Meeting Architecture

To organize a strong conference or an event it is not enough to have good event manager who arranges all the logistics. According to Maarten Vanneste, the president of the Meeting Support Institute, you also need a meeting architect. Today he tells us about this new discipline in meeting design.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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To organize a strong conference or an event it is not enough to have good event manager who arranges all the logistics. According to Maarten Vanneste, the president of the Meeting Support Institute, you also need a meeting architect. Today he tells us about this new discipline in meeting design.


Hi Maarten, welcome to our studio.


Thank you for having me.


We are going to talk about meeting architecture. What is it about?


Meeting architecture is about the content side of meetings and events, ultimately it is about what do we want to accomplish with the meeting, with the event, because lots of money goes into it and we want to know what come out of it.


So the traditional event organizer who handles all the logistics is not enough to organize a good conference or a good event?


I think lot of event organizers already know a lot about the tough studies that is needed to be a good content designer or meeting architect, same thing with meeting planners, they've been around for a while and they know a lot of stuff, but they really think that there's space for a focus on this content side. So, usually the trend is that when you organize an event or a meeting the content side kind of falls out of the table. Because obviously everybody cares about the food and the and the place, and is this look right and the branding and all that stuff, that's where lots of money goes into that. If you have an international conferences, you have the travel and the hotel and it takes up a lot of money so that takes a lot of attention. So the content side tends to fall off the table. The idea is to keep that on the table by having a meeting architecture. It's a challenging term in a sense that content of the conference; when you talk about cardiology for example, obviously the meeting architect doesn't know everything that needs to be know about cardiology, that's the surgeons, the professors and the speakers and they understand the content. But designing the content of the meeting means, designing the learning, designing the networking and designing the motivational aspect of a meeting. That is something that the meeting owner doesn't really know, the speakers don't really know, they know their topic but they don't necessarily know how to precisely bring in that information to an audience so that they go home and do something with it.


And what could be the ways to improve the learnings that are difficult?


There are lot of things obviously you can do. The tool box is gigantic, especially they are still growing, technology section of the tool box is growing but the simple example is to chunk at the presentation, to cut the presentation in to several pieces. Give people sometime to talk about what was previously presented by the experts, give them time to talk about it and with colleagues and put this idea that they just learned in to their perspective into their world, toss it...


Instead of having one presentation of 60 minutes...


Yes, experts discussion and maybe some feedback, expert again 10 minutes and five minutes discussion, I mean that works so much better for learning because people have a limit for concentration but also what they can take in in a short time.


But aren't you then challenging the speakers because, the speakers they need to adapt their presentations and they are used to give always the same fifteen minutes presentation everywhere?


It isn't necessarily a painful process for the speaker but they are kind of difficult to reach, don;t have time or not interested etc. So it's a bit challenging. But on the other hand it's a big opportunity as well. Because you can change so much as far as the effect and impact is concerned of your sessions based on limited amount of time and money invested in speaker management or in the presentation management.


Something I see lot of times in other congress is you have a general topic on the congress and you have 8 speakers coming over but they all do their own things and it's...and there's no coherence, yeah in between different presentations...


Absolutely, I think conference design and session design and meeting design is one of the biggest fields where we can have influences as well as meeting professionals and meeting architects. If you look at the conference as whole, conference obviously is a set of sessions with breaks etc. This needs to tell us a story and if possible, the speakers need to know each other and adapt their presentations with each other. Obviously that's not a simple process. It's much simple if you look at session level.


That's why you need another guy than an event organizer who is doing logistics?


Ya... I think sometimes it can be combined. But I think it's a good thing to think about to focus on the content side. Because it's a specialty, you have to go to different trade shows, you have to read different magazines, you have to read different books, there's different knowledge and tool boxes and everything and it's very specific. So I think it's a good idea to have somebody focused on the content and work with the speakers for example.


At Meeting Support Institute, you guys have books and toolboxes to help people out. Can you tell us something about it?


Everything starts with the meeting architecture, the Mansfesto, so it's kind of the ground work for meeting architecture as a discipline. Other than that, several books from the Meeting Support Institute and other publishers. For example, the Tweeting meeting about social network meeting and events written by 15 different authors. Then there's the tool box which is the growing new project with different specialist and ideas for technology for changing the design in the meeting etc. And finally which is still in the making is the workbook for this process, how do you design a conference based on an objective..How do you identify the objectives, and how do you then change the design of the meeting to support objectives.


And people can order those books on your website?


Yes, they are available on and also on Amazon. So you can order them as ab e-book or as a paperbook.


That's easy. To read on my Kindle.




OK Maarten. I really want to thank you for coming over to our studio.


Pleasure to be here. Thank you.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next time.