streamlined process for staff.

Building a custom event app or microsite can create a place where attendees can access all the event resources and information that they could need; eg. schedules, registering, downloadable PDFs, venue map, COVID-19 safety protocols, menus - whatever is appropriate.

The best thing about going digital is that it can serve every and all functions that you need it to. Whatever would normally be printed as a handout, or information pack, can be digitized and conveniently at the attendees' fingertips. Optimizing the use of QR codes will also contribute to the user experience.

For more, check out this Happily Case Study.

5. Promote public transportation

Travel in general is the biggest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint, and the less cars and the more carpooling, the better.

By clearly communicating any public routes that will take attendees to and from the venue, you will get them to consider public transport as a good and reliable transport option.

Clip Bike Impact

Image: Comparing NYC commuters Co2 emissions every year, compared to CLIP, a bike pedal assist via clip/bike.com

6. Have a shuttle service

If public transport isn’t available or the venue is a little out of the way, then consider offering a shuttle service.

If you can, go green with the vehicle. Electric cars and vehicles have zero harmful CO2 tailpipe emissions compared to regular gasoline-powered vehicles, which produce environmentally harmful CO2 emissions

The same goes for hybrid, as they are still better than gasoline-powered vehicles, and technology advancements have also made diesel a clean, green option for high-powered engines.

Think of it as a way to not only to get less cars on the road, but also to create a stress-free and more accessible experience for attendees.

7. Go veggie with a sustainable food and beverage vendor

If the event is catered, there are so many ways to ensure sustainability. Many catering companies are environmentally conscious and will do most of the sustainable work for you, if you find the right vendor.

At Happily we have a list of Sustainable Vendors throughout the country that include catering, and also other areas such as printing and fabrication. Just let us know and we’d happily connect you with some.

Some attributes of a sustainable catering vendor include:

  • +50% of of the menu should be plant-based, as eating less meat can contribute to less emissions (One pound of meat uses up 2,400 gallons of water)
  • Donate any leftover food to local communities and charities
  • Use Fairtrade products (typically tea, coffee and chocolate)
  • Use locally sourced ingredients and seasonal produce for the region, to avoid imported products
  • Aim for zero food wastage. Do not make 10% more on food for guests. If we run out, we run out. That’s ok.
  • Use compostable packaging and utensils for single serve take away boxes
  • Fish sourced from sustainable supplies
  • Composting food scraps
  • Opt for real glassware, plates, etc. Happily has a ban on plastic bottles

 Chart: The Carbon Footprint of the Food Supply Chain via Visual Capitalist

Image: The Carbon Footprint of the Food Supply Chain via Visual Capitalist

8. Find alternatives to non-biodegradable materials

Where ever there is an opportunity to ditch single use plastics, use plant based recyclables and find an alternative to non-biodegradable materials, then take it.

Ask suppliers and vendors about the materials they use and how sustainable their products are. Usually suppliers and vendors will proudly display their eco-friendliness so it shouldn’t be difficult to find the right one for you.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to sustainable materials used to create them:

  • ‘Swag bags’, including all packaging and the products themselves
  • The paper and ink used to print any marketing collateral, hand outs, banners, signs ect.
  • Any catering needs such as coffee cups, cutlery, napkins, plates ect.
  • Name tags or lanyards
  • Fabrication, such as booths or set designs

9. Find an event venue that is sustainability conscious

Venues come in all shapes and sizes and will depend on the needs of the event, like, if it is a massive multi-day summit, or a smaller workshop scenario.

Here are some things to take into consideration or ask of a venue:

  • If they have a Green Policy
  • Has a LEED certification
  • The percentage of LED lights the building has (Hint! The more the better)
  • Architectural design incorporates sustainable features, like the use of natural light
  • Escalators are energy-efficient, running based on occupancy or event needs
  • Near and accessible by public transport
  • If catering is only done in-house, refer to ‘Hire a sustainable food vendor; above
  • Water recycling and catchment system for minimal water wastage
  • Air-conditioning controlled in each room, to minimize the excessive use
  • Prefer venues powered by clean energy sources like solar and wind
  • Use shore power, not generators
  • Use large signs instead of paper

10. Tell people about the event’s eco-friendliness

Proudly explain and promote the elements that are sustainable and eco-friendly, and how it is contributing to the fight against climate change.

It will elevate the esteem of your event, and also advocate the importance of climate action in general, and encourage others to follow your lead.

August 24, 2021

Woman smiling at laptop in an organic style home

3 Ways to Create an Events Strategy that Saves the Planet

Like many things in 2020, virtual events went from a novel and foreign experience, to a necessary common occurrence.

Our love and advocacy at Happily for events in the digital space began long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We care deeply about the future of our planet, and that is why we use technology to create unique and fun events that are carbon zero. Our core values as a company, include representing diverse voices, reinvesting in local and forgotten communities, and reducing waste. For the moment let’s focus on the latter, although you can find more on the others here.

How does Meeting Format Impact Total Event Emissions? Graph Image: Graph adapted from this original article by Shawna McKinley.

We are environmentalists

When we say we’re committed to combating climate change, we mean it. After each Happily event, we calculate the carbon emitted from the desktops of talent, tech, team, and guests. Then we take a percentage from our profits to plant trees in the Happily Forest, which is located in Tanzania and stewarded by our reforestation partner, Forest Nation.

