Behind The Scenes of My $22k Virtual Summit

behind the scenes Aug 13, 2019

You don't need to be a huge influencer to launch a profitable summit and I'm excited to share some proof of that with you today!

In April 2019 I hosted my third virtual summit and brought in $22,000 starting with only 1500 people on my email list. I'm going to break down all the details, including:

  • What my goals were
  • What I've changed since my last summit
  • Highs and lows
  • Lessons learned
  • Numbers
  • And more!

Update, my 2020 summit was even better. See how I brought in $60k here.

 

Background

In April, I hosted my third virtual summit! And even though I'd done it before, I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

I wondered if my audience would be less excited about this summit than some of the others since it was my third go at it.

I wondered if it would work at all.

I wondered whether the fact that my audience was 3x bigger in this summit versus my first would increase the results and impact.

I'm excited to say that it turned out to be a success and I can't wait to give you this behind-the-scenes look!

Compared to my previous two events, I had a couple new aspects to focus on in this summit:

  1. I was more focused on making a difference and truly impacting my attendees
  2. Since Summit in a Box is now a thing, I also had a big focus on experimenting and documenting everything extra carefully for some fun stuff I’ll be releasing later! (Update: The Summit in a Box program is now a thing! Join the waitlist here.)

My virtual summit goals

To give you an idea of what my focuses were for this event, let's take a look at my top goals for this summit.

Goal #1: Increase my revenue

My first summit ever brought in $16,000. This gave me my most profitable year in business yet, despite taking three months off for maternity leave.

Going into this summit, I was so excited to see what I could do with a bigger audience, more speakers, and speakers I was too afraid to pitch in previous events.

Goal #2: Make a difference

After seeing the difference my last two summits made for the participants, it became a huge focus for this one. I was ready to do whatever I had to do to improve the lives and businesses of every attendee who would give me the chance to do so.

I also knew I’d donate a portion of all profits from the event to Lifesong for Orphans and was looking forward to that along the way. 

Goal #3: Benefit my speakers

We all know that if it weren’t for the speakers, there wouldn’t be a summit. I’m always appreciative of my speakers, but I was more grateful than ever before with this round.

I had a better understanding of what they were doing for me through their work and the impact we were making together. I truly understood how much time they took to put together action-packed presentations and then promote.

I wanted them to know how valued they were and do everything in my power to get them worthwhile results.

What changed + what stayed the same

The benefit of running three summits in a year is the crazy amount you can learn and tweak each time. Here are a few of the more important things I decided to change or keep the same from past summits. 

Changed: Chat software

In my first two summits, I used Chatango for the live chat box during presentations.

I was familiar with the platform and it's free - which was a huge plus. However, it was a rough experience for attendees. They were constantly getting logged out and showing up as “anonymous” - it was the biggest complaint I received during past summits.

For this event, I paid a little bit of money for a WAY, better platform. Going with Chatroll was the best decision. It was easy to set up, and attendees had a great user experience. I'll definitely use it again.

Same: Community

The community aspect of my summits is one of the top reasons they’re as successful as they are. After an attendee registers, one of my top two goals is to get them to join the Facebook group.

This group already had about 700 members, thanks to the previous two summits so we had a great starting point.

In this group, I posted daily conversation starters leading up to the summit and encouraged them to engage throughout the event. I lovingly “bribed” attendees with prizes to make sure the comment section on these posts was active and that they were staying involved.

Everyone in the group always shares so much excitement and support. Plus, many sales come directly from that group!

Changed: Live breakout sessions

During my previous summits, all sessions have been pre-recorded. This time, I decided to try one short live session per day to see how well it was received. I also used it as an excuse to show off people who weren’t as well known as most of the regular speakers.

These breakout session presentations were scheduled to be about 15 minutes long, but almost all of them ended at around an hour each (eek).

Each live session had high engagement, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was better than the regular pre-recorded sessions.

I probably won't do them again simply because of the extra processes needed and lack of control I have over the time aspect - but they were certainly fun!

Same: Quiz

Something that is a universal struggle of all summits is that attendees feel like they have to go to each presentation and end up getting overwhelmed. I don’t love this about summits, especially if hosts pressure the attendees to take in each presentation.

I take a different stance and don’t want attendees going to more than two presentations per day. I support this through a quiz participants can take to help them decide which presentations to check out! This quiz was fun to make and was exciting for them to use.

Changed: Pricing

In my first summit, the all-access pass pricing started at $47 and then increased to $97, $149, and $197.

So many price increases felt too marketing-heavy and pushy. And after the fact, I felt bad about starting the product at such a low price when my speakers were contributing such incredible products to it.

I changed things for this summit by starting at a higher price and skipping the final price increase. It felt much better all around this pricing structure ended up performing better too!

Changed: Co-working sessions

Just like the live breakout sessions, I added co-working sessions for an extra bit of live interaction. Each day for an hour, I’d get on Zoom with anyone who purchased the all-access pass and wanted to join. Through these sessions, we worked on implementing actions steps from presentations. 

I'd hoped they’d be a great way to get people taking action and seeing results right away and they were! There weren’t a ton of people who showed up (around 10-15 per day), but it was fun to get to know those people and help them move forward!

The highs and lows

We’re going to get to the final numbers shortly, but I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that everything went perfectly. Just like my previous summits, there were parts of this process that were incredible and parts that...were not-so-incredible.

