There are a lot of marketing strategies that we all "need" to be doing consistently. Content creation, social media interaction, webinars, email marketing, challenges...I could go on.
There are two problems with those strategies:
If you're anything like me, you want a bigger email list, increased revenue, and expert status, like, yesterday.
That is what a virtual summit comes in. With a single virtual summit, you have the potential to...
You can do it all with a single event, without being a huge influencer.
Before my first summit, I had less than 500 people on my email list and I was making about $3-4k/month. My first summit tripled my email list, quadrupled my normal monthly income, and booked out my services for 6 months.
Sounds pretty great, right?
Let's get you started on the right path and cover the 10 stages of how to host a virtual summit.
As an overview, these 10 stages include:
Keep in mind that these stages don't necessarily happen sequentially. For example, while you're managing your speakers (Stage 4), you'll also be setting up your tech (Stage 2), planning for engagement (Stage 5), and more.
Let's dive in with Stage 1 which is setting your online summit goals and doing some initial planning.
And I know it's tempting, but please, don't skip this step.
What you come up with here will truly make or break your summit success. It will decide whether you host a virtual summit that makes a couple hundred dollars versus an event that makes tens of thousands of dollars.
It really does matter that. much. But while this stage is vitally important, it doesn't need to be difficult.
There are a few pieces to consider when seeing your goals:
Take the time to think this through. These goals will come up many times throughout your summit planning process and setting them now will let you make decisions more efficiently.
There are several things to consider with the initial planning of your summit including:
This is where you'll decide what audience your summit is targeted to and what problem it's going to solve for them.
When you get specific with this, your summit will stand apart from the rest and your conversion rates will skyrocket.
To put it into perspective, consider a wedding planner scrolling through Facebook. Which summit ad is more likely to catch her attention?
Big difference, right?
This will make the difference between industry-standard summit conversion rates of 3-5% versus the conversion rates that my Summit in a Box® students see of 15%+.
After deciding on your niche and topic is when you can set the date.
When selecting when your summit will run, there are a few things to keep in mind:
A couple of these are generalizations, but they should all be taken into consideration.
The last part of your initial planning includes mapping out the rest of your summit planning and launch timeline.
Since hosting a virtual summit is a big project, this can get overwhelming, but I recommend working backward.
Choose your start date and work backward to set due dates for all of your big-picture tasks. And give yourself 90 days! (Get a virtual summit timeline calculator here >>)
I know it's tempting to rush the process, but doing it right will get you significantly better results than throwing something up as quickly as possible. (I've seen it sooo many times)
Keep in mind that this 90-day minimum isn't just for you. Consider that you also need time to:
I have a freebie to help you out with your timeline planning that will:
Let's dive into stage two, which involves your summit website and tech setup.
This is the part that tends to be the most overwhelming because there are so many summit tech options and there is no "right" option.
Really, the "right" option depends on:
My personal platforms of choice are WordPress.org and Kajabi.
Because of this, my top recommendation is to use whatever platform(s) you already use for your business. Hear more about this in my podcast episode with Jaime Slutzky from Tech of Business.
The main features to be sure you include are:
This is just scratching the surface as far as the website and tech go, but hopefully, it starts getting your wheels turning.
And remember, this doesn't need to be done before you can move onto Stage 3, but it's helpful to have it in the process. Bonus points if you can have the registration page as complete as possible before you begin pitching speakers.
Next comes speaker outreach, which I like to plan a full month for whenever I can. In this stage, I recommend that you complete the following steps:
Once you have your speakers lined up, you'll see that pitching was actually the easy part.
The hard part is managing them and there are a couple of aspects to keep in mind.
Once your speakers have confirmed, you'll need to get some basic information from them to include on your registration page, in your summit schedule, etc. This information includes things like their name, title, website address, headshot, and planned presentation title.
And if you find that it's difficult to gather this information from them, you're definitely not alone.
A tool I've found that makes this process so much easier is Content Snare. It lets you create template forms to send each speaker, which is great. But the magical part is that it takes care of all of the follow-ups FOR you.
So if a speaker hasn't provided their information and the deadline is approaching, it will send follow-up emails (that you've scripted) for you. Once someone fills out their information, it stops emailing them. And you can set it up to send reminders as often as you'd like. All you have to do is set it and forget it.
Learn more about how I make the content gathering process easy here.
