What is a virtual summit?
A virtual summit is an online conference or interview series. A virtual summit is a powerful way to build your list, establish yourself as an expert, connect prospects to your products or services, and generate revenue in your business.
I want to distinguish what a virtual summit is not. It's not a webinar. Webinars are one person delivering content for about an hour with a very specific call to action at the end. It's not a podcast. Podcasts are ongoing interviews that are released over a real long period of time. Whereas the summit is short, it's created around a defined topic and a limited number of speakers and limited amount of time.
How do you create a virtual conference?
Creating a virtual summit involves focusing on three main areas.
- Understand your strategic goals, who you want to draw in, why you're hosting a virtual summit and what metrics you want to achieve by doing so.
- Select the speakers and set up the best panel. There are a number of criteria used to select the best speakers.
- Employ technology apps and make sure the delivery of the event (and registration process) is smooth. Ensure the actual event gets delivered in a way that is beneficial, both to the speakers and to the attendees.
Additionally, there are tools that can help you create and implement your virtual summit. Many people use tools such as a planning checklist and online document sharing sites and depositories such as Dropbox to be able to communicate and work with remote teams.
What are the most important things to consider when creating a virtual summit?
One of the most important things to consider is why you want to host a virtual summit. I always start with my clients by asking these questions:
Why are we doing this? What do we want to achieve in terms of, is the main strategic goal list growth? Is it revenue generation? Is it positioning as an expert? Is it creating content?
The event should be built around what’s most important of those four goals.
The other important thing is thinking about what service line in your business you want to grow by holding this summit. Generally, summits are a way to build a list of ideal clients with an eye towards offering a particular service at some point on the other side of the summit. If you understand what you are offering, then you understand how to position the summit.
Another key factor in creating the summit is once you have all that down, have really identified who your ideal client avatar is, and selected what problem you're going to solve for them with this event, is selecting the right speakers. This is the mistake that I see a lot of virtual summit hosts make by either not being clear on why they're creating this and what they want to do with it or they select the wrong speakers for the job. Your speakers need to match the goals you’ve set for the virtual summit to be of most benefit to both attendees and what you’re trying to achieve.
What are the characteristics of a good virtual summit?
A great virtual summit starts with having an engaging topic and a positioning that will draw in your client avatar. When your client avatar hears the title and tagline of the event, they should immediately be able to identify:
- What to expect
- What problem it’s going to help solve
- Whether or not it is for them
The title and tagline absolutely needs to address a very specific problem.
Successful virtual summits also have outstanding panels of speakers. What makes a great speaker for a summit is somebody who has a fantastic reputation. They should, of course, have content that is relevant to the event and to that client avatar. It’s best if they have an existing audience with the avatar that you want to draw in and build your list with. This is a common mistake made by virtual summit hosts. They may go too broad with the topic and end up casting too wide a net that doesn’t ultimately draw in their best audience. Conversely, they select speakers who have good content, but don’t bring an audience with them. If the speaker isn’t bringing an audience with them, it won’t help build the summit or your email list. Afterall, building your email list is one of the main reasons to host a virtual summit.
What kind of content should my virtual summit have?
Your virtual summit should have great interviews with amazing speakers whose topic and audience are relevant to the subject matter. As mentioned before, you should select a topic that addresses a problem for your target audience and attracts them to follow you to learn about more services and opportunities.
While the event itself will be free, it should contain the opportunity for the audience members to buy what I call an upgrade package. An upgrade package is where summit participants can buy downloads of the interviews. So in addition to the interviews, you should have supplemental content that will be really enticing to the audience and make them want to buy that upgrade package. This is one of the ways that a virtual summit can be revenue generating for your online business.
How do you host a virtual summit?
The first thing to do when you think you want to host a virtual summit is to get clarity around who you want to serve. Who do you want to draw in? I have a process I walk virtual summit hosts through in order to generate the best results versus picking a topic that you know will draw in your ideal client.
Following this, you’ll need to select the best panel of speakers as possible. When considering speakers for your panel, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the speaker of interest to my audience?
- Will they deliver great content?
- Does the speaker bring an audience that will help build my email list?
Finally, be sure you have a team with you to help you with all of the things that go with hosting the summit. It looks deceptively easy to host a virtual summit and it can be if you have the best team in place. But if you don't understand all of the moving parts, including the backend and all of the technology, then there's too much of an opportunity for something to go wrong. That can create a bad experience for you, your audience and your speakers. No one wants to go through that.
You will, of course, need to consider what platform you want to use to deliver your virtual summit. Since you’re hosting an online event, you must inevitably give some thought to what method, website, or service you’ll use to actually provide the pre recorded videos or live event broadcasts to summit attendees. This is an excellent example of where you can use the help of a skilled and invested support team.
Do I need a membership site for a virtual summit?
A membership site is a way to control access to the interview recordings and items that are in your upgrade package. While you’ll want to have a landing page for promotion and registration, you do not need a membership site to host a virtual summit. In fact, I often recommend not setting up a membership site, particularly for your first virtual summit. The viability of a membership site depends on many factors such as your level of technology, the size of your support team size, and how complex you want to make access of your upgrade package for your audience.
Your virtual summit can be held on a webpage or other platform. Most virtual summits are held on Zoom or a similar platform that is free for participants to use. The format of your virtual summit will help determine which platform you use. Remember that you want to make access to the summit, associated sales pages, and upgrade package as easy as possible for participants.
What is the best marketing strategy for a virtual summit?
The best marketing strategy for a virtual summit is to be really, really mindful about creating a topic, theme, and tagline that will speak to your ideal client avatar. Be clear about your client avatar: who you serve, who you want to build up with, and what you want to sell them into afterwards. Work backwards from there and create a theme and tagline that will absolutely appeal to those people.
