Behind The Scenes Of My March 2020 Virtual Summit

behind the scenes Apr 07, 2020

My 4th virtual summit is in the books and I can't wait to share these results with you!

In this behind the scenes post, we'll cover how my latest virtual summit was set up, the goals I had, the results, lessons learned, and more. We'll even cover how my results differed from my last summit and what I think caused those changes.

An overview of my virtual summit

Let's kick things off with an overview of how this summit was set up.

The summit audience was brand and web designers. These are people in their first 1-3 years of business, so they're a bit newer. If they have clients coming in it's either not super consistently, or their process isn't as smooth as they'd like. They also feel like they work extremely hard all day, but don't see any return.

Based on those struggles, the topic I covered is how to simplify a design business to become more efficient, profitable, and stress-free. It was my 4th time hosting this summit.

As for the registration process, tickets to this virtual summit are free. From there, attendees can upgrade to the all-access pass. There is also a free Facebook community that I can as many attendees in as possible.

As for the all-access pass, I chose to have two version this year. Mostly as an experiment for you!

My lower tier was simply called the "All-Access Pass". This option was your traditional all-access pass containing ongoing access to presentations as well as notes and worksheets for each presentation.

My higher tier was called the "Designer Power Pack". This option had everything from the lower tier in addition to addition to:

  • Two co-working session: Two days during the summit, we set aside an hour where purchasers could join a Zoom call and get work together related to that day's presentations.
  • Three networking sessions: Three days during the summit, purchasers could join a Zoom call and be sorted into breakout rooms to network and get to know each other. We shuffled the room twice throughout the session so they could meet a variety of people. I also created a PDF that included what to expect, how to start the discussion, and conversation prompts. They loved it!
  • Speaker bonuses - We had over $3000 in bonuses contributed to this higher tier offer from our speakers. And, let's be real, this is the big reason people decided to upgrade.

In addition to our all-access pass having two tiers to choose from, I also had an order bump. This is something that originally I heard about from Eden Fried who we had on the podcast. But this order bump offer was an additional $19 and gave them access to the 27 presentations from last year's virtual summit. 

We'll cover stats later, but this is an overview of how things were set up. We had free entry, several upgrade options, and the community to keep engagement up.

What my goals for the summit were

Let's move on to what my goals for the summit were. I always have three categories of goals:

  1. Personal goals
  2. Goals for my speakers
  3. Goals for my attendees

Goals for my Attendees

My main goal is always to host a virtual event that actually matters and makes a difference. If it doesn't, none of my work is going to be worth it because no one will care.

I'm not going to benefit from hosting a virtual summit if speakers and attendees don't benefit from participating.

This time around, the performance for this goal was interesting because my summit promotion period kicked off right as COVID-19 was hitting the United States.

It was interesting to see how that played into things, to say the least. However, it did make my summit even more impactful because it was a much needed distraction...and it was free.

My audience included a lot of people who were either laid off work or had an abundance of extra time to work on their business for some other reason. And I just happened to have an insanely valuable, free, online event where they could come and get all the information they needed.

Overall, I was definitely able to check the box for this particular goal. 

Goals for my Speakers

A goal I set related to my speakers was giving them a positive experience and a good return for their effort.

I just sent out my speaker survey today, so I don't know exactly what that's going to look like, but I've gotten incredible feedback via email and the speaker Facebook group.

I've even had a couple speakers say that my summits are the only ones that want to be a part of because they are well organized and actually deliver results! I'm really excited to see what those results actually look like.

Personal Goals

One personal goal I had for this summit was to refine my processes so I could improve the resources inside my Summit in a Box program.

I wanted to tweak the way I did things, try different strategies, and see what worked. With that, I'm able to make better resources for you! 

As for metrics, my goal for our registrations was 2500, and my income goal was $40,000. Honestly, I didn't think there was much of a chance that I'd hit either of them!

The Results

With that being said, let's dive into the results and break all the numbers down.

Before we do that, I want to mention what my results looked like last year so you can see how drastically things can change from summit to summit.

This is my fourth summit. Each time the numbers have just multiplied several times over. If you start out with a small audience, know that each time it's just going to get even better.

So for last year's virtual summit, I had:

  • 26 speakers
  • 1400 registrations
  • 255 all-access pass purchases
  • 18.9% conversion rate (which is insanely high)
  • Which gave me $22,000 in sales

Let's compare that to this year's results. This year I had:

  • 33 speakers (7 more than last year)
  • 4000 (compared to my goal of 2500!)

