Choosing The Format For Your Virtual Summit Presentations

summit basics Feb 13, 2019

There are a lot of decisions to make when you're hosting an online summit. One decision that seemed to sneak up on me for my first summit was the format of the presentations.

This is something I didn't think about until it came time to give my speakers guidance on how to record their presentations. I quickly realized there were a few decisions to make

  • Should the presentations be live or pre-recorded?
  • Should I interview each speaker or have them do solo presentations, using slides? 
  • Should record an introduction to put at the beginning of each presentation? 

Today we are going to talk about all of that as well as how to choose what decisions are right for you and the route I tend to take for my virtual summits.

Live vs. pre-recorded presentations

The first decision to make regarding the format for your virtual summit presentations is whether they’re going to be live or pre-recorded. This is a big decision because it does a lot to shape the experience your attendees will have as well as the work that will go into it from yourself and your speakers.

One great thing about live presentations is that you’ll have a lot of great interaction from your attendees and better energy overall. People love live presentations and no matter how good a pre-recorded one is, it’s never quite the same as live.

However, when it comes to pre-recorded presentations, you don’t have to worry about tech issues or speakers forgetting to show up for their time slot. All in all, the pre-recorded option leads to a more peaceful and smooth summit week.

If you do go with a pre-recorded option, I encourage you to have some sort of live aspect as well. I like to have a chat box where you, as the host, and the speakers can interact with the audience during each presentation.

Presentation style options

Now, let’s move on and talk about a few options for the style of your presentations. These options can all be done whether presentations are live or pre-recorded.

The first one we’ll talk about is interview style. This is where you’ll get on a call, whether live or pre-recorded, with each speaker and interview them on their topic. They're still teaching your audience, but you will be there and asking the questions. This option is great because you have the power of guiding the conversation and making sure that it fits with the goals of your summit.

With the interview style, your attendees get more exposure to you with each presentation they attend. You also get the chance to connect with your speakers more through this option, which is great for forming stronger connections with them down the road.

The next option is what I like to call the talking head, which is where speakers are talking directly to the camera and teaching their presentation material. This option is nice and fast for them to make a presentation. They don’t have to prepare a whole lot ahead of time other than an outline, but keep in mind with this, that attendees seem to learn better if there’s at least a worksheet that follows along with this option.

And last is a presentation with slides. This is where your speakers would prepare a slide deck for their presentation. The downside of this is that it takes longer for your speakers to create their presentation. But overall, this option is great because attendees tend to learn better with slides versus an interview-style or talking head. It’s nice for them to have visuals of what’s being talked about and it’s easy for them to take notes when those slides are right there in front of them.

Other things to consider

So along with deciding whether your presentation is going to be live or pre-recorded, and choosing the style for the presentations, there are few other things for you to consider.


The first of those is introductions to your presentations. There are a number of different ways I’ve seen to presentations handled at various summits I've attended:

  1. Let your speakers do their own introductions, encouraging them to keep it short
  2. Do your own introduction for each speaker
  3. Get on a call with each speaker and record an interactive intro together

If you're not already going with a live option where you'll be on with your speaker, options 2 and 3 certainly make more work for you. However, this is another chance for you to get in front of the summit audience regularly and give each speaker a nice, warm welcome.


Something else to consider are presentation outros. If you have something to promote, you can record a quick video to add to the end of each presentation.

With this option, you can either make it the same outro that you add to the end of each presentation or you can record a custom video for each that says a few words about the presentation and gives a call-to-action.

Sponsor shout-outs

And lastly, if your summit has sponsors, finding a way to mention them in each presentation is a great way to give them the exposure you’ve promised. You can include it in your intro, outro, or in the middle of each of the presentations.

My preferred presentation format

In case you’re curious, I'll share what I’ve done with my summit presentations up until now.

Live or pre-recorded: I've always done pre-recorded presentations. To me, the stress of trying to get twenty or more people to show up at a scheduled time within a span of a couple of days and not having any tech difficulties is more than I can imagine going smoothly. For the sake of letting the week of the summit be stress-free and not putting as much pressure on myself and my speakers, I prefer this option.

Format: As far as the presentation format, I let my speakers choose the format that fits their content best and what they prefer. My goal as a summit host is always to make things as easy on my speakers as possible and I know that different people prefer different ways of creating presentations. Most people choose slides for their presentations.

Intros / outros: I have never recorded my own intro or outro because of the extra time it takes but it is something I’m considering for my next summit. 

Choose the format that works best for you

Choosing the format for your summit presentations can seem like a big decision to make. Just know that whatever you do is going to work out just fine.  But there are several things you can consider when making this decision.

First is how you want your attendees to learn. For me, I feel like people learn better from prepared presentations rather than interviews so that’s why I encourage my speakers to do slides, even though I leave the final decision tot hem.

Also consider how much time you want to put into the interviews. Do you want to get on a call and record  full interviews with each speaker, or is it something where you'd rather have them send you their finished presentation?

Next, consider what’s easiest for your speakers. Like we’ve talked about before, slides tend to take longer but sometimes that’s what they prefer. So, if you know that something will be easier based on your summit topic, or the types of speakers you have, that’s something you can consider on your final decision.

Also consider how involved you want to be. Do you want to be there for each full presentation like you would be with an interview? Do you want to record separate introductions for all of the presentations? Or do you just want let your speakers do their thing?

And last, consider how interactive you want the presentations to be. Like we talked about, a great part about live presentations is a lot of strong interaction and positive energy, but more work and stress can go into that option. So that’s also something to consider.

Take some time, choose what's best for you, your speakers, and your audience, and know that no matter what you choose you're going to pull off an amazing virtual summit!

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