How to Choose Your Virtual Summit Format

summit basics Jun 23, 2020

Not sure if your virtual summit should be live or prerecorded? Have presentations or interviews? Be two days or five? Have 15 speakers or 50?

There are all kinds of details to consider when planning your summit format and we're going to break them all down in today's post.

That way, you can stop sweating the small details and get going on the pieces that will truly matter in creating a profitable and impactful virtual summit.

Should I do interviews or presentations for my virtual summit?

If a conversational style is the overall point of your summit, an interview is going to make more sense and feel more natural. 

However, if you're having a speaker teach a step-by-step framework, a presentation where they can show it visually with slides and graphic representations makes more sense. 

The topic of the presentation plays a part in this decision as well. There are some presentation topics that are simply not a good fit for interview style.

For example, in my most recent summit I had pitched a speaker to talk about typography and color decisions in design, but she wanted to do an interview. Something as visual as typography and colors simply wasn’t a good fit for an interview, so we changed the topic to be a better fit.

I will say that I tend to lead towards presentations, rather than interviews. The reasons for that include:

  • It's more hands off for you - Rather than having to get on 20+ calls and editing each one, you’ll be sent completed presentations.
  • Speakers can generally deliver more actionable content when they can craft their own presentation and explain it with slides.
  • You don't have to worry about your interviewing skills - If you’re not a highly experienced interviewer, you don’t need to put the pressure on yourself to get good at it fast enough to host engaging interviews (there’s not much worse summit-wise than 20+ boring interviews).

Should my summit presentations be live or prerecorded?

Like all of the pieces we’re covering in this post, this decision is up to you. I will say that I much prefer prerecorded presentations, but let’s touch on each.

Live presentations

With a live presentation, your speaker is on live either being interviewed by you or giving their presentation.

This format is great for engagement for a few reasons:

  1. Your speaker is able to feed off of the energy of attendees
  2. Attendees are more likely to attend right when a presentation goes live
  3. Your speakers can answer questions as they come in
However, the major downsides include:
  1. Risk of tech failures - There is a lot that can go wrong with summit tech and this is even more true when you host your presentations live.
  2. Risk of presenter absences - You’ll find that it’s hard to get material from your speakers on time when you give them weeks to prepare. Because of that, it’s a big risk to ask them to show up on time and whether they’re supposed to for a live presentation.

In my experience, summit week is stressful enough without needing to worry about tech issues or speakers not being where they’re supposed to be at their scheduled time.

However, there are all kinds of successful summits out there who do presentations live.

Prerecorded presentations

With prerecorded presentations, your speakers record and send presentations (or do an interview with you) prior to the live event.

From there, you take each presentation, upload it to your video-hosting platform of choice, and make a page for it on your website.

 The main benefits of prerecorded presentations include:

  • It’s easier for you and your speakers
  • Punctuality of the presenter not necessary
  • No stress around tech breaking or troubleshooting issues
  • You’re able to review presentations before they’re put in front of your summit audience

The biggest downside is the engagement factor. However, I’ve offset a lot of that by having chat boxes on my presentation pages. Each speaker is live in the chat box interacting and answering questions for the first hour that their presentation is live.  

How long should my summit be?

In all honesty, it doesn't really matter how many days your summit lasts. Most commonly you're going to see summits between 3-5 days. 

For my own summits, I've always done 5 up to this point. It allows me to have a good number of speakers to help teach the audience what they need to know, while having the promotion power I need. Engagement also goes down the longer your summit lasts, so I may cut my summits down to 4 days in the future.

However, I’ve seen 1-day summits and 30-day summits. It’s totally up to you!

How many speakers should my virtual summit have?

If you’re planning your very first summit, my recommendation is to stick around 15-20 speakers. That number gives you a jam packed week, with a ton of value, and you have enough speakers to get you and your attendees good results. 

My most recent summit had 33 and it was a lot to manage, but I had my processes down pat, so it was fine. I knew what to expect.

However, I do want to warn you against having too many speakers. If your registration page has a list of presenters that is a mile long, people will lose interest, rather than gaining it.  

Your daily amount of speakers truly doesn’t if your summit is done well. 

Some summit hosts want their attendees to focus on taking action, so they do one per day. I generally do 5-7 speakers per day. 

What about my presentation schedule?

There are two pieces to your summit’s presentation schedule. 

  1. How long presentations are available
  2. When the presentations are released

Generally, your free ticket holders will have 24-48 hours to watch presentations. From there, they’d have to purchase your all-access pass for ongoing access.

As for when presentations are released, traditionally you release one presentation every hour on the hour. However, you can also choose to release all of them at a certain time. For example, all presentations for Day 1 go live at 9:00 AM. 

Expect complaints, no matter what schedule you choose

Regardless of what your schedule looks like, you will get complaints from attendees who don’t like your choice.

Generally, the most complaints will come from the 24-48 hour access.

When I get a complain like that, here’s how I respond: 

 “I'm so glad that you're as excited about the presentations as I am! Having access for 24 hours ensures we're moving through the content together.

For ongoing access, you can upgrade to the all-access pass here. Thank you so much for being a part of making this event amazing!” 

Lead with kindness, while keeping it short and to the point!

What about daily themes?

You may have seen a summit that has a theme each day. I think it’s a great idea!

I’ve always mixed up my topics because I want my speakers to be in the chat box during their time slot. If it works for you and your speakers, daily themes are a great idea. 

 For example my summit’s daily themes could have been:

  1. Onboarding clients
  2. Landing clients
  3. Design techniques
  4. Getting your business in order

Daily themes can help attendees  know exactly where to focus.

If daily themes work for you, do it. Your summit will stand out!

What’s next?

Overall, we covered a lot of small decisions that are important to the overall setup of your summit.

I know when you're making these decisions, they feel big and important, but absolutely none of them will make or break your summit. 

Your action steps for today are to make these decisions for your summit, and don't look back or worry about it. 

You can do it! 

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