It’s surreal to look back on a summit after months of planning, obsessing over the details, and getting pulled into the excitement of summit week…and then it’s over.
Want to hear all the juicy details about my latest virtual summit? If you're into that, you're in luck because I’m giving you a behind-the-scenes look at my most profitable virtual summit yet.
I’m spilling all the details like:
Let's dive in!
This post includes affiliate links for some of the software I used for this event.
If you’ve been a follower for a while, this is the same setup I used for my March 2020 summit. It’s a free, 5-day event for brand and web designers to help them run a more simplified, efficient, and profitable business.
Attendees can sign-up for free to see presentations for 24 hours. From there, they can choose to upgrade to one of our paid all-access pass options:
During checkout, attendees also had the option to add an order bump of last year's presentations for $19.
The summit had a Facebook group where the most engaged attendees hung out. With over 3000 members, I spent a lot of time there to engage and keep the excitement going. (Remember, crafting an engaging virtual summit keeps attendees happy and interacting with your event.)
In addition to getting attendees talking, we also played Bingo, giving attendees the chance to win prizes by engaging with the event.
We had 40 prerecorded sessions. Every morning at 7am, that day’s sessions were released for 24 hours. There was a scheduled hour for each presentation to have the speaker live in the chatbox to answer questions and interact with the attendees.
With this being my 5th run of this event, I had big goals. However, I learned once again just how bad at goal-setting I really am.
I always look at what I want other people to get out of a summit before I look at what I want for myself. After all, if no one else gets results I won't either.
Since it was my 5th run of this event, I knew what I wanted the attendees to get out of it. Really, I just wanted to make as much of a difference as I could make by teaching these designers to run more simple and efficient businesses. Every year the feedback from attendees tells me that we truly do make a difference.
Another thing I focus on is making my speakers happy and getting them a good return for their efforts. Based on emails and exchanges with the speakers, I think I did just that and I'm looking forward to hearing more in their feedback forms.
And, of course, I always have the goal of refining my processes and trying new things so that I can teach you here and improve the Summit in a Box product even more.
Let’s shift into the goals I set for myself.
Last year we had 4000 registrations and made $60,000 so I based this year's goals around that. Every year I doubt that I'll be able to beat the previous event, so I didn't get too crazy.
I didn't think I would reach either of my stretch goals but figured it was worth a shot.
Now that we've covered how the summit was set up and what my goals were, let's dive right into the numbers.
I want to preface this by, again, pointing out that this was my 5th run of this event. I started with an email list of 4000 subscribers, most of which had attended previous summits and were excited to attend again. I had previous relationships with speakers and all my systems and messaging were honed in, thanks to past events.
All that to say, please don't compare your results to this if it's your first event...or even 3rd!
For comparison, here's what last year's numbers looked like:
Overall, it was an incredible summit. I never thought I'd be able to beat it!
Here's what this year's numbers looked like:
I'll be honest with you - I'm blown away by those results and so incredibly grateful. That's more money than I made in my first two years of business combined. It's more than I made in a year at my fancy corporate job. And how blessed I am isn't lost on me.
I hope those of you who host smaller summits or are getting ready to host your first one can look at that number and be encouraged. My first summit made $16000. My second made less than $3000. This one made over $92,000.
You will learn! Every summit will get better and every single summit will pay off in its own way. I worked up to this. It’s totally possible for you too.
A few things contributed to the differences between last year's results and this year's.
To recap, last year we had 4000 attendees and made $60,000. This year we had 6500 attendees and made $92,000. Let’s break down where those differences came from.
Let’s start with the attendees. We had 2600 more attendees this year, which is a 65% increase. There are a few things that I think contributed to that:
Next, let’s talk about the 2% increase we saw in our conversion rate this year.
Last year, the all-access pass converted at 13% and this year hit 15%. There were a couple of things that may have influenced this:
I was pleasantly surprised to notice that 7% more attendees went with the Designer Power Pack than the All-Access Pass this year.
I was even more excited to see that 6% of that increase came from giving them the option to change their mind and upgrade during checkout.
If they were going to purchase the All-Access Pass, there was a toggle on the checkout page to upgrade to the Designer Power Pack. 6% of our increase came directly from that! (Thanks, for the awesome option ThriveCart!)
I think the 4% increase in order bump sales had everything to do with ThriveCart.
For previous summits, I used WooCommerce and made a custom widget area that worked as an order bump. It wasn't in the best spot and I'm sure the design could have been better, but ThriveCart has a built-in order bump option easy for people to see and toggle on.
And finally, the increase in overall revenue was just a combination of all of those things along with having more attendees.
Next, let's get honest and talk expenses. Summits of this size are not cheap to run. My expenses, not including affiliate payouts, came to $16,600. Affiliate payments themselves are sitting around $34,000.
This is the most I've ever spent on a summit, and I would totally do it again.
Here's what a breakdown of the main expenses looked like:
After expenses, we're left with a profit of $41,644.
I think it’s interesting to note that this summit made $28,000 more than last year's, but there's less than $5500 in additional profit.
More money doesn't always mean a ton more in your pocket. I'm not disappointed or upset about that but thought it was interesting to point out.
The next thing I want to talk about is some of the peaks and valleys for sales and promotion. I’ve gotten lots of questions about when hosts should expect the most registrations and sales or when registrations are quieter. And I finally remembered to track sales every day during promotion so I'd have a good answer!
