Minimising disruption at your next face-to-face event: The Hub and Spoke model

Expert Alison Jack shares her tips for tackling events in the current climate

Post-pandemic, we’re seeing face-to-face events come back with a thirst for human interaction. Maybe you had to miss your annual events in 2020 due to COVID-19; maybe company policies have put blanket rules in place; or maybe you are just all Zoomed out and tired of staring at a screen.

So, in 2021 (and beyond) how do we deliver COVID-19 safe events that aren’t going to be completely cancelled by snap border closures or outbreaks?

The Hub and Spoke model is a great one to consider for your next event.

What is a Hub and Spoke model?

It is an event where you have multiple locations running simultaneously, with content being broadcast from the main location (the hub) out to satellite event locations (the spoke).

What are some of the key benefits?

There are pros and cons to any style of event that you hold. One of the key benefits is that you are less likely to shut down your entire event. That old “all your eggs in one basket” scenario is avoided by dispersing your people (and therefore your risk) across multiple locations—this will obviously differ greatly depending on your event style and locations. As an example, we were recently involved with an event across each state of Australia. While Victoria did go into lockdown and logistics had to change, the other states were still able to proceed.

Another key benefit is that by having to send content from the hub to the spoke events, you are going to have technical requirements set up for you to be able to send that content anywhere. Although you are planning for best case scenario, you’ve already got your worst-case scenario easily covered, too. So, if you had to shut down part of your event, you can still get this content to people no matter where they are located.

As an example, we have done an Awards Night where the in-person event numbers in the spoke satellite locations were limited (only the finalist and one partner attended). However, we planned to simultaneously stream the event to Facebook as well. The original intention was so that family and friends of the finalists could watch on live but if any of our spoke events had to shut down, we already had a back up for them to see the content live from home.

While we’ve covered the logistical benefits of the Hub and Spoke model, the biggest winner is seeing people come together face-to-face again. Every event that we have been part of has received such positive feedback because people are craving that human interaction again. A Hub and Spoke model, while the spoke might be smaller than your original event format, allows something to go ahead in person rather having to cancel your entire event.

How can this impact your financials?

Event budgets have forever shifted in my opinion—from the amount you’ve been allocated to spend, to the support from partnerships you might receive, through to the expectation that content can be available online, especially as an alternative to an in-person option.

Those that want to be face-to-face expect that to be an offering, while those who might not be able to travel or get impacted by border closures also have an expectation that they won’t miss out on content. So, you need to start planning to cater for both.

While it’s fantastic to have a two-way tech set up for your event, you can reduce the costs and greatly improve the quality of the output if you have control over the content going out from the hub location. That also places less pressure and expense on each of your spoke satellite locations.

We ran an event at the end of last year with very minimal tech requirements in the satellite locations—no AV support required. They just needed to go to a website and open the stream, just like watching a YouTube video. This style of broadcast also allows for the perfect blend of live elements and pre-recorded videos slotted seamlessly together.

Zoom absolutely has its place but consider a studio that you can create a dynamic stage set, or look at a venue that can host your VIP’s that need to go onto the live broadcast, either from in the room or a studio space at the same venue. Your options are varied so spend time speaking with the experts.

Where can I run this style of event?

This can be done internationally, interstate, intrastate or even just multiple locations within the same city!

The location is going to be really unique to you, your style of event and what you are looking to achieve. Consider your event partners when thinking about locations.

Do you have a partner or sponsor for the event that is a national organisation and who would love the opportunity to have a presence in multiple intimate locations?

Could you use an event manager that has connections in multiple states and locations that you could partner with to make your planning easier?

For your hub location think about where you can be best supported with your tech. This might vary if you need to have some people presenting live to the broadcast, or whether you’ll do a combination of pre-record and live. You can even have the broadcast coming from a studio that doesn’t have anyone physically attending as an “event” as such, it becomes a tech hub pushing the content out to your face-to-face locations.

For your satellite locations, give some consideration to how you can create both unique location specific aspects and elements of consistency that tie the broader event together.

For example, we had the same printed ‘Dinner Program’ and chocolate gift boxes across all locations for an event, while the in-person speeches incorporated local dignitaries and acknowledgements before watching the broadcast from the hub. These aspects help to create an atmosphere in each location that feels like part of something bigger. A client of ours described the satellite spoke locations perfectly as “a party within a party”.

Alison Jack is director of Admire Events