001: 10 Stages of Hosting an Online Summit

Aug 13, 2019

There's a lot to consider when hosting an online summit, so in this episode, we'll go over the 10 stages. Each piece will be broken down in future episodes, but this is a great place to start if you want an idea of what to expect throughout the process.


Hey, welcome to the Summit Host Hangout podcast where you learn how to plan, strategize, and launch your profitable online summit, no influence or status necessary. I'm your host Krista from Summit In A Box and to start things off here on the podcast, we are going to cover the 10 stages of hosting an online summit.

Now, most episodes of this podcast will be relatively short and sweet, but this one will likely be one of the longer ones we will ever have because I want to give you an overview of these basics before we dive into any specific strategies. This is the perfect place to start. If you've never hosted a summit before or have hosted one that did not go very well, this is an overwhelming process. There are a lot of moving pieces and you can't possibly know what those pieces are without hearing it from someone else or learning it in the moment.

We all know that having to learn while we're trying to implement can make things really difficult, especially if we are coming up with all of the strategies on our own. We are going to go over these 10 stages. I am going to cover them kind of in order of how they start, but a lot of them overlap. For example, I'll give you a little teaser here. Part of one of the stages is managing your speakers. While you're managing your speakers, you're also going to be doing things like finalizing your website, working on promo material, and all this stuff. While I am going to cover them as separate stages, they definitely overlap throughout the entire process. Just keep that in mind.

Stage 1: Goal setting + initial planning

Let's dive in with stage one which is goal setting and your initial summit planning. Now, I want you to bear with me on this step.

Don't go skipping over it. This is so important and it can truly make or break your summit success. The way you start here with your goal setting and planning, will determine whether you host a summit that maybe makes a couple hundred dollars versus a summit that makes thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. It really does matter that much. With the goal setting portion, it's as easy as deciding why are you hosting a summit in the first place. What do you want your summit to accomplish, both for you and other people? It's as easy as that, but I do want you to stop and take the time to figure that out because that's going to dictate some decisions throughout the entire process. Are you going to be focusing more on making money or are you first going to focus on the fact that attendees are having a great experience and learning something that can change their life or business?

You want to map those things out. When you come to a point where you need to make a decision, you have something to reference to help you make a decision that actually has a purpose to it. So onto kind of the initial planning part, this is planning the first pieces of your summit. Again, that will dictate the rest of your decisions. And we're going to start there with your topic and niche. So we'll have an episode that breaks this down step by step. But this covers who is your summit for? What is it going to solve for them? This is going to give you a solid positioning for your summit and you're going to stand apart from so many other summits out there. This is going to be the difference between hundreds and thousands of dollars. Like I said before, getting this right will change everything and we'll go through this step by step in a different episode.

After deciding your topic and niche is when you set the date. Again, another part of this initial planning, when you are considering the dates to run your summit, there are some things you want to keep in mind. You want to avoid major holidays, so if you are in, whatever country, look around at other countries that make up a big portion of your audience and don't go over any of their major holidays. This comes up a lot for people who don't live in the U.S. and aren't used to U.S. holidays. You do not want to mess with those if a lot of your people are in the U.S also December and January are just generally not good, both for your speakers and for your attendees. So in December, if your speakers are business owners, a lot of them tend to kind of check out of business. They're taking several weeks off, maybe even months off to spend time with family and give themselves a break. You don't want to be trying to get presentations from them during that time.

The same goes for your attendees. Some of them are going to be checked out into summer. Then January is rougher because of speakers. If you host a summit in January, you are going to be trying to get presentations from your speakers in late December or early January and that's just not going to work. Avoid those two months kind of as a general rule of thumb. Also keep in mind that summer tends to be tough. Parents have kids home from school. There's just more activities going on in general. People are busy. I have heard of people who are trying to host, put together summits during the summer and they can't get speakers to agree or people who have hosted, you know, their second or third summit in the summer for the first time and they've noticed that interest and attendance is way, way down. Keep that in mind.

Also just consider what different seasons are like for your specific audience. For example, shop owners. You'll probably find that everything from mid to late November through the holiday season is just a no go for them because they are so focused on holiday promotions. Keep that stuff in mind when you are setting the date for your summit.

