By Experience

COVID Safety At Onsite Events

COVID Safety At Onsite Events with Adrian Segar

We chatted about how COVID safe can an in-person event be, some recent misleading data, and all the statistics we have so far on this topic with Adrian Segar.

He is the founder of Conferences That Work, which designs and facilitates events driven by participation and engagement.

... as meeting professionals, we have a professional duty of care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think it’s important to provide a realistic assessment of risk for meeting stakeholders—especially potential attendees.

Adrian Segar, Founder, Conferences That Work via his blog

For the full discussion, watch Adrian on Happily Live with Sarah Shewey, CEO and Founder of Happily.

Adrian is a rockstar in the events industry

For decades he has been designing participant-led and participation-rich events and meetings all over the world.

Adrian is also the author of three books on the topic of events and conferences - or ‘unconferences’ as they are commonly referred to. His first book published in 2009 ‘Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love’, is considered a quintessential manual on how to craft genuinely engaging events.

His latest 2019 book, ‘Event Crowdsourcing: Creating Meetings People Actually Want and Need’, is an extensive guide to curating events that have the content that attendees actually want and need.

Adrian earned a Physics B.A. at Merton College, Oxford, England, and was awarded a Ph.D. in elementary particle physics from University College, London. These days he lives in Vermont, has founded two nonprofits, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards.

Want more on this topic?

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

October 1, 2021

Sustainable Catering Practices

Sustainable Catering Practices: The 6 Guiding Principles

Producing an event that is eco-friendly and sustainable means taking into consideration many different areas and making informed decisions.

As event producers and event organizers there is a lot that we can all do to combat climate change and lessen the carbon footprint of a production or event. Sustainability is a guiding light for us here at Happily, which is why our events are carbon zero, and why we are always seeking ways that events can be as eco-friendly as possible. (Hint! The answer is going virtual.)

Decisions around the food and drinks that an event is catered with can have a ripple effect on our communities, our environment and our globe. We are going to explore sustainable catering and summarize the main areas that make a menu better for the future of our planet.

We believe that understanding the basics of food sustainability will greatly assist in making more informed decisions when communicating with vendors, hiring catering companies and planning a menu. For an overview of what a sustainable event looks like, including transportation and sustainable event venues, you can also check out 10 Ways to Produce an Eco-Friendly Event.

Sustainable Catering Practices

What is sustainability?

In general, the term sustainability refers to a capability to maintain something at a certain rate or level. Most of the time, we use the term in reference to the balance between the environment, equity, and economy.

UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

What is sustainable catering?

It is essentially about taking into account the origin, the quality and the non-monetary cost of the products we consume, with a focus on their impacts on the environment and society.

The goal of sustainable catering is, when possible, to:

  • Minimize environmental impacts eg. land degradation, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, climate change

  • Contribute to local economies and sustainable livelihoods of workers

  • Provide social benefits, eg. assisting people to make healthy and nutritious food choices

Sustainable Catering Practices

Let’s break down the 6 main principles of sustainable catering

These following principles are guides to making more informed choices when it comes to produce and catering.

There is no judgement for buying strawberries in the middle of December or including meat on the menu, just education around the little and big ways that a menu has the power to be more sustainable.

1. Favor produce that is locally grown and seasonal

While there is no universal definition of what constitutes ‘locally produced food’, the intention is to purchase goods that have been grown as close as possible to the place where it will be consumed.

The first benefit of going as local as possible is a reduction in carbon emissions. On average, produce that is transported over long distances will, of course, create more carbon emissions than food that is transported over a shorter distance.

By now we should all be familiar with the fact that high rates of carbon emissions are contributing to climate change. We are talking about a loss of biodiversity, extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, loss of coastal habitat and the spread of tropical diseases. All of this has serious and deadly effects on our society, economy, environment, and daily lives.

A good indicator to ensure that food is not travelling further than it needs to, is to favor produce that are in-season in your area. A local farmer’s market can be a great source of wealth for local and in-season produce.

What are in-season foods?

By ‘in-season foods’ we mean vegetables and fruits that are grown naturally in a specific location at a particular time of the year. If you are buying a food that is not in-season for your part of the world, then it has travelled very far from another part of the country or globe to arrive at your local grocer. The transportation and storage of imported foods greatly contributes to a larger carbon footprint, as well as chemical usage to prolong shelf-life.

The second benefit of favoring local produce is that you are supporting your local farmers and economy - whether that be your community, your state or your country.

Seasonal Foods USA Happily

Image: A chart of the general growing seasons for fruit and vegetables in the US

2. Choose food produced by eco-friendly production methods

Not all foods are grown equal. There are different methods of food production that will directly impact the environment in various degrees. Conventional farming can be connected with biodiversity loss, soil erosion, as well as other negative impacts on the environment.

