Things have gotten crazy fast, right? Within the last few days, I've received emails from several in-person event hosts saying that they are unsure of whether their event will happen or making the decision to cancel.
That's a hard decision to make, and I know a lot of you are in that position. So in this post we'll talk about what you can do to take your in-person conference or event and bring it online.
This post will cover the basics, but I want you to ask any questions you have. I will continue to update this post as questions come in to make it the resource you need it to be. Remember, my specialty is online events, not offline, so I won't be able to anticipate all the questions you'll have. However, I will be here to answer them for you as best I can!
In this post and video, we'll cover:
Since writing this post, I also did a 50-minute Facebook live with speaking strategist, Jessica Rasdall, where we discussed turning in-person events into virtual events.
First things first...don't panic. Like, this stinks. It really does for so many reasons, but especially if you've been working your tail off for months trying to plan this event, and now you can't do it anymore.
I want to say PROPS to you for looking out for your community and being willing to make that hard decision. But I know it's still hard. So, with that being said, don't panic. I got you. I've got all kinds of resources to make this easy, and I'm here to answer whatever questions you have.
Let's touch on your event's timing.
Most importantly, give yourself some time. Like, if you had an event coming up in March or April, I wouldn't necessarily recommend going hard and still trying to hit that date because that is going to be really stressful for you. N
ow, generally, when I'm teaching people to host virtual events, I recommend that they take 90 days minimum to do it, which you can see in my free Virtual Summit Prep Timeline.
But since you have likely put in a ton of the work already...
you've already been doing marketing,
you have your speakers lined up,
you know what they're going to talk about,
you know what your strategy is,
you can do this faster than 90 days!
I do want you to know that, but I don't want you to rush and make this something stressful because it can be fun and it can be incredible.
Everyone's timeline is going to be different based on how far along you were in planning your in-person event. But just give yourself that freedom. Give yourself time to map out what it's going to look like and don't force things. Use the Virtual Summit Prep Timeline to see what a 90 or 120 day timeline would look like and make adjustments from there.
I do not think that canceling altogether is the route to take. Right now, people need us. People need us to be talking about something other than the pandemic. And they still need our resources now more than ever. So I don't think canceling is the best option in most cases.
With that being said, let's talk about what to do with your speakers and then your attendees.
As far as speakers go, you've done the hard work. You've got speakers signed on already. Keep those people!
They are going to be in the same boat where they're like, "Oh, I had all these opportunities lined up and now I don't. What do I do?" You still can give them that opportunity!
I would give them the option to do their prepared talk rather than forcing everybody to do interviews. A lot of people who teach summits say that you're "supposed" to do interviews.
In reality, I tend to find more value in summits where speakers can give their own presentation. However, presentation guidelines are a good thing so you don't end up with people just giving webinars, pitching, and not actually providing value.
But give them the option to do their prepared talk rather than force interviews.
Then, you have a really great opportunity here: you get to invite new speakers! Maybe your in-person event had 15 speakers. Why not make it 25 now?
Maybe someone who had to turn you down because of travel, but would have been a great speaker, can now participate since you're moving things online. Take that opportunity!
This is an opportunity for you: an opportunity to provide even more value to your attendees. And I want you to look at it like that and make the most of it.
This is where my knowledge and lack of in-person event experience gets a little muddy. I don't know what you planned for your event, I don't know what the cash flow looks like.
But as someone who paid several hundred dollars for an event that may be moving online, my suggestion is to refund ticket holders as your first step. I know, it stinks.
However, that doesn't mean you're not going to make money! Come on into my Facebook group and you'll hear about people making big money through virtual events. I've got one going on currently that is skyrocketing during this crazy time, and you can do the same thing.
The way I would recommend you set up your online event is that you have free entry. This gives you the opportunity to expand to so many people who need what your event was going to cover.
From there, you'll have paid upgrade options.
Of course, based on what you were going to do for your in person event and how it was planned, maybe that's not what you do. That's okay. Do what feels best to you.
As for what to include in your paid upgrade options, there are no hard and fast rules. However, consider how you can create a virtual event as similar to your in-person event as possible.
Here are some ideas of what to include:
So, that's my recommendation for what to do with ticket holders. Give the refunds, have a free entry (which opens you up for so much more visibility and growth right off the bat), and then have an upgrade option to get those sales coming in.
From there, you'll still be set up to make whatever pitch you had originally planned to at your in-person event. And heck yes - still do it!
Next, I want to talk about how to make your online event just as awesome as it would have been in-person. We've touched on a couple of these things already, but I want to break them down a little bit more.
I want you to reflect on what you had planned to do at your in-person event and how you can do something similar online.
For example, here are some interactive options:
As you can see, there are so many options. Take some time to consider how you can translate anything and everything you had planned for your in-person event online to get a similar effect.
Tech is probably your biggest holdup for this, right? After the initial panic it's like, "Okay, I'm going to do this, but how?"
My biggest recommendation, since you probably want to get this up and running pretty quickly, is to use your current tech stack, which I talked about on this podcast interview with Jaime Slutzky.
You can make a summit work on any platform, WordPress, Squarespace, Kajabi, etc. You can integrate with Podia or Teachable. Thrivecart is amazing if that's what you're already using.
You don't need to totally reinvent the wheel.
I love WordPress. That is what I recommend because you can do anything and everything you want to, but it's not a simple thing to set up.
If you need something really simple, you're not concerned with limitations, and you don't want to use your current tech stack, Virtual Summit Software is what I recommend. It's made for summits and to be easy to set up.
I have all kinds of resources to help you make this transition easier.
For additional resource recommendations, check out our full resources page here.
I can't wait to see the online event you create!
Learn how much time to set aside for planning and launching your profitable, stress-free online summit and use my calculator to set the due dates for you.