The last part of this, the goal setting and planning is mapping out the rest of your summit planning and launch. What I recommend is working backwards. Pick the date you want your someone to launch, work yourself, work backwards to set due dates for all of the bigger picture tasks and give yourself at least 90 days. If you have never hosted a summit before, do not try to do it in less than three months. It will not turn out super well for you unless this is all you're going to be focusing on and it's not just putting together the summit, it's giving your speakers time to get their materials to you. You also need to allow time for promotion, all of that stuff.

I do have a freebie to help you out. It's called the Virtual Summit Prep Timeline. It walks you through the big picture steps of hosting a summit, talks about why I recommend at least 90 days and it also has a built in timeline calculator so you can set the due date that you want your summit to start and it will calculate the bigger picture tasks and due dates for you. You can get that by going to summithosthangout.com/timeline.

Stage 2: Website + tech setup

Let's dive in to stage two, which is your website and tech set up. This is the part that tends to be the most overwhelming. I get so many questions on the website and tech. The thing is here, there are so many options and that that's what makes it hard. It's hard to know what option is the "right option." I'm saying that in air quotes, this depends on the features you want for your summit, how much work you're willing to put in to make those features happen, or how much money you're willing to pay someone else to do it.

It also just depends on the platforms you're most comfortable with. For me, my platform of choice is Wordpress. That's what I use. I'm a Wordpress developer, so it was very obvious that I was going to host my summit on Wordpress. I've heard of countless other people having a lot of success there. Thrivecart is another one I see people use with a lot of success and I think ClickFunnels is one I see every once in a while as well. I think it's pretty similar to Thrivecart. Don't quote me on that, but it's definitely something you can look into, especially if you're already familiar with it. Squarespace can work. That's a question I get a lot. But you'll also need something like Teachable, Teachery, or Podia along with it for your all access pass, so keep that in mind as well. You can really make anything work.

It's just a matter of how much work you want to put in to make it happen, how many options you want throughout the process. The pages that are going to go into your website once you decide what platform it will be hosted on are your registration page, your sales page, presentation pages, your schedule, and your speaker information. We'll break this down again in a future episode, but I just want you to have that all in mind. There are also some kinds of things you want to consider, some features you want to consider for your website, but you need a way to integrate with your email marketing software like ConvertKit. You need a way to host and sell your upsell - whether that's an all access pass or a product or service or something else.

You also need a countdown timer - if we're going to do price increases, which I very highly recommend. Deadline Funnel is what I recommend for that. I can go to summithosthangout.com/deadline to get a link to that. I cannot recommend it enough for adding some urgency and getting people to make the decision to buy. You're also going to want a way to have a chat box and a way to publish and expire your pages.

Most of your presentations are going to be available for 24, 48 hours and then they're going to expire. You can go on and do that manually, but it's a whole lot better if you can automatically have those pages get published and then get put down when they're supposed to. This is just scratching the surface as far as the website and tech goes, but hopefully it starts getting those wheels turning. This is not something you have to have completely done before this next stage, like I talked about before, but I do recommend having the registration page as complete as possible and the speaker information page complete before you reach out to speakers if you can.

Stage 3: Speaker outreach

Stage three is speaker outreach. I have a few stages that I go through in my speaker outreach process. This also takes me quite a while. I would consider about a month of time that I'm going through this process and I start with brainstorming. We're gonna have episodes that go over how to find speakers breaking down the entire process. But for me, brainstorming is step one, sit down, give yourself even up to a half hour and brainstorm all the people you know that would make amazing speakers for your specific summit. Also, look at it in the way of which presentation topics you want to be able to offer. And then you can take those topics and look for somebody who would match up with that well.

Do a brainstorm because that's going to make it all a whole lot easier. After you have a list of people you want to reach out to for your summit, I recommend having a list of maybe twice as many people as you want so you have some wiggle room. If people say no, then you're going to go ahead and start connecting with them, before you pitch, whenever you can make a connection. Whether that's on Instagram and you're responding to their stories or reach out through their newsletter and give them some support with something they sent. Some kind of connection is going to make the pitch step go a whole lot better for you.

That's what step three is. That's sending out your pitch. You're going to make some kind of connection and share information about what you are doing and how they can be a part of it. The pitch is going to go a whole lot better for you if you've made a connection ahead of time. Also, I just want to remind you to count yourself as a speaker in that as well. It's definitely worth speaking at your own summit.

