Behind the Scenes of Offering Done-For-You Virtual Summit Production

b2c behind the scenes May 30, 2023

Take a look at our done-for-you virtual summit production, the most challenging parts, lessons learned, everyone's roles, and if we'll ever do it again.

We are currently in a series where I'm spilling all kinds of details and lessons learned from the done-for-you client summit we produced back in January. 

Be sure to check out the other episodes in this series and catch up on any you may have missed:

Today, in the last episode of this series, I'm changing gears and diving into the details of the actual production process.

During this behind-the-scenes episode, you'll hear things like:

  • What our role was in the project and what the client's role was.
  • What it was really like to do a project of this size for someone else.
  • How we communicated with the client and kept everything organized.
  • Lessons we learned about the production process along the way.
  • Whether full summit production services are something we'll offer again.

Listen to the episode

Prefer to listen to this post instead? Use the links below to listen on your preferred podcast player:

What Our Summit Production Service Looked Like

I'm sure that “summit production” means different things to different people, so let's start by defining what our summit production service looked like. I would honestly be very, very surprised if anyone else took it to the level that we did, but to us, full summit production meant we really did do it all. There were really only two things that we didn't do:

  1. Live videos and interviews. I did get on all of the calls with the sponsors and speakers, but not the actual videos attendees saw during the event. The host was the one showing up on the live videos and doing the speaker interviews for the summit. 
  2. Social media management. Since they had social media accounts with the fancy blue checkmark, they weren’t willing to give us access to that. We did create all of the social media graphics and copy for promoting the summit, but the client's team did all of the scheduling. They also took care of follow-up with speakers with Instagram DMs when needed.

We did literally everything else related to the summit.

The only other thing we were less hands-on with was the membership launch involved in the summit. We planned for the membership launch and built it into the summit strategy, but once the actual launch started, we weren't involved in that part. They wrote their emails, webinar, sales page, and other launch materials, and handled questions and customer support related to their launch.

As for the summit, it was all us!

We did everything involved in positioning, naming, design, copy, website, speakers, sponsors, and probably a few more things I'm forgetting about. 

We did it all to the point where their team didn't fully understand how things were working and the host couldn't answer a lot of the questions about summit details during live videos or in a panel we did. I’m not saying anything bad about that, but just stressing the way we ran this event. We did the work, they approved it, and then they showed up for the event. I don’t think they fully realized or had an appreciation for just how much we were doing for the event.

It honestly felt just like hosting my own events. When attendees had breakthroughs and things started happening, I was crying and cheering them on like it was my own summit, and that part was really cool!

The Summit Production Team

Now let's look at our team breakdown in terms of who was working on this and what everyone was working on in order to make this summit come to life. We had 5 total team members including me working on the summit on our side:

Krista: I did the overall strategy, project management, speaker pitching and follow-up, sponsor pitching and follow-up, tech integrations, development of the website, and then set up of things when our other team members needed backup.

Elli: One of my full-time team members worked her magic on all the messaging and wrote all of the copy for promoting the summit and communicating with attendees.

Kaitlyn: My design assistant did all the design from the promo graphics to the web pages, logo, PDFs, and resources for the event.

Kate: Another full-time team member took care of speaker management including presentations and all-access pass contributions, helped with building out the registration and sales pages, community support and inbox management, and filling in wherever I needed her.

Anchen: I also hired Anchen from Simply Digital Design to build out a bunch of the website pages on WordPress. She is an absolute gem and I highly recommend her if you're looking for someone to help with a summit website on WordPress.

The client’s team: We also had the client's team involved here and there as well. The CEO and host handled showing up for live videos and giving approval on work our team did. There was also a team member who handled their side of the project management. And then they had a couple of team members who were there during calls and in Slack to offer support on their areas of expertise including their tech, email marketing setup, and their side of customer support when I had questions.

Overall, there were a lot of hands working on this event, but our team was the one that did the majority of the work. Their team was there for support when we needed it.

Communication Between Everyone

As you can imagine, communication and organization played a huge role in something of this size. I'm really glad that I’ve had my team for years and that our communication systems were already set because that translated pretty well into the way we communicated with the client for this project.

