I get all kinds of doubt-filled questions from those thinking of hosting a virtual summit for the first time. One of the most popular is something like, “Can I host a virtual summit if I don't have an email list?” or "Can I host a virtual summit with a tiny email list?"
If you're wondering the same thing, you're in luck. The short answer is: no email list, no problem!
In fact, I ran my first online summit with just 500 people on my email list and I've had tons of students start from scratch.
Today, we're going to break this topic down and cover:
I'm pleased to be able to start off by saying that you can host a wildly successful summit without an email list.
Would you have more registrations and sales if you had a list of 10,000? Of course. But if I can make $16k and triple my email list starting with only 500 subscribers, you can too.
So putting all self-doubt aside, let’s talk about the three big pieces that go into hosting an online summit without an email list.
The power of an online summit comes from bringing together a group of experts, all with their own audience. The expertise they bring is great and they also bring an audience of their own.
So while you may not have an email list, your speakers will.
I want to start off by saying that we're not in the business of hosting summits to grab our speakers' email lists. They worked hard for those lists and you can't expect to host an event, make them share 15 times, and walk away happily with their list. It's important to pitch people who are truly a good fit and can benefit from participating.
With that being said, it is important that a majority of your speakers do have an audience to promote to. This means that you may have to be brave and pitch some people a bit outside of your comfort zone. Even if you're sure they'll say "no". And I can tell you from experience that you'll be surprised at how many say "yes"!
Once you have speakers lined up, it's just as important that it is easy for them to share. The easier it is, the more willing they are to spread the word.
To make it easy for speakers to promote, have resources ready including:
Even include a schedule of what they should share when so they don’t have to think about it. Then, all they need to do is:
So, right there, just with your speakers, you’ve already increased your reach by thousands of people and it doesn’t matter at all that you don’t have an email list.
Along with your speakers, you can have additional affiliates who share about the summit in return for a percentage of any sales made through their link.
Now, this means you do need to be selling at least an all-access pass. But that’s something I would recommend any summit host does anyways.
Having affiliates, in addition to your speakers, is a great way to increase the reach of your summit from people who either aren’t interested in speaking or who aren’t the best fit for the summit but still have a relevant target audience.
For example, my first summit was for designers and I knew a Google Analytics expert who targeted designers. Since I didn’t have a space for her to speak at that time, I instead asked if she'd like to promote as an affiliate. She ended up being a great person to help spread the word without being a speaker.
I'm no expert in affiliate programs, but my friend, Zoe Linda, is a wizard when it comes to this! Take a look at her free Affiliate Program Checklist to help you get started with utilizing affiliates for your virtual summit.
And last, Facebook Ads are a great way to bring in additional traffic to your virtual summit. The best part of this is that you don’t have to have a huge budget!
For my first summit, I spent about $55 on ads and had 68 new sign-ups.
As you can tell by the low budget, I was hesitant to run ads at the time. But with that small amount spent, I was able to see I'd get a bigger return and in my 2020 summit, I spent about $2500 on ads instead.
For more information on running Facebook ads to your summit check out these resources:
Up to this point, I've sent out over 100 speaker pitches and have never had anyone ask about my email list size.
But, if you do send a pitch and they want to know, it's really nothing to worry about. Just be honest.
When you respond, include names of the more popular speakers you’ve already landed and remind them of the other benefits of participating.
If they do choose not to speak because you have a small (or non-existant) email list, it doesn't say anything about your self-worth or the success of your summit - just keep that in mind.
And on the bright side, once your first summit is out of the way, you are going to have a bigger email list as well as speakers and attendees with great things to say. People who turn you down the first time, might say yes next time.
A virtual summit is an amazing way to grow your email list. I love to point out that it’s totally backwards to wait until you’re an influencer to host a summit because a summit will make you an influencer.
And similarly, you can’t wait to host a summit until you have an email list because the summit will get you an email list.
Remember that and push forward to host an incredible event! To help, check out this free masterclass on my 3-part framework to triple your monthly revenue with a virtual summit (while building your list for free).
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.