Stage 4: Speaker management

Once you have your speakers lined up and they've agreed, you're going to find that that was not the hard part. The hard part is managing them. First you're going to want to get some basic information from them that you can include. For example, on your registration page or in the summit schedule. Now this can be challenging. So if you find that it is, do not feel bad, it's not just you, it's not just your speakers.

I actually just finished my process for getting all of my speakers information and added it to my product, the Summit Host Vault. There is so much that I added, I didn't even realize there was so much to talk about. Since it can be challenging, there is one tool I use to make it a lot easier is Content Snare. This tool lets you create templates like worksheet type things for your forums, I guess you could call it for your speakers to fill out. Then it takes care of following up for you. If you're a speaker, and it starts approaching the deadline and you have speakers that have not submitted their material, it will send them follow up emails that you have prewritten and take care of all of it for you, which is so nice. You can kind of set it up and then forget about it Learn more about this at summithosthangout.com/snare.

Along with getting your speakers basic information, you want to keep everyone up to date and engaged throughout the process. During this period, after you've gathered that basic information, you're giving them time to actually create their presentations. The more up to date and engaged you can keep them, the more likely it will be that you have their presentations when you need them. Also, it'll be more likely that they'll actually share once the promotional period has started. I like to do that through having a speaker Facebook group. I have all my speakers in a group and that's where I can go in about once a week leading up to the summit and give them updates, give them encouragement and give them shout outs, things like that.

So along with that, they're going to be working on their presentations and you're going to have a set due date for when those need to be to you. I recommend three weeks in advance. It sounds crazy, but you're going to want time to be able to load those up to wherever you're hosting them and you'll want time for speakers to be late and they will be late. You need to plan for it. That's why I give myself three weeks, even though I give them three weeks ahead of time. There are always people sending me their presentations like the week before. It'll just happen. Be sure to plan for that. And then along with those things, the last part of speaker management is making it easy for them to spread the word about your summit. Your speakers are going to be a big part of your summit success.

The more they share, of course, the more visibility your summit will get. The easier you can make it for them to share the better results you'll see. So that includes things like giving them swipe copy both for emails and for social media. It includes giving them graphics. I even recommend giving them a schedule for when they should post each thing on social media or send each email, the less they have to think about it, the better results you are going to see from it.

Stage 5: Engagement planning + setup

Stage five is planning and setting up your engagement for the summit. With the engagement, I want you to think about how are you going to nurture attendees once they register for your summit. If you think about it, if your promotion period is two or three weeks ahead of time, someone could register on day one of that and totally forget about your summit by the time it actually rolls around.

You want to keep them excited and engaged before and during the event. There are a few ways I do this. First is with an email sequence. When someone registers for your summit, there should be a series of emails that goes out to them regularly until the summit starts. That's number one. Number two, as a Facebook group, like I said before, with the speaker Facebook group. It's a great way to keep in touch with everybody and have easy access to them. The same goes for your attendees. This is a place where you can keep them updated, keep them excited, get them talking to each other and to you and just generally keep them engaged in that Facebook group. I also like to do extra trainings, so once or twice a week and leading up to the summit, I will jump in the group and give them some kind of training that relates to the summit that is not a topic already covered by a speaker and they love that.

I try to keep it short and sweet so they can come in, interact with me and learn something new and talk to each other and get excited. Then they will be much more likely to participate in the future. I'm also not above a little bribery. I use engagement prizes throughout my event. Each day of the summit I keep track of who is participating in this speaker chatbox, who is posting in the Facebook group, who is shouting out speakers or supporting other attendees. Each day I draw a prize and at the end of the week I draw a grand prize and people love that. If you want to add in a little bribery, I give prizes away like books that are related to the segments topic. I have done hot seat sessions. You could do like a bonus workshops or trainings. You can make those prizes, whatever you want them to be.

The last way to really keep your attendees excited and engaged is genuinely connecting with them. This is really hard to do if you are running your summit solely through email. Since everything is crafted to go out to thousands of people, it makes the genuine connection harder. But if you have a Facebook group, you can be in there commenting back and forth to people one on one. And that means a lot. That's what's going to give you raving fans in your summit that gets everyone else excited. Those people are really great to have. Do not underestimate the power of connecting with somebody in your audience one-on-one. Those are a few ideas for what goes into engagement. I want you to take the time to plan it all out. So that's what goes into stage five, brainstorming these things, planning out what you need to do to make it happen and then you'll execute it all during the promotion period and during the summer itself.

