Behind the Scenes of My September 2020 Virtual Summit

behind the scenes Oct 13, 2020

My latest virtual summit, Sell With a Summit: Course Creator Edition, was a blast to host and I'm taking you behind the scenes and dishing all the details.

We'll cover things like how the summit was set up, exact numbers, what went well, and what I'll change next time.

Hint: In some ways, this was my smallest summit yet, but in others, it was my biggest!

Basics of Sell With A Summit

Sell With a Summit: Course Creator Edition was a 5-day virtual summit that ran from Monday, September 14 through Friday, September 18, 2020. I co-hosted with Jenn from Virtual Summit Search, which was my first experience co-hosting.

The goal of the event was to help course creators reach their biggest course launch yet with a virtual summit. The people we were trying to reach were successfully selling digital courses and ready to sell a whole lot more.

The first four days of the event had 15-20 minute pre-recorded presentations that all went live at 7am CDT. We didn't have live chat boxes for the presentations but instead had threads in the Facebook group where attendees could ask questions and leave comments for the speakers.

Throughout the event, we had 9 live sessions just for those with the highest tiers of our all-access pass. Those private events included:

  • Two networking sessions
  • Two co-working sessions
  • Four speaker panels
  • A sponsorship workshop from our sponsor Nicole from Fempreneur Online

Free Ticket

Sell With a Summit: Course Creator Edition was free to attend. That free ticket got attendees 24-hour access to each presentation and entry into our Facebook community.

Along with the standard 24-hour access, they also got checklists for each session with action steps, a co-working session, a networking session, and a masterclass on the final day.

All-Access Pass

The all-access pass was our first way to monetize the event. We went with two tiers of all-access passes, which I recommend if you have the bandwidth and tech know-how for. 

Here's what each tier included and how it was priced:

Extended Access Pass

  • Included:
    • Ongoing access to presentations
    • Transcripts, notes, and worksheets for each presentation
  • Pricing:
    • $67 fast-action (available for 20 minutes after registering)
    • $97 before the summit began 
    • $127 once the summit started

From Summit to Course Launch Kit

  • Included:
    • Ongoing access to presentations
    • Transcripts, notes, and worksheets for each presentation
    • Over $3000 in speaker bonuses
    • 4 live speaker panels
    • 2 live co-working sessions
    • 2 live networking sessions
    • Summit promotion workshop
    • Summit sponsor workshop (which was an unplanned, last-minute addition)
    • Live hot seat call
  • Pricing: 
    • $127 fast-action
    • $187 before summit began
    • $247 once the summit started (my highest price point yet!)

Difference between SWAS and Previous Summits

All of my previous summits had been targeted the same and for the same audience. This was my first time running a summit for this business, meaning that the summit was for a totally new audience and had a new topic. Everything was new for me this time around and it was a good reminder of how you guys feel planning your first summit! I forgot just how intimidating it was!

Let's cover some of the biggest differences:

Live Speaker Panels

This was my first time doing live speaker panels. In the past, I avoided anything like this because I was terrified of doing anything live and relying on people to show up. 

But, it turns out that I loved the live panels and would definitely do them again! 

It was so much fun to bring these speakers together, hear them bounce off each other, and deliver incredible value.

No Chat Box

Something else different from what I teach, and what I've done before, is that we didn't have a live chat box this time.

I've always preached is the importance of live chat boxes with pre-recorded presentations to add some live interaction. This time around, Jenn and I decided not to have them - mostly as an experiment so I could report back to you! Details coming up later in this post!

Biggest Difference

The biggest difference for this event was the fact that my goal for this summit was selling my program at the end versus making a ton of all-access pass sales and getting a super high number of registrations. It really came into play when it came time to position the summit.

How I thought it would go

In positioning the summit, we didn't expect to get thousands upon thousands of attendees. The course creator audience is pretty wide. Usually, I do not recommend doing a summit for an audience that wide because it makes it harder to get registrations. So I knew that was going to be a challenge.