Lows

Before pitching speakers: I always feel pretty down about the whole idea before I start pitching speakers. At this point, I’ve done all of the setup work. I've determined who I am going to pitch, created the website, and have the details finalized. The only problem is, I get in my head about the whole thing before I pitch. Luckily, the minute responses from speakers start coming back in, that feeling goes away, and the excitement returns in full force.

Middle of promotion period: The middle of the promo period was another significant low for me with this summit. After two weeks of promoting myself and about a week and a half of the speakers promoting, there were only 600 attendees signed up. I had expected that number to be much higher. At this point, I was afraid that speakers would bail because of the low numbers. I also felt pretty weird about the fact that I was teaching others how to run summits, and I only had 600 sign-ups. Luckily I turned things around and took action. I gave myself a little time to be bummed, don’t get me wrong, but I put some stuff into motion to get new sign-ups coming in. I scheduled more promo to my list and wrote genuine emails to each speaker asking them to share and giving them copy and graphics right in the email to use. By the time the summit rolled around, we had more than doubled it and were creeping up on my income goal.

After it was over: And last, I always have a hard time after my summits are over. After building up to something for so long and having a blast promoting and hosting, it’s hard for it all just suddenly to end. It took me about a week to get out of the funk and be able to look back happily at everything that happened.

Highs

Booking speakers I thought would say no: My first few high moments came from getting yes’s from speakers who I thought would say no. It’s always a great feeling to have your idea validated and especially great when it is approved by people you look up to. That is always going to be exciting for me!

Day 1 excitement: There are a lot of fun moments while running a summit, but nothing quite compares to everything that happens on Day 1. Attendees are SO pumped for that first day of presentations, and that’s when you start seeing them take action. There also tends to be an influx of sign-ups and purchases for an added bonus.

Hitting my income goal: I hit my income goal partway through the live event. It was a goal that wasn’t looking good during that slow first part of the promotion period. This number was far more than I ever thought I could make in a month. Reaching that goal told me so much about how my audience loves this event, I put on, and I’m so grateful for the reception it gets!

Lessons learned

One of the final things I want to cover in this recap is some of the lessons I learned (or re-learned) this round. I’d love for you to take these things and keep them in mind when hosting your summit. That way, you don’t have to learn them yourself!

Have a backup plan for speakers

I have an excellent process created around collecting speaker materials and making it easy for everyone.

Speakers have over a month to prepare, and I have checklists, templates, and examples for them to reference. I make sure they are sent automated reminders, there’s a set place to upload all of their material, and I give even more reminders in the Facebook group.

Despite all that, over HALF of my speakers were late delivering their material.

Was it frustrating? Very.

However, I did expect it to happen. I planned for it and had time built-in for them to be late without putting too much stress on my team or myself.

Also, just like my last big summit, a speaker backed out. Again, this was something I knew could happen, and I was prepared for it. I was able to move my presentation for the event to the newly opened time, and it wasn’t a problem.

As much as I don’t want these things to happen, they do. Be fully prepared for speakers to be late or even back out entirely.

Ask speakers to share

Just like collecting presentation material, I have a solid process for getting speakers to share about the summit

However, as you saw in my “lows,” it was a little tough getting people to share at first. What I learned is that sometimes you have to go beyond your systems and make a genuine, in-the-moment ask.

When I sent that email letting everyone know sign-ups were a little slow and asking them 1-on-1 to share, almost every single person responded, and we had more sign-ups the next day than we did on Day 1 of promotion.

Ask for feedback and implement it

At the end of my summits, I send a feedback form to speakers and attendees. Sometimes feedback can be hard to receive, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so important to pay attention to this info.

I would say 99% of my feedback is positive, but those consistent less-positive things (like the chat box) are the things I try to pull out, look at in a positive light, and see how I can improve.

All of the changes I made this year due to last years feedback went super well!

The numbers

Now to the information you want to know, right? Below are the results of this year’s summit!

My summits don’t have the biggest audience and I am totally okay with that. The small-but-mighty audience is more my style.

I hope that you can be excited about this and know that you can do great things, even with a small audience! Plus, if you have a larger audience, imagine the results you can see!

  • Email list before promotion: 1375
  • Speakers:  26
  • Registrations: 1348
  • Upsell purchases: 255
  • Conversion rate: 18.9%
  • Total sales: $21,895.00

The expenses

With anything in business, there will be some costs involved. Here's where I invested in my summit:

  • Affiliate payouts: $6297.50
  • Donation to Lifesong for Orphans: $1500
  • Facebook Ads: $522.14
  • Chatroll: $39
  • Zoom: $7.49
  • Hosting/Website/Plugins: $0 (since I’m a developer and was able to use the licenses I use for my clients and already had the domain from last year)

Now it’s your turn!

I hope this look behind the scenes encourages you and gets you excited about what this could be for you and your business! With a list size of not even 1400, I was able to utilize my summit strategizes to bring in over $20k through ONE event. If a list size of 1400 is more significant than what you currently have, last year I brought in $16k with an email list of 500. If I can do it, you can too!

If you’re ready to dive into hosting your first summit, check out my free masterclass on the 3-part framework to triple your monthly revenue with a virtual summit (while building your list for free). It's action-packed!

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