Stage 6: Product planning, creation, and setup

Moving on to stage six, this is a product planning creation and set up. Summits are free to register for and they can access presentations for a limited time, but then there is an upsell afterwards. This portion includes deciding what you're going to sell. An all-access pass where they get lifetime access to your presentations is the most popular. There are all kinds of things you can do. Sell your own products and services, bundling things with your speakers. The options are really endless. The all access pass like I said, is the most popular option. You're also in this stage going to figure out your sales strategy. So where and how are you going to sell whatever it is you're selling. Things like leading up in your registration email sequence, maybe you're going to do special calls or lives and your group pitching it.

Maybe you are going to infuse a little something in your presentation pages to convince them to hop over. Think about things like price and price increases for pricing. I have seen price points anywhere from $19 to $400. You can experiment in there and base it off of how much value you think it's worth and what your attendees will pay. Then consider if you're going to have price increases. Also in this stage you're going to want to think about things like integrating with your website. Based on the platform you chose, you may be able to do this right on the website you're hosting your summit on or you might need something extra like Teachable or Teachery or Podia like I mentioned it before, but you'll want to get that set up integrated with the summit itself. Then comes the act of actually delivering the product once it's purchased.

So once someone clicks the button and buys, how are they going to get it? Do they need extra instructions? Is it delivered to their inbox? How do they log into wherever you decided to host this product? That is what all goes into product planning and creation and set up. I do want to mention a like stage 6.5 here, another way to monetize outside of a product and that is sponsors. Up until this point, as of recording this, I have not used sponsors myself. That's why I'm not going to talk about it too much, but I do want to mention it. This is where a company or business will pay you basically to get in front of your site's audience. You can do this in all kinds of different ways. I'm not going to dive into it more here, but it's something else you can consider if you want to.

Stage 7: Promotion

Stage seven is all about promotion. This is where all of the work in stages one through six become worth it. I recommend two to three weeks of promoting your summit before it starts. There are a few things you want to think about. First is your own promotion strategy. So are you going to promote to your email list and if so, how are you going to be promoting on your social media channels? Again, if so, how are you going to run Facebook ads or Pinterest ads or any other kinds of ads? You want to consider your own strategy first to convert your existing audience or if you're running ads, a cold audience. Then once you have that figured out and move on and think about your speakers, like I said earlier, you need to make it so easy for them to share.

Plan out and create your social media swipe copy, email swipe, copy graphics for them to use and a schedule for them to follow. Be sure to plan to send them reminders to share and then you can also utilize separate affiliates so your speakers aren't the only ones that can share about your summit. If there are other people with an audience similar to yours that maybe didn't want to be a speaker in your summit this round or you didn't think they were the best fit this round, you can still reach out to them to promote and get an affiliate commission for any sales that come in. Stage seven is getting all this promotion planned and getting those materials made.

Stage 8: Live event

Stage 8 of your summit is then the live event. Live summits are generally three to five days long. If this is your first summit, I do not recommend going over 20 speakers. You want to get used to how it all goes before going crazy with it and trust me, 20 speakers is plenty. I think that's how many I had for my first summit. I might've had 21. You can see great results with 20 speakers even if you are prepared.

Even if you've gone over everything we covered today, maybe you even buy some of my products to help you out. You know what you're doing. Plan to be busy during summit week. Do not plan anything else. Don't have any appointments to go to. If you can not have kids at home, even better. Plan to be very busy during these three to five days, you are going to get a lot of questions from your attendees. No matter how many places you answer them. The same goes for your speakers. If you have an answer for your speakers on the speaker information page and you sent out an email and you had it in the Facebook group, you're still going to have someone ask.

For example, how do I get to our presentation page? No matter what, someone's going to ask. I'd be ready for that. As for what to expect with the presentations, most summits have prerecorded presentations. That's what I recommend. That's what I will talk as if you are doing, but usually these prerecorded presentations go live one by one. Say 9:00 AM the first presentation goes live, 10:00 AM the second one goes live and you're going to have a chat box on there so your summit attendees can come and talk with your speakers live. Of course you're going to want to be there having every presentation playing and kind of facilitating that conversation if it needs somebody to facilitate it. At the very least you're just going to want to keep an eye on everything to make sure the tech is working well. Make sure everybody's playing like nice, all of that stuff and see if you're needed anywhere so that time is really busy.