Let's start with registrations. The most registrations happened on these days:
This lines up with what I've noticed with past events, so overall, it's when you can expect to see the most registrations too.
Let's talk sales. The most important thing to note here is that more registration = more sales.
I get asked a lot when to expect to see the most sales come in. Often, this question comes from hosts not seeing a ton of sales during the promotion period hoping that it will pick up during the summit. But overall, the sales you'll see will increase and decrease right along with your registrations.
However, there are some areas where you’ll see the conversion rate flux a bit:
The biggest jumps came with the early bird price increase and cart close. $10k came in the day the price increased and $6500 came in on cart close day.
Other than that, it stayed steady and relied on how many registrations were coming in (with a slight increase once the summit started).
Next, I want to move on to the differences between this summit and the last one. I'm always experimenting, so there are a few new things I tried this time around.
Something new I tried this year was bringing back a group of last year's presentations and re-running them. My strategy behind this was to get a few top-performing speakers to come back who I wasn't sure would say "yes" this time around by making it super easy for them (although looking back, I'm sure they would have).
So I pitched 4 past speakers with the opportunity to reuse their presentation from last year and be a part of the event again.
It was mostly a good experience, aside from a little extra work to change the promo at the end of the video for two speakers.
But with this setup, I still asked them to promote, they still were able to promote a freebie, and they may have gotten even more visibility since their presentations were clearly marked as being some of the best from last year.
There is a whole list of things I did differently for my all-access pass:
Let's move on to things I did differently with my speakers:
Now for things we did differently with promotion:
Another big difference was the amount of work I did...or rather that I didn't do!
I outsourced anything I could to my incredible assistant. She's a full-time marketing and administrative assistant, and she's amazing. She pays attention to detail, understands summits, is great with customer service, and knows all of our processes.
I can trust the way she does things, so I was comfortable sending her anything and everything. She took a ton of work off my plate, especially with customer support and managing presentations.
Lastly, there are new features I tried this time around:
I love sharing the things that didn’t go well so you know it’s not going to be perfect, no matter how many times you do it and no matter how great your numbers look.
The first set of things that didn’t go well were, of course, related to tech:
The last category of things that didn’t go well was with the engagement:
The biggest thing that happened is that I got blocked from commenting on Facebook on Day 2 of registration being open. *insert panic mode*
I think it was a combination of using HelloHostess (posting 50-100 times in a short time frame when letting people into the group) and trying to post and respond to everyone’s comments and questions.
Facebook decided I was a spammer and blocked me for a day, which was annoying. After that, I commented from my page instead of my personal profile and we didn’t run into that issue again.
Let's switch over to the positive and cover some things that went well with registration, income, engagement, speakers, and my processes.
Registrations went great! We had a lot of speakers with the perfect audience for the summit and inviting last year's top-performing speakers back really helped.
I was also open to people who pitched me. 4 speakers had approached me asking to be a speaker, and 3 of the 4 went hard with promotion. One of which earned more than 2x the affiliate payout of anyone else.
A few big changes impacted the amount of income earned through this summit. The biggest change was switching to ThriveCart.
The other big impacts came from the cart abandonment email and giving the option for attendees to upgrade during checkout to the higher-tier Designer Power Pack.
Having an engaged summit can make a huge difference. One of the best things I did to boose engagement was playing Summit Bingo. I've done this in my last 3 summits and it was a big hit again. (Summit in a Box students, you have my template!)
Another great engagement piece was the networking sessions. Once again, they were a huge hit. Only attendees who had the Designer Power Pack had access to the sessions and they loved getting to know each other.
The last piece that helped engagement was using HelloHostess. It was nice to have a welcome comment for each person right as they were let into the group.
I can’t thank my speakers enough for everything they did for the summit. One of the best things you can do is to make the process easy for them and be genuinely appreciative and supportive along the way.
My speakers saw that I cared, and they showed appreciation back to me by promoting the event.
Lastly, there were a few tweaks I made in my processes that had some nice benefits.
The biggest piece was having my assistant do as much as she could. Being able to offload tasks to her was helpful. That freed up my time to tackle other things.
Another thing I changed with adding an extra week between when speaker presentations were due and the summit. This time, I had speaker presentations due about 3 weeks before the event started, which I'll definitely do again.
Next up, I want to talk about some changes that I'm going to make next time.
The first thing I want to do is host live panels. I had a daily live panel in a different summit I co-hosted back in September. I wanted to do them for this summit, but after landing 40 speakers, I decided that the panels were going to be too much and decided to save them for next time.
Another thing I could potentially change next time is to let speakers know about the minimum payout amount given to those who promote. I thought of it spur-of-the-moment this time, but it's something I could give a heads-up about later. I’m not sure if it would make a difference in their promotion or not (after all, $200 isn't a ton), but something I'll consider.
The last change I plan to make is to run a shorter summit. 5 days just felt long. The attendees loved it, but I know they started getting overwhelmed by the end. Moving forward, I think I'll stick to 3 or 4 days of presentations. With the fourth or fifth day being focused on a launch, with live interactive sessions.
To finish things off, I want to share the 6 lessons I learned with this summit:
Every single summit is worth doing! Learn, improve, and try again.
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