Next, it's key to make sure that you select the right speakers and that the speakers understand that you need them to promote this event. The marketing piece for the summit works the best when all of the speakers have that “in this together” mentality and all agree that they're going to promote the summit to their email list, social media, and their community to capitalize on the power of leverage. If you have 20 speakers and all of them are promoting the event, that's driving a lot of traffic to your virtual summit. As the host, you're building your list from the registrations of all of that traffic that's being directed to you.
How do I use social media to promote a virtual summit?
Using social media to promote a virtual summit is a fantastic strategy. It is absolutely fundamental that you empower all of the speakers to share the summit on their social media channels. The speakers are one of the main marketing tools for your event. You want to give them the graphics that have the host and the speaker on the graphic. Supply graphics appropriately sized for all major social media platforms employed by your panel speakers. Make sure that the promotional kit that you prepare for the speakers includes text copy that they can use in all of their social media posts. You want to make it as easy as possible for your panel speakers (and you) to promote the virtual summit to their followers through all social media channels.
How do I use email marketing to promote a virtual summit?
It is my belief that email marketing is the best way to promote a virtual summit and that's because nothing drives results like email marketing does. It’s critical when you are recruiting your speakers and non speaker affiliates that you make sure they will promote via email to their email list because it drives better results. It converts better. Make sure that you arm all of your speakers and non speaker affiliates with promotional copy that describes the event and explains why people should attend and register. Ensure that all of your speakers and non speaker affiliates have the right tools in order to promote via email marketing.
How do I use blog posts to promote a virtual summit?
Similar to the email marketing strategy, you can use blog posts to promote the summit by writing content around the virtual summit topic, why the audience should care about that topic, and how your summit will be the solution to an existing problem they have. Again, you want to make sure your blog posts have a clear call to action direction people to register for the virtual summit. If you’re blogging on somebody else's platform, it’s even more important to make sure there's a strong calls to action directing readers to a registration page to sign up for your event.
How do I market a virtual summit to my email subscribers?
You market a virtual summit to your email subscribers by taking the promotional copy that's provided by the host and sending it out to your entire email list. If you’re using copy written by someone else, you want to make sure to take the time to adjust the copy to your voice and tone. Adjust the copy so that it speaks directly to your audience and ideal client avatar.
This is a frequent mistake people make with both email templates and virtual summit promotion. Using a straight copy and paste is convenient, but if you don’t adjust it to sound like you, it’s clear to your audience that it doesn’t reflect the person they’re used to hearing from. Take the time to adjust the copy, make sure that it sounds like you, and make sure that it's written in a way that will inspire your audience to register for the event.
How do I use Facebook ads to market a virtual summit?
Using Facebook ads to market a virtual summit is a great idea. You want to make sure that the ads are targeted to your ideal client avatar. You must focus on the folks you want to draw in for this event and make sure it speaks to the problems they have that will be solved by the event. Be sure you're very careful in monitoring the results and conversion rate that you're driving through your Facebook ads, so that you can add fuel in the form of money to the ones that are driving results and you can turn off the ads that are not generating results.
Should I give people lifetime access to my virtual summit?
I absolutely recommend giving a lifetime access to your virtual summit. This is one of the key things in the upgrade package that you create. Your upgrade package should include a variety of things, including lifetime access to the summit content. About 50% of the people will buy purely because they want that lifetime access.
How is the virtual summit the same as an online course?
Virtual summits are similar to online courses in the sense that everything is delivered virtually and attendees can attend from the comfort of their home. There are no travel or additional expenses required.
They are not the same in the sense that an online course is typically the content that's delivered by one or two people. It's very content laden and it typically is somebody's process or steps that they work through to generate a very specific result. It's the content itself. A virtual summit is different. A virtual summit is typically a singular host interviewing multiple people around a very specific topic. In this way, participants receive a variety of input, points of view, and methods for resolving the problem that's being addressed in the event.
In summary, virtual summits are a little bit broader than an online course. They have multiple people producing the content versus a course which is around a very, very specific question and it's typically delivered just by one or two people. Courses also typically cost to attend. Virtual summits, at least the initial airing of the interviews, is for free.
Does my virtual summit have to be a live event?
Absolutely not. There are two models that I advocate for virtual summits.
One is what I call the traditional model. In this model, there are 20 speakers whose sessions are prerecorded and the interviews are released over five to 10 days. The benefit of this method is that you can pre record them. This helps eliminate some technology issues that can happen with live broadcasts. You don't have to worry about time zones. You can spread the recording out over a period of time. For speakers that have hectic schedules, it can be a little bit easier to get the interviews complete if you're pre recording.
The other model that I advocate is what I call a mini summit. In the mini-summit model, the speakers are live. The content is delivered live. The benefit to this method is that live broadcasts inherently have a bit more energy than pre recorded sessions. If you're someone who likes to do live events, it can be a very beneficial way to deliver the interviews. The downside is, of course, the risk that someone will show up at the wrong time or not be available, or that a speaker that you really want to interview doesn't like live or isn't available to participate live at the time that you want. There are pros and cons to both formats depending on the host and how they want to deliver the content. Here is a table comparing the formats:
|Summit Duration||Released over several days (ideally 5-10)||As few as 2 days|
|Planning Time Required||6 months||3 months|
|Pros||Can generate revenue through “life-time access” package to content|
Greater flexibility in recording, scheduling, editing, session quantity, & troubleshooting tech issues
|Can generate revenue through “life-time access” package to content|
Allows greater interaction between host, speaker, & attendees during sessions
|Cons||No opportunity for real time interaction between host, speaker, & attendees||Requires greater selectivity in speaker choice to ensure targeting of proper client avatar|
Must be comfortable with “live process”