Overall:

  • I didn't know what to expect.
  • I was terrified.
  • I wasn't sure how this audience would work, since it's marketed to really heavily.
  • I felt a ton of pressure to perform well.
  • I knew I’d have to record this episode...and what if it didn’t go well?!

Overall, I knew I was going to create an awesome experience through the summit, but I wasn’t sure where the results would end up.

Summit Goals

Despite those fears, I tried to set goals fairly and not play super small. Here's what our goals looked like:

Our Goals

The goals Jenn and I had for ourselves include:

  • 2000 registrations
  • $20,000 in all-access pass sales
  • Another $20,000 in Summit In A Box sales

Spoiler Alert: We didn't hit some of those numbers, but we far exceeded others!

Attendee Goals

I always go in with a vision for what I want attendees to experience. My biggest goals for attendees were that:

  • They'd have a great time.
  • They'd feel empowered to put on a great summit of their own.
  • They wouldn't get overwhelmed

Looking back, we succeeded with these goals! 

Speaker Goals

And last were the goals I set for our speakers. They included:

  • Create a fun and easy experience.
  • Be able to send great affiliate payouts to the speakers who promoted.
  • Get them good email list growth with the freebies they pitched at the end of their presentations as well as the extra offers they included in the Launch Kit.

Unfortunately, we didn't quite hit all of these goals.

The speakers who participated loved the heck out of it, which was so fun to see. A lot of them have gone on to connect with each other and form collaborations of their own. Yay! We even had some say that they'd have been willing to PAY to be a part of it, which is quite the compliment. (p.s. This should go without saying, but please never ask speakers to pay to be a part of your event...gross.)

The goal we didn't reach was the affiliate payouts. Event the speakers who promoted the hardest didn't get great payouts and I always hate to see that. With my other event, I'm used to sending $8000+ in affiliate payouts and we didn't come close to that for this event.

The Numbers

Now for the part a lot of you came for - the numbers! :) 

I knew this was going to be a smaller summit because of the positioning of course creators. It's a wide audience that is heavily marketed to. And marketing to course creators who already know they want to host a summit makes it even harder. 

Overall, it wasn't the response that I'm used to with my other event, which I'm okay with!  It solidifies everything I preach about when it comes to the right speakers, a specific audience, and a specific topic. 

Overall, I was willing to trade smaller numbers for a good launch after the summit. Here's how it went:

Speakers

We had 26 speakers, plus Jenn and myself. We had originally planned for 20, but got pitch happy and ended up with 28.

From there, one speaker was removed after we fought to get their information for a couple of weeks past the due date and another totally ghosted us when it came time to send her presentation. Know that these things can and do happen - plan for it and be flexible!

Registrations

We were hoping to have about 2000 people register for free tickets and ended up around 1250.

I was terrified of what that would mean for finals numbers going into the summit, but you’ll see that when you set your summit up for your program versus all-access pass sales, a huge number of registrations doesn't matter!

Overall, our registration page converted at 83%, telling us that we spoke insanely well to the right people!

All-Access Pass Sales

We were hoping to hit $20,000 in all-access pass sales and ended up around $15,000 instead. Here's what the sales breakdown looks like:

  • 13 Extended Access Pass sales
    • 10 fast action - $67
    • 2 early bird - $97
    • 1 full price - $127
  • 87 Launch Kit sales
    • 60 fast action - $127
    • 16 early bird - $187
    • 11 full price - $247
    • 10 took the payment plan from those higher 2 price points

The total revenue collected immediately was $13,681 and the 10 payments we'll receive at the 30-day mark will put us around $15k total.

This gave us an 8% conversion rate, which is higher than industry standard, but lower than what I'm used to and what I was expecting.

As far as registrations and all-access pass sales went, this was my smallest summit yet. It left me pretty scared of how the program launch would go, but it didn't disappoint!

Summit In A Box sales

The entire event was set up to launch my signature Summit in a Box program.

This program contains every strategy, resource, and template someone needs to launch a virtual summit with ease (over 1000 resources at this point!). The pricing ranges between $1497 and $1997 with 10-month payment plans available for both tiers.