3 ways you can build an events strategy that reduces carbon emissions

1. Have virtual events lead your program

By fully embracing a virtual-first program, you can reduce emissions by 90% or more. Virtual events are a format that everyone is increasingly more comfortable with, and businesses now understand the lasting benefits of them, even beyond the pandemic. They can be easily scaled, they can fit any budget, a wider audience can be connected with, there is greater opportunity for accessibility, and they often mean less time commitment for attendees and speakers. All this allows a business to justify virtual events being held more often, enabling a thriving calendar of virtual summits, virtual galas and virtual gatherings.

On average, virtual events reduce 97% of carbon emissions compared to an in-person event. This is largely due to a lack of travel of people and goods to and from a city and/or venue. All that movement would usually account for 90% of an event's carbon emissions.

2. Form local clusters for in-person events

Local clustering of events can reduce emissions by 75% or more. An example of this would be, instead of a single major in-person event in which participants would fly to from all over the country, have several smaller events in relevant cities, collectively reducing the amount of travel required for attendees.

Other than a forest fire, air travel emits the most carbon emissions per hour than anything else. Incredibly, 1% of global frequent fliers are responsible for more than half of those emissions. Of course, we do not wish to vilify air travel, nor should anyone be shamed into flying less. However, decreasing a need for air travel is a very real way to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your event, as over 90% of an event's carbon emissions come from flights.

3. Harness the power of an online community to reduce the frequency of in-person events

The benefits of community for a business is something that is understood and utilized more each year. Actively building, nurturing and guiding a community in line with your business goals means that you can consolidate in person tentpole events down to one time a year.

The power of community for businesses is a wonderfully immersive topic. So rather than go into all of it here, we are going to guide you to some recent Happily Live interviews with experts in this field. For more on the benefits of community for your business, you must check out this chat with David Spinks. And this conversation with Gina Bianchini is essential for learning how to build a community online for your business.

Woman smiling at laptop in an organic style home

Reduce emissions, virtually

Happily is powered by the largest, most diverse network of tech-savvy, environmentally conscious event specialists. We bring tech, talent, and team together for custom, carbon-zero virtual events. Contact us for a chat and together we can produce an eco-friendly virtual event!

April 20, 2021

Gina Bianchini

How to Build a Mighty Strong Community Online with Gina Bianchini

Community development online is a craft. It is many many moving parts should fold and flow together to create a structure that supports, uplifts and serves each one of its members.

Gina Bianchini, an expert on network effects, chats with Sarah Shewey, Happily CEO and Founder, about what makes a community thrive online, the changing nature of communities in the digital space and how to reframe your approach to community building for your business.

I define community very narrowly… which is; are you creating the conditions by which people can meet and build relationships with other people? Think about it as member to member connections.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Gina Bianchini is a pioneering woman in the tech space

She is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Mighty Networks, a flexible web platform and community management tool that ‘brands with purpose’ can use to embrace and nurture their community via online courses, events, memberships and subscription content all in one spot. Their mission is to guide in a new era of digital businesses that are built on the power of community.

The precursor to Mighty Networks was the 2004 pioneering social networking website, NING, which Gina is the founder of NING with Marc Andreessen. It is a platform which allows an online presence and community to be built from the ground up.

For all the juicy expert knowledge listen to Gina on Happily Live with Sarah Shewey, CEO and Founder of Happily, and read on for a quick summary.

Some inspiring takeaways from the chat

Be the ultimate dinner party host

Think about building a community like hosting a dinner party. Not all your guests know each other, but you know all of them. You know what they have in common and what makes each one of them amazing human beings.

So as the ultimate host you would carefully craft an environment in which organic conversations can be fostered, in which your guests feel comfortable and especially in which connections can grow independently of you - so the party can continue even while you step away into the kitchen to check on dinner.

What is our ultimate goal? It is to create a community or a network of people that gets more valuable to every member with each new person that joins and contributes and we are gonna use many different tools in our toolbox to make that network as valuable to as many people as possible.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Social media is for gaining followers, not for building interconnected communities

Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are, as Gina describes, ‘moving in the opposite direction’ to building communities. They are certainly powerful digital marketing tools and important for brand awareness.

However, they are mostly one sided conversations without much significant relationship building happening. If your business goal is to build a thriving community with a sense of belonging, social media platforms are wonderful tools in your box, but they are not the best ones for this job.

So if you think about DMs and the fact that you have Stories and DMs, that’s actually, ‘I talk out at you, you talk back at me’, but nobody's meeting or building relationships with each other. The comments sections, people continue to try to build communities in comments sections but the reality is, it’s really hard.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

A simply recipe for a mighty powerful community

All successful communities, as Gina explains, have cultivated the same sort of environment and culture for strong online community engagement and connecting members. Here are some common threads:

  • People feel part of something bigger than themselves
  • There is an overarching common goal or objective
  • Everyone is learning something new together
  • It is a safe space and a support network

Communities are built online before they can also be successful in the real world

A community with intention blossoms in the digital space, and in-person events are just another way for members to connect with each other through their common interests. By saying ‘online community’ we are focusing on ways in which a community stays connected and interacts in the digital space, in-between or in spite of real life events.

When you focus primarily on the online interactions of the community you are cultivating lasting connections by establishing strong patterns of communications for long after an in-person conference or event has passed.

When you’re thinking about a conference you are better off thinking about how you get people before they come. Before they come. The energy around joining something online that is digital, is before the event, not after.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Did something spark your interest?

Here are links to resources and other stuff mentioned in this Happily Live:

March 31, 2021