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Care to join us for some stimulating conversation about multi-hub meetings? Well, then you are in luck! Because this week’s episode of Event Tech Podcast is all about this up and coming, exciting topic. Everyone who works in the event industry knows the power of meetings. And who says we have to stop at single-hub meetings? If you think that should be the case then this episode is about to change your mind.

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Joining our phenomenal and always entertaining hosts is a very special guest. Will Curran and Brandt Krueger welcome Maarten Vanneste. An entrepreneur since he was only 18 years old, Maarten has over 35 years of experience in meeting design. He’s an author, a speaker, a trainer. And since 2012, he has organized the FRESH Conference in Europe. Ready to hear all about the ground-breaking magic of multi-hub meetings? Don’t miss a beat, it’s Event Tech Podcast time!

Click here for the full audio transcription.

multi-hub meetings

The Path To Multi-Hub Meetings

In The Beginning…

As of today, Marteen has decades of experience with event design. But prior to entering the industry, he actually started with video. “I was like photography was a hobby before I was 18. And then I started to see in the ’80s VHS coming up”, he recalls. “That’s how I started and rolled into audiovisual with a local organization that did tours for farmers. So I did the sound and the light and the set. I built it up, I operated everything and took it down again on my own. That was a really hands-on start as a young man”.

The Jump To Meetings

“From there, it was discovering meetings as something that really excited me and I really saw an interesting activity in meetings. And stopped doing a lot of stuff and focused on meetings rather early. Then I started asking myself the question, why do people do meetings? And this is how we started to think about meeting design and how we actually do meetings for a purpose, but we don’t always know what the purpose is exactly. Slowly but surely developing some ideas around it”, Marteen adds.

When Frustration Invites Action

In 2006, Marteen started the Meeting Design Institute. “This is really early days, and it was out of frustration almost. Going to the meeting shows and see only venues and destinations and nothing about the actual meeting”, Marteen explains. “What is the reason, I guess, people are coming together. But the business model is purely on logistics and travel and hospitality, which is great and important, and it’s fundamental to a meeting, of course. However, I was kind of frustrated to see or to miss, to not see the stuff that actually needs to be good as well, the inside of the meeting, the presentations, the interaction, all that stuff”.

From FRESH To Multi-Hub Meetings

“jump to 2012 where we started our conference after two smaller attempts in kind of a test phase, this was the real deal, FRESH”, he recalls. “All along the way, I think we got more and more experience with the multi-hub meetings. It was quite exciting to see the internet evolve and see the equipment evolve, and to see things becoming really possible and easier to do than in 2000. So I think kind of in 2016, we really decided that this was potentially going to happen and potentially being a future model in the meetings industry and a niche within the meetings industry as a format. As something that companies could use to save a lot of money and to do things that were not possible in the past. We started to really invest in that with the company that I was a part of, ending up with this amazing package which is portable and easy, and it’s making it possible now in a really affordable and professional way”.

The Multi-Hub Meetings Model: Strengths

Saving Money

Maarten begins by explaining something that is music to everyone’s ears. “Saving money is also about saving the time of participants. If you have to fly 1,000 people to one place and they all have a travel day coming in and a travel day going out, then obviously that’s two additional days to the two-day conference and that is a cost to the company. Which is considerable, of course. So saving money is definitely something that can work”.


“I know that there are several countries that are really strict and almost impossible to get a doctor to fly somewhere, or it becomes more and more difficult to do this. It’s a bigger and bigger file that you have to do. So regulations in pharma are a big deal, and you could skip all that when you have local meetings. It becomes a lot easier and more doable to actually get people out of their hospitals. You could easily also do it in the hospital”, explains Marteen.

Key Opinion Leader Engagement

“How do you get these professors or doctors or surgeons or the real heroes of cardiovascular surgery, for example? These people are so in demand. How do you get them to travel to wherever you have your conference and be a speaker? For example, if they can stay in their city and have a group of participants around them. And do the presentations for the participants in that room plus 5 other cities or 15 other cities, for that matter. That is a much easier thing to do for those famous VIP people”, he adds.

Bring In The Local!

“Have local representation, and the local salespeople in the room as well”, continues Maarten. “The local reps in their own city would select a restaurant or a hotel where they would do it and they would invite their local clients, the doctors or the surgeons or whatever they were to this room. And they would be very close to all these people. So instead of having a big conference of 500 where these people walk around and sit everywhere, and the representative has to look for them, it’s not an easy thing. But when you have 15 of your closest clients in your own city in a room for a couple of hours and you can have dinner or something with them afterward, that’s a lot of power there”.

Empowerment Of The Individual

“In the multi-hub meetings, if you do the right thing, then you will have a speaker in all the hubs. It’s not always possible, but that’s definitely something you need to try so people feel equally empowered”, explains Marteen. “But also the real multi-hub meetings in my definition means that every individual participant can actually say something. Because there is a microphone nearby within arm’s length, I tend to say, they are empowered, they have the opportunity to speak. Everybody that grabs the microphone in the format that I most support, every participant can say something, ask a question to the speaker, even interrupt the speaker in a way that it’s like in a normal meeting. Also, when you have a small group and people can actually ask a question whenever they feel so”.