We used Slack on a daily basis to ask questions and get approvals. On one hand, it was nice because it was easy, but on the other hand, it was also something I ended up not liking because I couldn't really get a break from communication with their team. If I wanted to be in Slack communicating with my own team, I could always see if there were notifications there waiting for me. But as far as the success of the project goes and ease of communication, it was great.

We used Asana for our project planning. Overall, their team was not involved in Asana because our team took care of all the tasks. If there was an approval or something we needed from them, we told them in Slack. Asana was more for our team’s organization, and their team had access in case they wanted to keep an eye on our progress or anything, but I'm not sure if they ever did.

I used Dubsado Forms to send the plans, designs, and copy we had over to them, and I'd have them sign off on approvals with subcontracts. I did stop doing that eventually because it was a pain to get them to sign, but I wish I would’ve kept doing that.

Learn from my mistakes: If you produce a summit for someone else, make them sign something that says, "Yes, this is good. I will not change my mind three months from now." at every step of the project. 

We had a standing weekly call every Tuesday where we would touch base about how things were going and ask questions. This project was four months long, and I think we canceled that call two times, so for the most part, we needed those calls each week. My questions for them were usually about how they wanted certain things done, and their questions for me were usually about how something was going to work. I would 100% do those weekly calls again for a project of this size.

Ok, but what was it really like?

The biggest question I've gotten from people since doing this is, “What was it really like?” I'll be honest with you, my initial thought is that it was hard. The event was very successful, one of the most successful first-time summits I've ever seen, but it was hard.

This company had huge goals and expectations, and I honestly felt some impostor syndrome working with them, even though I know my stuff.

It was also a wake-up call for me to get into the “service provider” mindset again and reminded me why I shifted away from services back in 2020. I'm so thankful for my past self for doing that. Nothing spikes my anxiety faster or makes me lose more sleep than feeling pressure from someone else. And in a project of this size, there is pressure that happens, no matter how good of a job you do.

Navigating Communication Styles and Values

I also learned through this experience just how different communication and values can be between two companies. I'm not saying at all that this company's values were wrong or less than ours, they're just different.

First, let's start with the easier part for me to talk about, which is the messaging. We were working with a company focused on weight loss, and that's something that our copywriter has much different feelings and values about. It was hard for her to write copy that was sending a message she didn't agree with. She did a great job, but she expressed that it was tough and that she wouldn't want to do a project like that again.

As for my side of things, my values here at Summit in a Box are based more on other people, empathy, and caring. For my team, I am understanding and supportive. When something goes wrong, I look to myself and what I could have done wrong before blaming them.  What could I have done differently? How could I have trained them differently to prevent whatever it was that happened? Or how could I fix our systems, so that doesn't happen again?  

I also don't tend to make a big deal out of much of anything. Whatever happens, happens, and all we can do is move forward.  I guess if someone deleted our whole website I would probably freak out, but most things don't get a big reaction out of me. 

And that’s where I’d say this company’s values were different than mine. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but their values were based on getting things done, seeing results, and taking responsibility.

For someone as highly sensitive as I am, that's what ended up leading to the hardest parts of this project for me. If even a tiny thing went wrong, it was turned into a fairly big deal. They saw their actions as placing accountability and making someone hold themselves accountable, but to me, it looks a lot like placing blame and shame on someone. Luckily it didn't come up a whole lot, especially not with me directly involved.

Specific examples of misaligned values

There was one situation where the brand colors got a little off on the things we were designing for them. It passed through all their approvals for months, but they didn't notice it until the entire website was built, the PDFs and graphics were made, and everything was done. Their reaction wasn't pretty. I'll just leave it at that. I have not felt that level of stress and anxiety in a long time and I hope I never have to again. If it had been me finding something like that, it literally wouldn’t have been a big deal. I wouldn't have been upset, placed blame, or panicked, but they just react to things differently in a way that I am not quite cut out for.

There was also a situation with Zoom links for a speaker interview getting mixed up that also turned into a much bigger deal than it would have been for my team.  

The difference in values, how things were handled, and how people are treated was just hard for me. Again, they don't treat people poorly, but their communication is much more direct with more focus on accountability than how I roll.

How values affected speaker and sponsor communication

This also showed up in a big way when it came to following up with speakers and sponsors. I have fairly strong boundaries around how much I'm willing to follow up with someone about something. If I can see that someone opened my email, and they didn't respond after a follow-up or two, I'm done. To me, that says either that they're not interested, or they're going to be a pain to work with, and I don't want to deal with that.