Since I didn't want to spring a higher price-point offer on anyone, we made sure that everyone knew that the offer was coming from the very beginning:

  • We offered a scholarship, which made it easy to talk about Summit In A Box and we were able to weave it into all the messaging easily. 
  • Anywhere that Friday's masterclass was mentioned we also made it clear that the doors to Summit in a Box would be opening - including on the summit registration page
  • My speakers showed the heck up and they would not stop talking about it - without any type of prompting from me. They're the best!
  • I hosted a live behind-the-scenes video in the Facebook group to give attendees a look at what was inside before doors opened
  • We gave Launch Kit members a special offer by making their first payment $0 if they signed up during the summit
  • A lot of students were in the attendee community talking up the program (without me asking)

It's important to note that I did not do a big launch to all 1250 attendees who signed up. To me, it didn't feel good to launch a $2k program to someone who might have just come across me and wasn't ready yet.

Because of that, we only launched to people who:

  • Attended the masterclass
  • Watched the replay
  • Had been on my email list for 60 days prior to the summit

Here's how those numbers broke down:

  • 27 people came to the live masterclass (small audience, but they converted at over 40%!)
  • 380 attendees had been on my email list for 60 days and did not own SIAB
  • 134 people on my waitlist
  • 37 signed up for a duplicate masterclass that I did outside of the summit

Of the 6200 people on my email list and 1250 signed up for the summit, I launched to about 600 of them. And the reason I'm counting people who aren't necessarily summit-specific is that I wouldn't have done the other part of the launch if it weren't for the summit. But I'll break down both sets of numbers for transparency:

  • Total number of sales
    • 37 total sales
    • $62,894 in sales over a 10-month period 
  • Summit-specific sales (not counting the people on my waitlist or in the duplicate masterclass)
    • 27 sales
    • $45,140

While the summit itself was my smallest yet, the total combined launch was my biggest, bringing in about $77,000.  I’ll take it! 

Keep in mind this was cohosted, so 50% of the all-access pass income went to Jenn as well as about $16,000 of the Summit in a Box revenue. Not a bad couple of weeks! 

Expenses

Now for the expenses. I'm always excited to tell first-time hosts that you don't have to break the bank when it comes to hosting a summit. You can really do it for as little as a few hundred dollars! But there were a couple of places we splurged for this event.

Also, keep in mind that I run a WordPress development business and have developer licenses for all kinds of plugins.  Jenn is also super into lifetime licenses, so she had all kinds of lifetime licenses that we were able to use.  

Expenses:

  • $210 on software: Descript for transcripts and a payment plan plugin for WordPress
  • $1060 on Facebook ads, which we made about $1600 on
  • $39 on extra Paypal fees: affiliate payout to other countries
  • $1200-ish to assistant: hard to estimate because she’s a fulltime employee and doesn’t track her time
  • $700 on my assistant designer: branding, registration page design, all-access pass sales page design, promotional graphics
  • $560 on speaker gifts and postcards: We made custom postcards to send after speakers agreed to participate and sent Brightboxes to everyone afterward. Our overseas speakers got some fun goodies from Amazon.
  • $870 in affiliate payouts: much lower than I would’ve liked to see
  • Total expenses: $3800

Profit

I didn't have a goal set for the profit I wanted to make, but it probably would have been around $10k.

Instead, my personal profit (figuring in the payouts I'll make to Jenn) came to $51,000, which will come in over a 10-month period due to Summit in a Box payment plans.

Details on the Summit in a Box Launch

Since this was my first time using a summit to launch a program, I want to spend a little time breaking down what that looked like.

First, I need to give a ton of credit to Desola Davis, who helped me map out how to do this in a way that felt good to everybody. She's a genius and I very highly recommend her Design a Profitable Summit workshop (affiliate), which is where I pulled a lot of our strategies from!

Scholarship

The first thing we did was offer a scholarship. With this, we gave away one spot in Summit in a Box to an attendee who 1: filled out an application 2: engaged in the summit. 