Along with collecting your speakers' basic information, it's important 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 engaged you can keep them during this time, the more likely it is that you'll 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 keep my speakers engaged with a private Facebook group. I have all my speakers join and that's where I can go in about once per week and share updates, give encouragement and shout out anyone who has turned in their presentation early.
Since we just mentioned keeping speakers engaged to increase the chance that you'll get their presentations when you need them, I'll let you in on a little secret.
Make the presentation due date at least three weeks in advance.
I know, it sounds crazy, but you need time...
And they WILL be late. 100% chance.
Finally, the last major part of the speaker management process is making promotion as easy as possible. The easier it is for them to spread the word about your summit, the more they will.
You can make promotion easy for your speakers by providing:
The less they have to think about it, the better results you are going to see from it.
Stage 5 is planning and implementing your engagement plan for the summit. With engagement, I want you to think about how you'll nurture attendees once they register.
Keep in mind, your promotion period is 2-3 weeks long. Someone could register on Day 1 of that and totally forget about your summit by the time it actually rolls around.
Your goal with engagement is to keep attendees excited and engaged before and during the event. There are a few ways I do this:
So brainstorming these aspects, planning out what you need to do to make it happen, and implementing is what goes into Stage 5.
Next up is Stage 6, which is all about your sales strategy! For most hosts, this will be sales of your all-access pass.
Summits are free to register for and, with that free registration, attendees can access presentations for a limited time, and then there is an upsell afterward. Typically, the upsell is an all-access pass, but that's up to you to decide at this stage.
With an all-access pass, attendees get extended access to the summit presentations along with any bonuses you'd like to add.
Once you decide what to offer, it's time to determine how you'll sell it. For example, maybe leading your post-registration email sequence will include occasional pitches or you'll do a promotion at the end of your kickoff call.
Also, consider your price and what kinds of price increases you'll do. I've seen all-access passes priced anywhere from $19 to $400. Base your pricing on how much value you think it's worth - don't sell yourself short!
And last, you'll set up the tech for your offer. Based on the platform you chose to run your summit on, you may be able to do this all in the same place (which is, of course, ideal).
Otherwise, you may need something extra like Teachable, Teachery, Podia.
Then comes the act of actually delivering the product once it's purchased. Once someone clicks the button and buys, how are they going to access it?
It's a lot to consider, but SO worth it! Hear all about how I made $60,000 with an all-access pass in my 2020 summit here.
Stage 7 is all about promoting the event you've worked so hard to create. This is where all of the work in Stages 1-6 becomes worth it!
I recommend allowing 2-3 weeks for promoting a virtual summit. There are a few pieces of promotion to consider:
Overall, in Stage 7, you'll make your marketing plan, create the resources, schedule your own promotion, and distribute resources to speakers and affiliates.
Learn more about how to promote your virtual summit here.
You made it to the live event! This is where transformation happens.
Like we mentioned earlier, live summits are generally 3-5 days long and if this is your first summit you'll want to stay around 20 speakers.
Even if you've gone over everything we covered today, grab my templates to help, and feel like you know exactly what you're doing, plan to be BUSY during summit week.
Do not plan anything else. Don't have any appointments to go to. Don't have anything else on your to-do list.
You'll be answering a ton of questions, engaging with attendees, supporting speakers, watching for (and fixing) tech glitches, and more.
If you'll have chat boxes on your presentation pages, you or a team member will need to be present in each one to moderate the chat and make sure your attendees are feeling well-supported.
The live event is a busy week. No matter how much planning you do ahead of time. (But it's SO worth it)
We're almost done! Stage 9 is the event wrap-up.
Wrapping up a virtual summit includes things like:
This one is fun. Just because your summit is over doesn't mean you're done making money.
I highly recommend launching a related offer to them once your summit is over. You can either:
This is an insanely effective way to get even more out of your summit and it works for any business model. Check out the resources below for more details specific to what you offer:
If you don't have anything to sell after your summit, I've got a simple strategy for you. Pay attention during the summit for questions that come up that aren't answered in a presentation. Then, create something simple like a paid workshop or workshop series that you can host live a couple of weeks after the summit. It's simple for you to set up and a great way to get an extra income boost.
I know this was a lot to cover and quite the process. But my hope is that it has given you a better idea of what all goes into a profitable and successful virtual summit.
From here, dive into the resources linked throughout the post to take the strategies even deeper and get to work with your summit planning!
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.