How to Make Money with a Virtual Summit

One of the top questions I get from first-time virtual summit hosts is how to effectively monetize.

There are endless options for how to make money through a summit, but today we'll cover the most common and widely effective ways.

We'll also cover:

  • How to make money through a free virtual summit
  • The most common ways to monetize
  • My top recommendations for making the most money from your summit

How do you make money from a free virtual summit? 

The most common summit-hosting model is referred to as "freemium".

What that means is that there's a two-step process for attendees to get access to everything. Here's what it looks like:

  1. First, they register for the event for free. This gives them access to most or all of the presentations, usually for 24 or 48 hours.
  2. Then, if they want ongoing access and additional bonuses, they can upgrade to another offer.

The first offer for the paid upgrade happens immediately after an attendee registers for the free event. Instead of being registered to a traditional Thank You page, there's a little more to it, including:

  • Confirmation that they're registered
  • A video thanking them, telling them what's next, and pitching the all-access pass
  • Sales copy for the upsell
  • Generally, a special limited-time price, which increases conversion rates

In addition to that initial upsell (or tripwire) page, you'll also pitch throughout the summit in various ways, including:

  • Emails
  • Videos
  • Posts in your community
  • Links on each presentation page

And if your offer is great, your attendees will talk about it and do some selling for you!

Why is the freemium model better?

I won't say that the freemium virtual summit model is better for every niche out there, but it is better for most.

That's because it is so much easier to 10x (or way more) your number of leads for a free event. Those leads qualify themselves when they register, and from there you can sell to them.

People are far less likely to sign up for a paid summit, even if the ticket is priced as low as $19 (even I won't usually sign up for a paid summit and I love them!) and your speakers are less likely to promote.

Check out this interview with Cara Harvey who ran two paid summits, switched to the freemium model, and saw incredible results!

Top ways to make money with a virtual summit

Now that you know that money comes in after someone has registered for your free event, let's talk about a few of the most common offers to present afterwards.

All-Access Pass

The most popular upsell option is selling an all-access pass.

Like we covered earlier, most summits allow a limited amount of time to view each presentation. This time can vary, but is usually 24-48 hours. After that, the presentation goes away. 

Then, if attendees want further access to the presentations, they can purchase the all-access pass to get longer access. This extended access can be anywhere from a month to "lifetime".

I also recommend that an all-access pass includes more than just presentations. Industry standard conversion rate for an all-access pass is 3-5%, but myself and my Summit in a Box students tend to get 15%+ because of the more attractive offer I like to create with an all-access pass.

Learn about how my most recent summit at over $3000 worth of speaker bonuses included here.

Sell Your Own Product or Service

Another upsell option is to sell your own product or service.

This can be a great fit if you have something to sell that's highly related to the topic of your online summit without a big barrier to entry (aka super high price tag)

With this method, you have a couple of options:

  1. Sell your product or service directly, during the summit, in place of an all-access pass.
  2. Don't sell anything during the summit, focus on nurturing the audience, and sell your product or service afterwards in a proven webinar or funnel.
  3. Sell your all-access pass during the summit and then sell your product or service soon after.

Sponsors

The last option we'll cover for how to make money through a virtual summit is having sponsors.

With this option, the sponsoring company pays you to be featured in front of your summit's audience, which generates new leads or sales for them.

For this to work well and for you to land a good sponsor, it has to be a very specialized fit.

For example, I've seen Deadline Funnel sponsor events for digital product creators while I've seen Dubsado sponsor a summit for service-based business owners.

I've never gone the route of getting sponsors myself, so for more information, check out this blog post by Jason Zook. We also have guest trainings, templates, and resources on getting sponsors (courtesy of Nicole Ware) inside of Summit in a Box.

My preferred method of monetizing

While all of these options can work, my preference is a combination of two.

First comes the all-access pass. I create an incredible bundle of resources including ongoing presentation access, speaker bonuses, and more, and present it as the main offer during my summit.

My 2020 summit made $60k just through the all-access pass and I started with an email list of only 2200 people - so you know it works!

From there, you can sell another offer once your summit is over through a webinar or proven funnel.

Choose the Option That's Right for You

While I just told you about my preferred method of making money through a virtual summit, it's important that you choose the option that's best for you.

The simplest option is an all-access pass. It's easy to put together and converts well.

However, if you have a product or service that converts well, maybe instead you choose to pitch your own offering through your summit. 

And last, if your pitch game is strong, you have good connections, and a solid audience for your summit reaching out to sponsors is a great way to generate enough revenue to at least cover your costs through your event. 

For more information on how to create a virtual summit that triples your monthly income while building your email list for free, check out this free masterclass!

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