The reason for the application wasn't to decide who was "worthy" of the scholarship but instead helped us make sure we awarded it to someone who actually wanted it. We made sure all attendees knew this as well so they didn't feel weird about applying.

We announced the scholarship winner immediately before the masterclass that pitched the program. We went live in the Facebook group 10 minutes before the masterclass was scheduled to start, which got everyone excited in one spot and made it easy for us to tell them to head over to the masterclass right afterward.

Transparency with masterclass

We were also very transparent when it came to talking about the masterclass. Attendees knew that I'd deliver a ton of value, but that I'd also open the doors to Summit in a Box at the end.

I think this both limited the number of people who attended live (only 27) and built excitement. The people who did attend were excited and ready to jump in. We had 11 people join live, which was over a 40% conversion rate!

Students and speakers showed up

Something else that was not at all intentional, was that my students and speakers would not. stop. talking. about the program in the Facebook group and on the live panels.

There was one panel that basically turned into a Summit in a Box love session. It was kind of amazing, although I felt a little weird about it at the time.

It pays to build relationships and treat your students and speakers well!

Behind-the-scenes video

A kind of last-minute idea was to do a live behind-the-scenes video in the attendee Facebook group the day before the doors opened. 

This got a lot of people extremely excited and I've been told that it was directly responsible for a couple of sales, since it's hard to show off just how much is included and the quality of it in a webinar-style masterclass.

Special offer for Launch Kit members

And last, I gave our Launch Kit members (higher tier all-access pass) a special offer if they joined during the summit, which was to get their first payment for $0. Since I knew a lot of these people would be new to me, I wanted to remove any risk to them. Between a $0 payment and our return policy, there was no risk that they'd get in, be disappointed, and lose out on money because of it.

I also wanted to do something like this because I didn't feel great about charging people for an all-access pass and then immediately charging them 10x more for another product. I didn't want "I just spent money on this" to be the reason someone decided not to join and I wanted them to know that I valued them and their investment.

Email sequence

Anyone who came to the webinar live, watched the replay, or had been on my email list for 60 days got an email launch sequence over the next six days.

We had a fast-action bonus for them, and then the cart closed the following Thursday, both of which drove quite a few sales although we did have sales come in every day.

Struggles That Came Up

While I am very happy with the overall results and especially the Summit in a Box launch, I always like to share what didn't go quite as well as I'd planned.

Signups

For a long time during registration, I felt like my audience was the only one signing up. To help, I did what I teach my students to do and genuinely let my speakers know we were struggling a bit and could use their help.

The people I know well showed up for me and promoted as much as they were able.

Co-hosting

Jenn is amazing! I would have gone absolutely nuts co-hosting with anyone else. But, throughout the process, I found that co-hosting isn't for me. I don’t like having to use other peoples' tech platforms, ask when I have ideas, share the stage, or worry about someone else’s deadlines…it’s just not a great fit for the way I work. 

Despite only having a couple of minor hiccups here and there, co-hosting is just not something that I’m interested in doing again. I'll have an episode coming out on December 8th all about co-hosting!

Pricing

All-access pass pricing was something Jenn and I went back and forth on quite a bit. She wanted to have a higher price point because the audience was course creators. On the other hand, I wanted to keep it lower. Ultimately, we decided to go with the higher numbers since that's what she wanted and I was open for an experiment.

Looking back, I think the Launch Kit pricing was too high. Although adding in the payment plan helped, I will not go that high again for an all-access pass.

Engagement in the Beginning

The engagement was really lacking in the beginning, which was our fault. We didn’t do enough to get everyone going  I did the basics of what we teach with prompts and live videos, but people needed a jumpstart and I didn't have the bandwidth to make it happen.

Luckily, my friends are the best and Desola jumped in and saved the day! She decided to give away one of her $5000 VIP days to the attendee that showed up the most.

With this giveaway, she gave attendees specific steps they needed to take to enter. Things like:

  • Comment in the Facebook group
  • Give speakers shout outs
  • Share on social media
  • Invite your friends

This was a HUGE hit and really got things going a few days before the summit kicked off.