Community engagement we talked about, but I just wanted to mention it here. You'll be giving away prizes and all that good stuff. I'm also going to lump in here with stage eight of the live event - an email sequence after the summit is over for any last minute sales, helping people make progress, we're going to consider that the same stage.

The live event is a busy week. Again, no matter how much planning you do ahead of time.

Stage 9: Event wrap-up

We're almost done! Stage nine is the event wrap up. This is going to include things like, for example, redirecting any pages. You don't want people to have access to any longer. If you don't want people registering for the summit after it's over, maybe you'll redirect that to a coming soon page.

If you don't want them being able to purchase the all access pass, you will again redirect back to an upcoming student page. As for your Facebook group, you have the choice of either archiving it and saving it for next time or making a new plan for it. If you've built this big engaged community, it's not a bad idea to use that as a new Facebook group for you to run your business out of. Basically use those warm leads where you can.

You also want to send a wrap up emails to attendees, but especially your speakers, so in the wrap up email you will thank them for their time. You will send any portion of the email list you've promised them, send affiliate payouts, all of that good stuff. You also want to tag your new subscribers, aka your summit attendees to get into any email funnel or anything like that.

You also want to take some time to review how it all went compared to your goals. If you had a goal set to maybe increase your email list by a certain amount and you didn't hit that, you want to take some time to think about why that was and maybe what you can do better next time. Or if you blew it out of the water, maybe you want to think, "Okay, how can I set more realistic goals and push myself a little bit harder next time?" Definitely take some time to do that.

Stage 10: Post-summit profits

Our last stage here, stage 10. I like to call it post-summit profits because that sounds fine, right? I want you to have a plan going in for what you are going to do with this new audience you've gained. I highly recommend launching something to them after nurturing them for a couple of weeks.

A summit is a lot to throw at them, so I don't recommend going straight into a launch. You definitely can. I've seen people do it, but I think it's a little bit better to send them a few weeks of a nurturing email sequence before you go into a pitch. This is a way to see a huge increase in profits. If you have a proven product or service funnel, there's a good chance that this is going to make way more than the summit itself dead. That's why I recommend doing it. If you don't have anything, pay attention during the summit for questions people still have and do something simple like a live workshop series that you can upsell them a couple of weeks after the summit is over. At the very, very least, keep them warm with emails. To get the most out of all the work you put into the summit, I recommend selling something paid.

I know this episode was a lot to cover, a lot to go over a lot of process, but I hope it at least gives you a better idea of what our goal is into a summit. From here you can go listen to the individual episodes that cover those specific things and get more step-by-step strategies.

The Recap

The 10 stages were goal setting and planning, your website and tech set up, speaker outreach, speaker management, engagement planning and set up product planning, creation and set up promotion, the live event, the event wrap up and post summit profits. For your action steps, I want you to take the first step and do some summit planning. Consider what type of audience you'd love to host the summit for and what problem you want to solve for them. Give yourself time to think about it. Don't rush it.

Even if you do a little brainstorming right now, say five minutes, that might be what you need to have your light bulb moment the next time you are driving your car or in the shower or something like that.

In the next episode we are going to be chatting about my $22,000 summit to give you an idea of what's possible for a service based business with a small email list. If that does not describe you, if you're not a service based business or you have a big email list, this is still a great episode for you because it's going to show you what's possible for you.

For now, I want you to go take action to plan, strategize, and launch your profitable online summit to help get your free copy of the Virtual Summit Prep Timeline, giving yourself the right amount of time to plan and launch your summit is vital to creating a successful event rather than one that looks kind of thrown together.

As you probably realize with today's episode, a timing is everything with my free Virtual Summit Prep Timeline that you can see the amount of time I recommend setting aside for summit - my top tips. We'll look at the big picture tasks and even a timeline calculator to make sure you plan everything right the first time. Get the Virtual Summit Prep Timeline by going to summithosthangout.com/timeline.


View related episodes >>


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.