The sustainable choice here is to favor food that has been produced by environmentally friendly production methods, for example, organic farming.

What does organic farming mean?

If a food product is certified with an organic label, then it means that it has been grown with organic agriculture or organic farming methods. Organic foods are either completely produced or involved production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals. The goal of organic farming is to conserve soils, to enhance biodiversity, to reduce pollution and to minimize the input of agricultural chemicals.

How do you know if a product is organic?

In the US a product needs to be organically certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to trust that it is indeed an organic food. The USDA certification uses many detailed processes to examine how a food was planted, grown, raised, and handled, and can be applied to many various types of produce including vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy and meat.

USDA Organic Labels Explained

Image: Here is a quick explainer on the official USDA Organic label via the USDA

3. Minimize animal products

The most resource intensive foods to produce are animal products. The reasons for this are complex and there are a number of factors that lead to animal products being so resource intensive. This includes the various necessary uses of land, farming, water, processing and transportation.

Here are some general examples of the resources that are needed to bring animal products to our grocery stores:

Large amounts of grain need to be grown to result in relatively small amounts of meat, milk and eggs Forests and land are often cleared for grain production or grazing land for animals, and less forest area results in less natural ways that excessive greenhouse gases can be absorbed Animal products are often transported over long distances in refrigerated conditions

Sustainability is all about making sure that we are not senselessly overusing the environmental resources that we have been given. The necessary huge amounts of water, farming and land used to produce beef make it the least sustainable animal product, as the graphs below will illustrate.

What does a sustainable menu look like?

A vegan menu is the most extreme end for those seeking a catering menu that is as sustainable as possible. However, a sustainable choice is also simply to minimize the amount of animal products that we consume, and selecting ingredients accordingly. A hint; simply switching beef out for chicken or fish is a huge step towards sustainability.

If animal products are to be used in a catering menu, organic certified produce should be sought out. A certified organic product will ensure that the production methods were as environmentally-friendly as possible, and will also indicate high animal welfare standards.

Food Footprints via Our World Data

Image: Food Footprints via Our World Data

4. Minimize as much waste as possible

Wherever food is made, served and consumed there is potential for large amounts of unnecessary wastage. This could come from the food preparation in the kitchen, the packaging of ingredients, the serving methods or excessive food amounts.

Here are some general ways to minimize food related waste at an event:

  • Purchase foods with minimal packaging
  • Maximize recyclable or biodegradable packaging
  • Favor tap water or drinking stations instead of bottles of water
  • Frozen foods require a lot of energy to refrigerate, favor using fresh rather than frozen ingredients
  • Using non-disposable plates, cups and others utensils for serving
  • Serve appropriate portion sizes to prevent uneaten food
  • Try to avoid providing more perishable food than estimated and have a plan for excess
  • Reuse or donate any food leftovers to avoid wasting edible produce

Video: Yalmaz Siddiqui, the Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at MGM Resorts International, spoke with us about food waste management at our TEDxHappily Countdown Summit

5. Choose sustainable seafood

The degradation of marine habitats and overexploitation of marine resources have been a result of conventional fishing practices.

Of the world’s fish stocks, about 80% is considered fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Sea turtles, marine mammals, sharks and seabirds populations have declined due to being incidentally caught by fishing vessels. Fishing gear can also have a physical impact on the denigration of the marine ecosystem.

How to know if seafood is sustainable

When it comes to purchasing sustainable seafood the things that should be taken into account are the level of overfishing of that type of seafood or species, and environmental impacts of the methods that the brand or fishery caught the seafood.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international nonprofit organization whose standards assess the sustainability of fisheries that catch marine or freshwater organisms in the wild.

A MSC blue fish label on a seafood product means that the amount of seafood that was caught does not threaten the long-term health of the population, and any negative effects to the surrounding wildlife and ecosystem were minimized. Also that the seafood was sourced from the ocean, lakes, or rivers from wild and plentiful populations.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Logos

Image: The correct logos from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to indicate seasfood that meet their standards

6. Choose fair trade products

If a product has a Fairtrade certification, it indicates that its production or the ingredients used have been measured against a mix of social, economic and environmental criteria.

The main goal is to support the ethical sustainable development of small producer organizations and prevent foreign exploitation of agricultural workers in lower-income countries. The global farming industry is the largest employer in the world and Fairtrade ensures a fair deal for the farmers and workers who provide the food, the ingredients and the materials that go into products we buy. This in turn prevents poverty, protects workers' rights, combats child labor / forced labor, promotes gender equality and fights climate change.