Sponsors

Jenn tried to get sponsors with cold outreach. We didn't have any luck, but finally got one in the middle of the summit! Nicole Ware of Fempreneur Online saw how awesome everyone was and decided to jump in. 

No Chat Box

Not having a chat box was another experiment. In place of chat boxes, we had a thread in each Facebook group for each presentation and linked to the associated thread on the presentation page. 

On one hand, it made summit week easier since we didn't have to monitor chat boxes all day, every day. It was also nice for our speakers since they never had to show up at a certain time unless they volunteered for a panel. 

But as nice as it was, I really feel like it killed engagement.

However, it may have been a struggle to get people to show up anyways with a summit as small as ours was!

Putting off Launch Stuff Until Last Minute

I was working on launch automations, writing emails, and tweaking my slides, literally until the evening before the launch.

If you know anything about me, you know that’s not how I work. Someone else fell behind on something big, and it affected everything else, including this. People who weren’t supposed to have to help with something, were having to now help, including myself. 

I also did not anticipate how long it would take me to figure out how to launch to all the different segments I had, in a way that felt good to me. 

I launched to 5 different segments:

  • People who came to the webinar during the summit
  • People who were in the summit, but not at the webinar
  • People on my email list for at least 60 days, not signed up for the summit, but did signup for a different masterclass
  • People on my waitlist
  • People in none of those things

It was quite the puzzle to solve!

Speakers unable to earn program commissions

Ideally, I would have LOVED to award affiliate commissions for Summit in a Box to my speakers. However, since I had a co-host I couldn’t do that because she was already the affiliate. 

Moving forward, without a co-host (with a new summit), I will make sure my speakers can get awarded for Summit in a Box sales.

Live Sessions Available to Everyone

The first 4 days of the summit were regular pre-recorded presentations. We had two live sessions per day for people who purchased the all-access pass. Then, on Friday we had a few live sessions open to everyone.

We thought that saving those sessions for the last day would help give free attendees something to look forward to and boost excitement and engagement right before the Summit in a Box Launch. But really, only the people who upgraded showed up for the co-working and networking sessions on Friday.

What Worked Well

While that was quite the list of struggles, there are all kinds of things that went really well for this summit:

  • Connections with speakers: Having connections with almost all of the speakers and genuinely caring about them made them want to show up, even when things ended up smaller than we’d anticipated.
  • One presentation release time: Releasing presentations at the same time was great!  It reduced engagement a bit, but I loved not having to worry about tech working each hour.
  • 15-20 minute presentations: The short presentations, thanks to Emily Walker, really had attendees raving!
  • Scholarship: The scholarship was huge in building awareness around Summit in a Box.  And it let us reward an awesome attendee who showed the heck up.
  • Big giveaway: The extra giveaway from Desola was unexpected, but it skyrocketed engagement!
  • Live panels: The panels, although I wasn’t sure about them, ended up being amazing.  I didn’t love the tech platform, but each session had so much incredible value!
  • Hot seat: The hot seat call for the all-access pass holders went really well. I wasn’t expecting many people to show up, but 20-30 people came!
  • Webinar launch: The webinar launch right at the end really worked. A lot of people like to wait a couple of weeks before launching, but I'm really glad we didn't! It would have caused us to miss out on a ton of excitement. 

Biggest Lessons

I had two major lessons learned from the summit. 

First, it’s different to position a summit to sell a course than it is to position a summit to sell an all-access pass.  I didn’t realize how different things were positioned and that you kind of had to lean one way or the other. 

My second lesson is just how much it pays to treat your speakers well! This event would not be what it was if I didn’t have solid, genuine relationships with almost all of my speakers. 

That's a wrap!

I hope you learned something new from this summit debrief! It goes to show that even the people who teach about summits don't know it all and it's totally worth it to do some experimenting.

Now, take a couple of your biggest takeaways and get to work implementing them into your own summit!

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