As for all-access pass purchases, I want to break down how many of each tier we had and share some percentages. We had:

  • 430 people purchased the Designer Power Pack. My pricing for that was:
    • $97 for 20 minutes after registration - 281 sales
    • $147 early bird until  the summit started - 72 sales
    • $197 regular price - 63 sales
    • 14 people upgraded to this option from the all-access pass throughout the summit (not counted in above numbers)
  • 107 people purchased the All-Access Pass. My pricing for that was:
    • $47 for 20 minutes after registration - 77 sales
    • $77 early bird - 18 sales
    • $97 regular price - 26 sales
    • 14 of those people upgraded to the Designer Power Pack.
  • 122 people also added the $19 order bump

Now for some interesting percentage breakdowns based on that:

  • 80% of the people who bought chose the higher tier - I think this is really cool!  I'm glad that I did the two tiers because people who couldn't afford the more expensive option and just wanted access to the presentation were able to go with that lower tier offer.
  • 23% of the people who purchased added the $19 order bump - Again, pretty cool! This ended up adding over $2300 in additional sales, which covered the cost of my team. I'll definitely do that again! 
  • 13.5% of people who registered for the summit upgraded - This was significantly lower than our previous conversion rates and I'll get into why shortly. Overall, I'm very happy with that considering industry standard for summits is 3-5%.

My total sales came to $58,988 and is now over $60k with selling presentation replays post-summit. 

These numbers honestly blow me away. I didn't think I would hit $40k, and we hit over $60k.

This goes to show that you don't need a huge audience to host an incredible summit. My email list had about 2000 subscribers! If you have an even bigger audience, I hope you're excited at the possibilities!

Difference between this year’s numbers and last year’s

Next, let's break down why the results differed so much between this year's virtual summit and last year's. 

Tripled the number of attendees

The first difference I want to talk about is that I nearly tripled the number of attendees. There are a few things that I think went into that.

First, I had 7 more speakers that likely had a part to play. But, more importantly was the audience breakdown of my full group of speakers. 

Last year's summit was where I finally figured out how important it is to have speakers as the same audience as you. I was finally able to test that finding in this summit.

Almost every one of my speakers had my audience of designers as their audience. There were maybe five who didn't have a product or service they were selling specifically to designers. That is what had the biggest part to play in going from 1400 to 4000 registrations.

There were also a couple more all-star promoters than I had before because of that. 

I consider an all-star promoter, someone with the perfect audience who promotes as if it were their own launch. I had several all-stars this time around, which helped a ton.

I also ran more Facebook ads than I did last year. I had almost 500 people sign up through Facebook ads, which is pretty great to see too.

5% lower conversion rate

The second difference I want to cover is the lower conversion rate. My 2019 summit had a conversion rate near 19%, but this year it was 13.5%.

I believe the biggest part to play was the fact that the price was so much higher - nearly doubled. 

Based on the fact that the price was doubled, I am pleasantly surprised that the conversion rate didn't drop even more. But that was the biggest factor in that particular difference.

Technically, COVID-19 could have also had a part to play, but I'm not convinced that it did.

Virtual Summit Expenses and Profit

Let's move on to talk about how the expenses, profit, and time investment of this virtual summit played out. 

As for our expenses, I had $6000 in expenses, which I'll break down. I'll also have just over $16,000 in affiliate payouts.

Here's what the $6600 included:

  • Facebook ads - $1,900
  • Video captioning - $1,400 (33 videos between 30-60 minutes)
  • Virtual assistant - $1200
  • Designer - $1,000
    • Half of my designer's time was spent making notes and worksheets for each presentation. This is important to note because it's totally optional or it's something you could do yourself, along with all other design, based on the templates we have inside of Summit in a Box. The time she spent creating graphics based on our templates was very small.
  • Speaker gifts and postcards - $400
  • Chatroll - $199
    • I had to upgrade my plan twice the first day because we kept reaching the limits
  • Zoom - $15
  • ConvertKit account upgrades - $350
    • We hit the 3000 subscriber mark and the 5,000 subscriber mark, so I had to upgrade twice

So that's where most of the $6600 went. There are a few other things here and there, but nothing worth noting. 

Based on the income and expenses my profit is $36,140, which seriously, I'll take any day of the week.

Time investment

As for my time, a comparison is the best way to put this into perspective.