Common foods to look out for a Fairtrade certification is:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Ice cream
  • Wine

September 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/

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

COVID Safe Graphic Collage

10 Newly Normals For Producing a COVID Safe Onsite Event

Onsite events are coming back and we are here for it!

However, many things can’t - and shouldn’t - ‘go back to normal’. Instead, there will be many new normals when it comes to producing and attending events.

The Delta variant is still circulating in the United States and the globe. The COVID-19 vaccine is still being rolled out and the vaccination status of event attendees could vary dramatically. All of us in the public, as well as event organizers, should be keeping an eye on the current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for Activities, Gatherings & Holidays.

COVID Safe Graphic Collage

We have some new normals that you can expect for anyone planning an onsite production that takes COVID measures into consideration.

1. All you can do is control the controllables.

With all the continued uncertainty brought upon by the pandemic, producers and the events industry must continue to do what we do best; take everything in our stride, and focus on what can be done. A strong level of understanding and communication of established safety protocols, is one thing that you can control.

2. Selecting an onsite venue for your event will take more careful consideration.

There will now be elements of a venue that you will have to understand that you didn’t need to before the pandemic. More detailed knowledge about outdoor spaces, capacities, traffic flow, air filtration systems (including MERV numbers) and cleaning processes, will need to be understood to fully align the event with the safety protocols.

3. You’ll start to understand what a MERV number is.

Basically, the higher the MERV rating (from 1 to 16) the better that filter is at catching certain types of particles. It will be a solid go-to number for understanding the quality of a buildings’ filtration system. MERV 13 or higher is recommended for viruses.

4. Minimizing contact will be done in smart ways, wherever possible.

These new contactless norms aren’t just about maximizing the safety of the attendees, they will also maximize the production process of the event and the overall guest experience.

Here are some examples:

  • Pen and paper check-ins replaced with a QR code to a digital registration system.
  • Hands-free soap and hand sanitizer dispensers provided throughout.
  • Digital gifting and merch with drop shipping to guest’s homes.
  • Any paper handouts will be available in digital form.
  • Cashless payments with money transfers done by card only.
  • Greater use of QR codes, such as menus and forms.
  • Assigned seating and more distance between seats.
  • A custom-built app where guests can find all the information that they could possibly need.

5. A production will have a comprehensive safety protocol.

Safety guidelines and standards should be created or updated to include an event’s official stance on COVID-19 measures, and how they should be handled.

Here are the main COVID-19 measures to outline:

  • Testing and timing requirements
  • Vaccination requirements
  • Symptom and temperature checks
  • Personal protective equipment usage, including masks
  • Social distancing
  • Reporting any illnesses (prior and post event)

6. Communication prior to an event will ramp up.

Safety measures will need to be way more accessible, distributed and visible than pre-pandemic. They should be given more prominence on event microsites, email invitations, social media ect.

7. Registration details will need to be updated.

You should include questions about the attendee being vaccinated (with proof provided) as well as them checking a box to indicate having read, understood and agreed to any new safety protocols for the event.

8. Onsite testing will require a signed HIPAA Release Form.

If the production will have onsite testing, in order for you to have access to those test results, each attendee and staff member taking a test must sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Release Form. Just something to consider for the registration and pre-event communications.

9. You’re responsible for communicating any relevant information post-event.

If it comes to your attention of a COVID case at the event - whether it was through onsite testing or elsewhere - making this known to all the attendees via an email blast is important. This way attendees know that they should go get tested.

10. Vaccine passes will be required more and more.

It is rapidly becoming a requirement that all attendees and staff need to be 100% vaccinated in order to be onsite. This will include providing proof of both vaccinations. Here at Happily, among the safety requirements for our staff working on onsite productions is that they must be 100% vaccinated.

August 4, 2021

5 Tips for Planning Group Travel in a Post-COVID World Happily Blog Post

5 Tips for Planning Group Travel in a Post-COVID World

We have many hats in our collection at Happily, and one of them is VIP Travel Experience Extraordinaire.

When you’re paying for your attendees to fly into your on-site event you want every little detail to go smoothly. The way we see it, the invitees' experience of your event begins the moment they receive the invitation, and every interaction after - including getting there - reflects back onto the overall event experience.

We are talking about a Happily team booking flights, making custom itineraries, arranging for under 18 travel, international travel, ground transportation with door-to-door pickup, hotel check-ins, and we can even build a special web application just so we can keep travel plans updated.

We’ve managed VIP travel experiences for some big deal companies, such as YouTube, H&M, and TikTok’s Make Black History Summit 2020.

