A Virtual Summit is, in its simplest form, a conference held online. Planning one is a complicated – but manageable – process that, when implemented correctly, will give you a high return on investment. Summits are a powerful, effective method to reach a target audience in an accessible and convenient way, a great method to build your email list, a tool to establish yourself as an expert, and a revenue generating activity. I highly recommend working with an expert who has planned them before to eliminate the need for you to spend time learning all the technical specifics the first time around and stay focused on the content and building your list.
Virtual Summits have unique benefits for both attendees and hosts. Attendees get access to a wealth of incredible information, have an opportunity to grow their skill set and knowledge base, discover new thought leaders, and connect with industry leaders. They hear top experts in their field speaking for free and save thousands of dollars to get the kind of information they absorb in a Virtual Summit.
Because it is virtually attended, attendees can participate from anywhere. They can be there in a comfortable setting that may be more conducive to learning without having to spend money and time on travel or lodging. And depending on the method (live or recorded), they have an extended period of time to access the sessions which can be very convenient for entrepreneurs.
Hosting a summit has a whole different set of benefits. It is a powerful way to build your email list and allows you to mindfully and strategically build an email marketing resource with your ideal client avatar. When you implement the summit model properly, you’re building a list of people who are your ideal clients who you want to work with and who want to work with you. By virtue of attending your summit, they are clearly engaged with and interested in the content you are delivering. They inherently want MORE of what you have to offer.
Additionally, implementing the summit model allows you to showcase yourself as a thought leader and demonstrate your expertise. It helps you build the “know, like, trust” factor because people have a first hand opportunity to hear from you and witness your talents. Attendees are more likely to become your clients because they have already seen what you can do and offer to them through your summit. The “right” way to deliver a Virtual Summit depends on you, your business, capacity, and access to speakers for your summit. Typically, there are 2 common ways of deploying a Virtual Summit, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Below is a quick comparison of each method:
|Summit Duration||Release 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”
Each summit format requires nearly identical set up activities but planning time is different. Planning includes getting all the web pages, setting up technology, recruiting the best speakers for your summit, and related promotion.
The number of summit speakers will be determined by whether you implement a traditional or mini-summit. Keep in mind that the main reason for the summit is to build your email list by having speakers promote to their audience. The more speakers you have, the more audience you’re going to reach and the more new subscribers you’ll gain. The fewer speakers you have, the better you’ll need to curate to ensure you’re reaching the right client avatar.
When to hold your Virtual Summit is primarily guided by your client avatar. You’ll need to tap into who your client is and the need you’re fulfilling with your summit. From there, optimal audience receptivity can be identified. This includes determining the date, time of day, and even what time of year is most appropriate.
Back-end organization is critical to success. You’ll want a Virtual Summit checklist to make sure you’re attending to all necessary moving parts such as:
- email platform
- shopping cart
- affiliate tracking
- delivery platform
- associated webpage development (registration, thank you, post-purchase, sales, event page, replays)
- recording methodology
- scheduling speakers
- audience communications
- speaker communications/agreements
Having a way to store, organize, and share planning activities and information is important as well (e.g. Dropbox).
The Virtual Summits that are most effective at building the best subscriber list and generating the most revenue are those that address a definitive issue or solves a clearly defined problem. This is the best way to determine the content of your summit.
I highly recommend offering a free summit. The main goal of hosting is to build your email list. To do this, you want to have as few barriers as possible – including cost to attend. You can still generate revenue from a free summit by offering an upgrade package, life-time content access, and having a strong plan for post event follow up.
Another potential barrier to consider is the technology you use to deliver the summit. I suggest having a solid structure for your web pages so it is easy for people to attend. Tools I like to use are WordPress with a premium theme so people can access the interview easily, Zoom to record or share live interviews, and Vimeo to upload recorded interviews and offer them for the upgrade package.
You will need a summit landing page or registration page in order to receive registrations. You don’t need a membership site, however. You can use one to control access to interview recordings and upgrade bonuses, but it’s not required. Particularly for your first summit, I recommend keeping it as low tech as possible to limit barriers for yourself and attendees.
Promoting your summit should be forefront in your mind. Promote it in as many places as possible — blog posts, email campaigns, social media, telling friends/neighbors, affiliate marketing. Be sure to engage your speakers in promoting the event as well. Do everything you can do market your summit! Email marketing is often the best way to generate great promotional results. Over the 100+ summits I’ve produced, I’ve discovered that social media marketing generates some results and email marketing produces exponentially more results. This is because email marketing is a direct path to your audience. You own the email list and nothing can get in the way of your message delivery (such as an algorithm).