I didn't track time for my first summit, but I estimate that I spent at least 400 hours working on it, maybe even 500...maybe more. There was a LOT of time (and love) invested in that first summit.

This round I spent 120 hours on it total.

However, there were things that caused that number to skyrocket. That includes:

  • Notes and worksheets - We made notes and worksheets for all 33 presentations. It took us about 1 hour per set, which doesn't include design time. I probably did 20 of those, so right there is 20 hours. If I wouldn’t have done that, I would have only spent 100 hours on this summit.
  • Live interaction and support - The other part that always raises that number is the time involved in the live summit. I didn't have someone to help in the Facebook group or manage the tech so I clocked at least 40 hours, just the week of the summit. I had my computer up for every presentation monitoring the chat box and was the one interacting with attendees outside of that.

The notes and worksheets and that summit management counted for half of my hours.

If it weren't for those things, I would have only spent 60 hours preparing for the summit, which I think is really cool to be able to make a profit of $36,000 on what could have been 60 hours of work.

With that being said, I'm still glad that we created the notes and worksheets.

What did and didn't work

Next, let's cover what worked well and what went...less wonderfully. And so we can end on a high note, we'll start with what didn't go so hot.

What didn’t work: Tech the first week of promotion

The biggest issue was some tech hiccups during the first week of promotion.

By the way, I hope this lets you take some pressure off of yourself. I've run my own WordPress development business for five years...and tech was my biggest issue.

Anyways, in the first week of promotion, it took me five days to figure out that people who signed up for last year's summit were not getting signed up again when they registered.

This was something weird that ConvertKit was doing. I know that they don't allow people to go through the same sequence twice, but they weren't being registered as even signing up through the form again. 

Because of that, anyone who tried to register who had been a part of a previous event was not being signed up. It took me 5 days and a friend asking why she wasn't getting any confirmation emails to figure it out.

It definitely explained my numbers being way lower than expected.

What didn't work: Caching is the worst

The second big tech issue happened during the summit.

We had worked with a developer to create a custom plugin to have the presentations publish and expire at the correct times. Little did we know, Siteground caching is really intense and many attendees couldn't see the presentations after they were scheduled to publish.

...Which made Day 1 VERY interesting.

Within five minutes of the first presentation going live, there were probably 75 messages between the Facebook group and our inbox with people panicking about not being able to view the presentation.

The solution was easy - all they need to do was clear cache - but we couldn't expect them to know that. 

We adjusted as quickly as possible by:

  1. Creating a canned response to send quickly in our inbox and the Facebook group
  2. Adding notes with instructions to all of our emails and Facebook posts
  3. Added a note with instructions to the Schedule page

It did help a ton, but throughout the event there were still people who didn't read instructions and emailed for help.

Since so many people did have problems, we decided to open access to presentations back up for 24 hours the day after the summit ended. 

What didn't work: Coronavirus

I'm half-joking as I write this...but really.

About two days after my speakers started promoting is when COVID-19 really hit the US, and you can see in my ConvertKit graph there was a hard stop on their promotion. It went from hundreds of signups per day to less than 100 per day because they just stopped promoting. Honestly, I didn't know how to handle it either.

 

At that time, there were all kinds of posts of people telling business owners to stop their promotion. I personally didn't agree with it, but waited a couple of days to feel it out.

Instead, I realized that it was the perfect time for people to have this free virtual event. Based on that decision, I gave my speakers a little pep talk to get them back int he game.

The promotion never quite got back to where it was, but they did promote consistently after that.

What didn't go well: Significantly underestimating the size of our summit

Last, I was NOT prepared for 4000 people and how different it was to manage 4000 versus the 1400 I had in the previous year.

I definitely could have used more help, especially the first day while we were getting the hang of the tech issues.

I tell you all of these things that didn't go well so you recognize that it's not going to be perfect no matter how many times you've hosted a virtual summit or how solid your process is.

This is my fourth summit. I have solid processes. I had been running a WordPress development business for years, and I still experienced tip hiccups. So know going in that you're probably going to experience that too. And it's okay.

What went well for this summit

Let's flip it around and talk about the positive side and what went well for this summit.

What went well: Registrations

The first thing I'll talk about is registrations. And holy smokes, registrations were on fire.

Like I said before, the biggest part of this was the fact that I had so many presenters with my exact audience.

Another strategy that helped with registrations were Facebook ads. The first couple of days, my ads were converting at $9 per lead. So I had to spend $9 to get one attendee signed up. Yikes.