Our client was not impressed with that. I was expected to follow up with potential speakers and sponsors 5+ times in multiple different ways, and I just did not like it. It felt so uncomfortable and out of alignment for me. I wish I had included my values about speaker follow-up in my contract in the beginning.

Again, none of what I'm saying here is anything bad about this company. They're great, successful, and wonderful people. It was surprising to see how different values and approaches to things had a part to play in producing a summit.

How I overcame the differences

During some of these harder times, I had to focus on the speakers and attendees who we were creating this event for.

I was the one in the inbox supporting speakers and getting on calls with them to answer questions and support them along the way. I really did come to like a lot of them and have little relationships with a lot of them.

And I can seriously tear up just thinking about the attendees. It was really helpful when things got hard to focus on our goals for the attendees and how impactful this event would be for them. Shout out to my coach, Kaitlyn Kessler, for pointing me in that direction in those hard times, because that got me through some of the hard days.

The rest of it was really fun, beautiful, and rewarding. Truly, I miss several of the team members and getting to chat with and work with them. It was so fun for me to be able to play around with different messaging and work on a totally new and fresh event, especially outside of the B2B audience that I'm used to.

It was incredibly rewarding to see it all come together.

When you host a summit for yourself, it's rewarding to see the growth it has for your business, and then the impact it makes on your attendees and speakers. But when you host it for someone else, you also get to see the impact it has on their business, which was really fun.

Overall, it was hard in the midst of it, especially during the few weeks before registration opened, but looking back, my overall thoughts and memories are very positive.

Lessons Learned Along The Way

Let's wrap up this series by covering the ins and outs of this client summit with some lessons learned throughout the process. Some of these are a little bit of a recap, so I'll go through them fairly quickly.

  1.  Not everyone runs their team like I do. I feel like I knew this on the surface, but I had no idea what it could actually mean or look like. It honestly has me kind of inspired to do some kind of training on running a team.
  2.  Be clear from the beginning about what you will and won’t do. In the end, I said yes to everything. I didn't want to deal with trying to say no to things that hadn't been explicitly communicated from the beginning. It was more important to me that they were happy, so I didn't have to deal with any anxiety about that.
  3.  You need a longer timeline. We worked with the client for 4 months leading up to their summit, which is what I recommend for a first-time summit that includes a launch, but I didn't take approvals into account with this timeline. There are so many things you don't realize you need approval on, and approval really slows down the process. 
  4.  Expectations from someone else adds more pressure, but somehow I also felt more detached from the results. I cared very deeply about the results, and I was very dedicated to making this a successful event, but it wasn't my business. This helped me to be a little bit more detached which let me problem-solve more effectively.
  5.  Charge more than you think you should. Producing a summit for someone else is so much more work than doing your own summit. You're managing the client, getting approval on everything, redoing things that you would have been happy with the first time, having to prove your strategy is the right way to do things, and there are also other things that will come up that you don't expect. I wanted them to be happy, and I wanted the event to be amazing, so I did go above and beyond, but we should have charged a lot more.

Would I do it again?

Overall, the big question is, “Would I do it again?” Honestly, I do not know. If you would have asked me right afterward, my answer would have been, “Absolutely not. Never.” But now that we're further out, it's more of an, “I don't know”, but still leaning more towards the “No”.

It's a “definite no” for a company I don't have any connection with. If it were someone I had a connection with, had aligned values, and knew they were willing to pay a six-figure price tag, it would be a “maybe”. I have no plans to offer something like this again, but I'm hesitant to put a hard no on awesome opportunities.

It was a huge project with a lot of pressure, and it took four months away from us focusing fully on our own growth, so that's something I'd have to take into consideration before doing this again too.

Overall, I have positive feelings toward this company, I love the team members I worked with, and I believe in the impact they're making. I wish them absolutely nothing but the best, but at least for this very highly sensitive individual, it was a very wild ride.



View related episodes >>

Pin it for later!

Take a look at our done-for-you virtual summit production, the most challenging parts, lessons learned, everyone's roles, and if we'll ever do it again. Take a look at our done-for-you virtual summit production, the most challenging parts, lessons learned, everyone's roles, and if we'll ever do it again.

50% Complete

Free: Virtual Summit Prep Timeline

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.