5 Tips for Planning Group Travel in a Post-COVID World Happily Blog Post

Here are some quick tips for arranging group travel as we ease into a new normal post-pandemic

1. First of all, make flying-in optional.

Not only are some people still not ready or able to prioritize work travel, you’ll be reducing carbon emissions by up to 97%. For flights you can’t avoid, we always book non-stop to reduce carbon and calculate our emissions to offset those in our Happily Forest.

2. Create clear criteria for where you feel safe to host your group.

For us at Happily, this means 70% of the city is fully vaccinated. Also that the venue has comfortable outdoor spaces, with clear guidelines on entry and exit.

3. Put extra care into communicating your safety protocols.

Create a dedicated space online to publish COVID safety requirements and updates local to the area, your venue, and your program. Use plain, even fun English to prepare folks to get temperature checks, wear masks indoors, and using hand sanitizer.

Mask Examples Happily

4. Buy travel insurance that includes COVID coverage (even if people are vaccinated).

This might sound extra, but we recommend it. Ideally, your travel insurance covers COVID related health expenses, flight changes and delays, and all the stuff that travel insurance should cover. (Pro Tip: book well in advance for that flexibility.)

5. Don’t bunk up.

In the (g)olden days, we used to save some money here and there by putting two staffers to a room, two guests in a car ect. and it just does not work out that way anymore. If you’re going to spring for an all-expenses event, just go for it.

June 22, 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

River LA

Client Testimonial with River LA

Jason Foster, the Director of Strategic Partnerships for a non-profit organization called River LA, had a big art exhibit with two guest artists to showcase at a 5,000 person event.

The day before the event, he got the most important call of his life that his wife was in labor. He immediately looked to Happily for a solution to have someone jump in and take over the River LA Art Exhibit.

Within hours, he was able to use the Happily platform to identify the right event specialist for the gig, make the payment for the hire and have her jump on that same day to take over the execution.

We are proud to be able to provide a platform that is designed to help clients like Jason and River LA, who are looking for on-demand solutions for quick turnaround projects. We look forward to continuing our work with River LA in the future and be there for our clients for whatever life throws at them!

December 10, 2019

Yellow Umbrella Party 2019

Client Testimonial with the AKR Foundation

Happily teamed up with the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation to produce its first annual benefit party on October 17, 2019, at the Park West in Chicago, IL.

It was a full evening of entertainment, food, drink, and community while fundraising for ovarian cancer research and childhood literacy.

Yellow Umbrella Party 2019

In attendance were Jennifer Garner, John Green, Tom Lichtenheld, and Luke Sital-Singh who entertained the party, and helped fundraise for the AKR Foundation mission. Our team worked closely with Executive Director, Betsy Katten to make the Yellow Umbrella Party a night to remember and honor Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the best way!

Like all nonprofit organizations, this benefit meant a lot to the foundation and those who were there to support it. So it was crucial that we found the right person to work side-by-side with Betsy and her team.

Yellow Umbrella Party 2019

The AKR Foundation utilized our All-In services, which allowed our team to handpick event specialists and set-up the interviews for them. In a matter of a couple of days, Betsy was able to find the right person for the gig and was so grateful for our help she wanted to share her experience!

December 10, 2019

LUMA's Digital Marketing Summit 2019

LUMA's Digital Marketing Summit 2019 Highlights

The Digital Marketing Summit by Luma Partners is an exclusive experience for CEOs and Executives to connect and cultivate conversations for the future of digital marketing.

Team Happily worked with Luma Partners in the past and was brought back to work on their 5th Annual Summit that hosted 300 MarTech leaders in the Silicon Valley. We were excited to help manage the stage for an impressive guest speaker line-up that had industry leaders from major companies like Oracle, LinkedIn, and Quantcast, discuss exclusive digital marketing insight.

It was a special moment to be able to interact with the attendees and watch them get excited about the forward-thinking discussions they just had in their breakout sessions. Watch more of their sessions on demand and get a sense of what type of projects Happily gets to be a part of and join the fun!

December 10, 2019

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

Plenty Pop Ups

Plenty is a phenomenal company with the vision to make produce universally accessible, and they’re doing this through vertical indoor farms.

Happily has been helping them pop up every week in San Francisco and Seattle, giving the neighbors of their farms the first tastes of Plenty’s greens. (We’re obsessed with their arugula!)

We had a fantastic response, providing more than 10,000 samples (50%+ of attendees) and capturing valuable feedback for the marketing team.

Photos from the gallery here, taken by our friend Marla Aufmuth, are from our pop up at the Renegade Craft Fair.

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

Plenty Pop Up Marla Aufmuth Renegade Craft Fair

November 15, 2018