Luckily I have a Facebook ads coach who helped me see that my copy was terrible. We made some tweaks and instantly got our costs down less than $3 a lead after that.

What went well: Income

As for income, the first thing that worked well was the higher price tag.

Having two tiers was also great because when people would email me saying that the higher tier was more expensive, I could point them to the lower tier instead.

And last, the order bump was great. Like I said, $2300 extra, which paid for my team. 

What went well: Engagement

Engagement is another thing that went really well. I have my Facebook group to thank for that!

I've heard many summit hosts say that they don't like to do a Facebook group for their summit because not everyone joins. But this is where the action happens! This is where the buyers are, and this is where the people that are dedicated and getting results from your summit are showing up.

So, personally, I don't care that there were 2000 people who didn't join the group because I was able to pour into the people who did decide to join and they got incredible results. 

The networking sessions were another aspect that attendees loved and I'll be doing again. It was a simple thing that made the virtual summit feel more like an in-person event. It allowed for connections that will carry on long after the summit is over. 

Then the last fun engagement aspect was Summit BINGO. I made a bingo card and, in each space, was some kind of way they could engage with the summit.

For example there were spaces with things like:

  • Watch a presentation
  • Buy the Designer Power Pack or All-Access Pass
  • Go to a co-working session
  • Share your biggest takeaway from a presentation
  • Find an accountability partner

During the summit, we drew prizes each day based on who got bingo and they loved it! 

What went well: Niched speakers

The next thing that worked well was having niched speakers. And these people showed. up.

I think every single one of my speakers promoted at least once, which is unheard of.

There were definitely some that did let me down. You know, the ones with the huge audience who you know will bring so many attendees...but then they don't.

I want you to take note of this, because every single year I relearn this fact. If you can't get big name speakers, it's okay because they're not going to promote anyways. My 2-3 top speakers barely did any promotion.

Instead, the ones that showed up and engaged with their [smaller] audience are the ones that brought the results.

There were a couple times where I had to offer up some encouragement, but they always responded.

So if any of my speakers happen to be reading this, thank you!  I appreciate you all so much.

What went well: My process

The last thing I'll cover is my summit hosting process.

First, my assistant did a ton of work for me. She...

  • Managed the speakers
  • Onboarded speakers
  • Created presentation pages
  • Managed the inbox
  • Created 13 sets of notes and worksheets

Overall, she saved me a ton of time.

Something else that went well with the process was allowing several weeks between when speaker's presentations are due versus when the summit actually started.

I always allow three weeks between those two dates, and I'm so glad because there's always the speakers who waits until the week before the event to send their material.

This year, I had 80% of the presentations by the day after the due date. Last year, I only had 50%. All I did was give a little more encouragement and a few more reminders.

Lessons I learned that you can take away as well

We're almost done, but next I want to talk about the overall lessons I learned this time around in hosting a virtual summit.

  1. Don't under-price your all-access pass: I see people in the Summit Host Hangout Facebook group asking if $7 is okay to charge for their all-access pass, when I had 63 people buy at $197 and 281 at $97. You can charge a decent amount for your all-access pass. 
  2. Pitch people you think will say no: Like we just talked about, don't count on the influencers to do any promotion, but it always looks good to have influencers in your lineup. Pitch people you think will say "no" and be pleasantly surprised when some of them don't.
  3. Stand your ground with pricing: If you have price increases throughout your summit, you will get emails from people saying that they need a discount for one reason or another. You'll hear it all. I encourage you to stand your ground. If you don't, all you'll be doing is sending emails with coupon codes or discount links and that doesn't do anyone any good. 

What I'll change next time

There are two things I plan to change for my next summit.

First, I plan to have at least one networking session that is open to all attendees, rather than just people who purchased an all-access pass. I do worry what it will look like to invite thousands of people to a Zoom call, but it's worth a try!

The next thing I'd like to do is some kind of live Q&A during the event. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like yet, but I'd like to have an additional live portion to the event, rather than the kickoff and closing calls. 

Go out and plan your virtual summit!

If you made it this far, I'm definitely impressed. I hope this post was helpful and lets you see what is possible.

My first virtual summit made $16,000 which I was absolutely thrilled with. This summit made almost $60,000. That's a big deal. That shows you how much a summit can help you grow, especially if you do it over and over and repeat the process.

If you're ready to put your own summit in motion, be sure to 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)! Grab your spot here.

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