The Power Of Connections

Multi-hub meetings also play a huge part in the quality of networking. “It’s more intense”, says Marteen. “You’re closer together, you see each other a longer period of time, you have more time to build the relationship with the people in the room. Because remember the hub always has a group of people. So there are always participants in one room, that’s a hub and that’s one group of people connected to several other groups of people. But within this room, the participants actually can talk to each other not only during coffee breaks but also during conversation moments and they can get to know each other really quickly. So they meet new people, they get to know them and maybe get to like them even, and by the end of the day, even trust one or two of them. So you build really powerful relationships in such a small group”.


Perhaps the biggest pro in the model of the multi-hub meeting is the face-to-face part. “You see the people around, but you also see all the other hubs, real multi-hub meeting. You will have a screen in front of you where you see the slides, but also where you see all the other hubs. So you see the other participants in different cities around the world. You see their faces”, he explains. “There’s this visual connection as well, which I think makes the thing a lot more exciting”.

multi-hub meetings

The Multi-Hub Meetings Model: Weaknesses

Something’s Missing

“There is only local networking, so if you’re an international organization and one of your key goals is to have international collaboration, then obviously bringing the people from France together in Paris and the people from Germany together in Berlin is not going to help the international collaboration. You’re still going to be in national silos in a way for the networking. It’s all about having your objectives clearly defined to see whether or not this is really a weakness or not. But you clearly can’t do intense and good networking with people on the other side of the camera”.

Smaller Isn’t Better

“Groups are smaller, so in that sense, there are fewer opportunities for networking”, explains Marteen. “If you have a specialized and mixed group of people, and one person, for example, is looking for all the specialists in heart valves, and there’s like 20 of them in a group of 200, but I want to talk to all 20 of them…If two of them are in this country and five of them are in another country, and I’m here and I only have two or three to talk to, then that’s also a limitation. The number of opportunities in networking is also smaller”.

The Multi-Hub Meetings Model: Opportunities

You always have to ask yourself: when is there an opportunity to look at multi-hub meetings? “There are several other opportunities where you could actually consider this. And the first one would be just when you start thinking about a new meeting. So, a meeting that has no culture or no past or no history, you haven’t done it before, that could be certainly a meeting that you could look at to turn it into a multi-hub meeting”.

So, with opportunities, “to create a new meeting is one. To have intermediate meetings in real face to face meeting is two. Number three, I think would be to add hubs to an existing meeting. Add hubs to an existing meeting means that you have a meeting where you bring together a number of people”.

The Multi-Hub Meetings Model: Threats

Marteen lists complacency as one of the biggest threats. “It’s more about trying to be as good as possible or give the audience as much as possible rather than actually designing the presentation so that people actually learn something and not get overloaded with information”, he explains. “So that kind of complacency may also happen with multi-hub meetings where we just start to say, yeah, do we really need cameras on all sides and do we really need microphones for all the participants, but not all of them are using them, etc. And then it waters down to like almost a webcast”.

Finding Quality Staff

“So standardization, I think, is all about making it easy for everybody. If you have technicians that work with the same gear, they can help each other. If there are setup moments where one technician in one country has an issue with the camera control unit, for example, the guy that knows the most about this maybe somewhere else in another country and he’s available, they can have a chat for five minutes and help each other out. So that really makes it reliable, it makes it easy. You have standardized training for the technicians because if you have 20 hubs, you need 20 technicians, or maybe 40 if they’re all bigger hubs. They all need to be trained in a way, and you can standardize that training. It’s just good for everybody, for liability, for costs, for quality”.

Preparation Is Key

“The other best practice I think is to make sure you have a good script”, adds Marteen. “So preparing this with some input from a person with experience is quite important. Having a good script is going to help everybody. Talking to the speakers to make them see what is in the script and what is their role, and how much time they get to speak, and why it’s shorter than usual, and how they can engage the participants, and also building in those five minutes of local conversation, that is also magic”.


All in all, just make sure to remember – “if you do a multi-hub meeting, be serious about it”, Marteen advises. “I know how this works. We can do this. Prepare this, and take a little more time, and work with professionals, work with some people that have experience”. And everything should be just fine for your first undertaking of multi-hub meetings!

That’s all for this week’s episode of Event Tech Podcast. Make sure you tune in next week to hear more about technology and all things technology!


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Brandt Krueger

Author Brandt Krueger

With over 20 years experience in the meetings and events industry, Brandt has spoken at industry events and seminars all over the world, been published in numerous magazines and websites, and teaches public and private classes on meeting and event technology and production. He provides freelance technical production services, and is the owner of Event Technology Consulting.

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