Behind the Summit #1: Initial Planning for the 6th Round of a Virtual Summit

In this first episode of a new series, I'm going to take you along with me as I plan and host my next virtual summit! Dive in goals, project planning, and more!

Welcome to the first part of our new behind-the-scenes series where you can come along with me as I plan for the 6th round of my original virtual summit. Instead of throwing a bunch of strategies at you each week, like I normally do, I'll walk you through everything that I've been doing in my summit planning process and make it actionable in the process.

To set the stage, this week I’ll touch on things like:

  • The background and history of my event 
  • My initial project planning process
  • How this compares to planning a 1st-time summit
  • Collaborations
  • Goals I’ve set for this round
  • and more!

Let's dive in with a little background on what my summit is all about. 

Simply Profitable Designer Summit

The Simply Profitable Designer Summit helps brand and web designers simplify their design businesses so they can do their work more efficiently, increase profits, and spend more time designing.

I hosted this event twice in 2018 and annually since then, with this being my 6th round.

The Details

This is a free, 5-day event with prerecorded presentations and some sort of live aspect offered each day.

  • All-access pass - My all-access pass has two tiers and has converted at 13-19% in the past.
  • Attendees - The first year, we had around 1400 attendees and last year had 6500.
  • Revenue – The first year, I made $16k, and last year I made over $92k.
  • Community – I have a Facebook group for my attendees to join and interact with each other and the speakers.
  • Tech stack – I host this summit on WordPress and use LearnDash for my all-access pass and ThriveCart for my cart checkout.
  • No launch – Since I don't run a business targeted to this audience anymore, I don't launch anything after the summit. I only run the summit itself.

This goes to show that you should never give up after the first round. I thought that first summit was hugely successful and results have skyrocketed from there!

Let's start with a plan

The first thing to do when you decide to run a summit is create a plan. It’s too big of a project to just make happen on accident or in an unorganized fashion. This applies to me as well!

I asked my assistant Kate to create the project plan in Asana. To do that, she:

  • logged into our Summit in a Box® program
  • downloaded the Asana project template
  • used our timeline calculator for all the due dates
  • and the planning was done!

Using the same resources we give our students makes the planning go significantly faster.

Lesson Learned….again (I don't do summit collabs)

After last year’s run of my summit, I didn’t think I was going to host the summit again. I don’t do anything with that business or audience anymore. All of my focus is on Summit In A Box® and it feels weird to put on a summit for an industry I’m not involved in anymore.

But, a couple of my speakers caught wind of that, and because of how much the summit impacted their businesses in the past, they offered to run it with me this year.

I thought this was a great idea because:

  1. It would keep the summit going, without doing all the work myself.
  2. We could leverage their connections to invite new speakers, which felt more aligned to me.
  3. It gave them the opportunity to connect more with the audience and launch their courses afterwards.

I’ve talked before about what to keep in mind when co-hosting a virtual summit, but no matter how awesome my co-host is, it’s not for me. I learned the same lesson again.

A few weeks into planning I had to call off the collaboration. I’ve hosted this 5 times already and have a whole system in place for running summits. It gave me so much anxiety to teach my strategy, complete my tasks, and make sure they were doing their parts. It was hard, but the right decision.  

They were both so gracious and understanding. I plan to feature them extra in the summit as a “thank you”. 

Let’s Set Some Goals

Goal setting is my least favorite part, but an important part. Even though this is my 6th round, I still have imposter syndrome – especially since I don’t do anything in that industry or with that email list between summits.

In general, my goal is always to match the previous year’s goals – This year the two ladies I was originally working with pushed me to set higher goals, so I’m sticking with them for the most part.

Last year’s numbers were:

  • 6500 attendees
  • $92,000 in revenue

This year’s goals are:

  • 7500 attendees
  • A 6-figure event

To me, those numbers mean:

  • A larger impact on attendees
  • Pay bigger affiliate payouts to speakers
  • More contributions to non-profits or charities that I like to support

Potential Changes

I have a few new things to try related to my attendees and speakers so I can make it a better experience. But I also have goals related to YOU so I can teach fun, new strategies with data to back them up.

Changes for the Attendee Experience

The changes that I’d like to make for my attendees are:

  1. Live Experiences – In the past, I’ve had two networking and two coworking sessions, but I want to change how those look or build in time for client work. I’m not sure how this will look yet, but I’ll figure it out as I move through the planning phase.
  2. Longer fast-action timer – I pay attention to good business practices, not necessarily popular ones, and this has been brought up often. I want to try a longer limited-time offer and see what it does to my conversion rates.
  3. Refocus on the summit’s goal – The goal of the summit is simplifying, but last year I went haywire with traditional design business topics. This year, I’ll intentionally build the summit categories, topics, and speakers around that idea with a little fun built-in.
  4. Shorter summit length – I tend to get pitch happy and although I’d love to have the summit last fewer than 5 days, we’ll see what happens when I start to pitch speakers and get responses.

Changes for the Speaker Experience

There are quite a few things I’d like to change for my speaker's experience as well.

  1. Promotion requirements – I’ve always required my speakers to promote and have them send one email and promote once on social media. This year, I’d like to try no promotional requirements. I don't think this would work with just any event, but I think it could work with mine because it’s so established. 
  2. Flat fee speaker payment – In addition to the speaker’s 50% affiliate payout, I’m going to do a $200 flat-fee speaker payment. I didn't do this in previous rounds of this summit, nor do I think you need to do this, but it’s something I want to do for my speakers. I know this event will be successful and it can only be that successful because of the people I'm working with.
  3. More collaborative – I’m not sure how this will look, maybe it’s Voxer access to me to brainstorm how to get the most possible opt-ins from their presentation or recommend a freebie for them to get good results, but I want to be available to support them however I can.
  4.  Networking opportunities – All of my speakers have the same audience. It’s silly for them to not know each other! I want to build in a way for them to connect with each other. This might look like a networking call for all speakers or they can submit collaborations they want and I can play “matchmaker” and connect speakers who might not know each other. We'll see!
  5.  Submit a cause – This year I want to let my speakers submit causes to donate to. Usually, I choose a cause I’m passionate about, but I’d love to see what my speakers care about. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but it’s a fun way to get them involved.

Lovin’ on My Team

The last change I want to make this year is to love on my assistant, Kate. Hands down, I would not be doing this summit if it wasn’t for her.

It’s a little different because she’s a full-time employee, rather than a contractor who doesn’t care and is just there to get paid. 

She cares deeply about this brand, our students, speakers, attendees, and how the event goes. It honestly doesn’t feel right to me this year, to know I’m likely going to make a good amount of money through this event, have her do most of the work, care about it just as much as me, and not share more of what comes from it.           

I plan to do a percentage of profit share with her but haven’t set that amount in stone yet.

I’d love to see this kind of thing normalized – show your team appreciation when you get big results thanks to them.

Make It Your Own

That’s been the breakdown of my first couple of weeks between the initial plan, the collaboration, and brainstorming new ways to do a few things.

And even though my business is called Summit In A Box®, I still find ways to improve and customize the experience based on what feels exciting, how the industry changes, and what aligns with my everchanging values and views on things.

Even if you have my program, you’re allowed to do things your way!


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