How Virtual Summits Evolved in 2022 and What It Means For Your Next Event

No strategy works exactly the same way forever, and the same applies to virtual summits. Today I share the biggest ways I've seen virtual summits evolve in 2022.

If there’s one thing I can say for certain about 2022, it’s that this year was full of transitions. So many things changed in terms of what’s working and not working in online business this year, and I know we’re not the only ones who have been experimenting and evolving as the industry changes.

As much as I’d love to say that summits are immune to the shifts we’re seeing in the wider online business industry, the truth is that summits have evolved a ton this year!

This week, in the final Summit Host Hangout episode of 2022, I’m sharing the shifts and changes I’ve seen with summits this year, from speaker relationships to attendee experience to standing out as the summit space gets more crowded. I also share the shifts I see coming as we head into the new year, and what it means for future summit hosts.

This year was far from easy, but it was a great year for us in terms of the number of summits we were directly involved within 2022. With the launch of the Accelerator this year, we’ve gotten to work with our clients in a much more hands-on way. This means being involved in strategic decisions making and having a deeper look behind-the-scenes of our client's summits than we’ve ever had before.

Between coaching our clients in the Accelerator, running 2 summits and a virtual conference of our own, and taking on a full summit production client, we’ve been directly involved in over 50 virtual events this year! And that’s not even including the countless summits our students hosted in 2022. Needless to say, I’ve seen A LOT this year. Keep reading to learn the biggest evolutions I’ve seen in the virtual summit space this year, then head over to the Summit Host Hangout Facebook group to let us know what changes you’ve seen.

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Download the episode transcript here.

Virtual Summits Have Changed Quite A Bit

A word of warning before diving into this post: I’ve noticed several changes in terms of what works and what doesn’t with virtual summits, and many of these changes make running a successful summit more challenging than it was in the past. I don’t want you to think of this as bad news! I actually see it as good news for those of us who are really willing to use summits as a long-term strategy, take them seriously, and make sure that we're running our events well. That being said, let's dive into these changes!

5-Day events are no longer the standard

The first change I've noticed is that five-day events, packed with sessions all day, every day, are just too much these days. People no longer want to be at five days of sessions all day, and they're just not going to do it. You’ll notice when hosting these long events that every single day your engagement gets lower, and lower and lower.

I think if you are in a B2C niche, with an audience that is not business owners, you have a bit of a better chance at that working for you. The summit we’re producing for our client in January actually is a full 5-day summit for a very engaged B2C summit, so I do still think longer events can have a time and place depending on the circumstances. But the trend is definitely moving toward shorter events, and I think for most people, you’ll find that five days jam-packed with presentations is going to be too much for you and your audience.

We experienced this with our March event for design business owners, and by the end, it was like a ghost town. I felt so bad for our speakers who were on that day, because we had chat boxes, and there was very little happening there by the end. This was a big change from the previous year, where we did see a little bit of a drop off day after day, but there were still like super engaged excited people left at the end. This time, it just wasn't like that.

What we’re doing differently:

For our December event, instead of a long 5-day event, we had really only two days of pre-recorded speaker sessions, and then day three was a day of live sessions that I led. We also didn't do chat boxes, and instead gave attendees opportunities to connect with speakers in the Facebook group for the summit. That’s not to say that chat boxes are no longer working, but for our audience for that event of more advanced business owners, we knew they’d be more likely to watch on their own time or listen when they could rather than waiting to be in the chat at a specific time.

Overall, shorter events are where it's at right now and the longer events that we're working in 2020 are just a little bit much these days.

Standing out is more important than ever

The next change I've seen is that there are more summits happening, which means it’s harder to make your event stand out. I have always preached the power of having a specific audience and topic for your event, but I've seen it become even more important over the past year because more people are seeing the power of summits and hosting them for themselves.

With the online summit space getting more crowded, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out, especially if you're a B2B business owner. You have to do something unique and specific with your summit positioning in order for people to notice it and be excited about speaking at or signing up for your event. A summit teaching online business owners to grow their business has never been able to really stand out, but in the last year, we’ve seen even more specific B2B summit niches struggle to gain traction. Events focused on growing your audience or getting leads for a specific industry have become less and less because they’re becoming more common. You have to do something to stand out with your event!

Speaker promotion isn’t a given

The third thing I've noticed is that a lot of people are having a hard time getting speakers to promote. We experienced this some in our March event, and we’ve also seen it with several of our clients and students who struggled to get speakers to promote their events.

Knowing this, we made changes when it came time to pitch speakers for our December summit. We didn't mess around with our promotion requirements and made it very clear right in our pitches, in our basic information form, and in our speaker agreement that we needed our speakers to promote.

We’ve never had hard promotion requirements before, but this time around I felt comfortable doing it because we have a larger email list, and I know I’ll be bringing an audience to the event too.

I have mixed feelings about promotion requirements for first-time summit hosts with a really small audience because you can’t guarantee that you’re going to bring an audience as well. So I don’t necessarily recommend having strict requirements for first-time hosts, but just know that getting speakers to promote might be a little harder in the beginning.

There are things you can do to encourage promotion without strict requirements!

The best way to encourage your speakers to promote is by treating them well and making sure they have a great speaker experience. A few ways you could do this are by:

  • Creating custom emails or videos for speakers to use in their promotion
  • Sending speakers gifts during the promotion period
  • Tagging speakers on social media

Overall, my best advice is to make it your personal responsibility to make it easy for speakers to promote and encourage and support them throughout the promotion period. Keep in mind though, that there’s a difference between making it easy, and badgering and harassing your speakers! The goal is always encouragement and support.

Engagement in summit communities is down

The next thing I have noticed in 2022 is more of an issue for B2B summits than B2C, but for summits aimed at business owners, we’ve noticed the summit communities and Facebook groups being a lot quieter this year.

If you run a B2B business, you're just going to have a little more resistance to getting the big growth and results we saw from summits in 2020 and 2021. In general, we’ve seen lower community engagement, fewer people opening emails, and fewer people on kickoff calls and other live sessions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - it’s true for every type of launch strategy or promotion that not everyone who signed up is going to be engaged! But you need to know about it and plan for it going in.

I think this also speaks to the need to have a well-positioned event that stands out and provides people with a clear and specific reason to participate. You can't be lazy about throwing together a Facebook community and calling it good anymore. People aren’t going to join and participate in a summit community just because it’s a private community. They need to have a reason to join. Especially B2B audiences who are already in a ton of other Facebook groups, or who are a little more resistant to Facebook these days in general.

In the end, it all comes back to giving people a reason to engage and making sure your attendees see a clear and specific benefit they’ll get by participating in your summit community.

People see the power of summits now more than ever

Finally a more positive change! People are starting to see the power of summits more than they ever have before. We are seeing speakers who I wouldn’t expect to say yes, and agree to speak at events with a good pitch. We’re also seeing more sponsorship opportunities being given and accepted by like industry peers. In the past, it used to be only huge businesses that would pay to sponsor only certain types of events. But now we’re seeing smaller business owners see the opportunity in sponsoring and speaking at summits.

I think it’s so cool that people are seeing the power of these events. Relationships are still very important in securing speakers and aligned sponsors for your event, but with that being said, if you're in an industry where you know, people are familiar with summits, they generally see the power of them.

Of course, there will always be people who are against summits for one reason or another, maybe they don't fit in their promotion strategy or business model, and that's fine. But overall, people see the power and not having to pay money to get in front of a really well-targeted summit audience, and with a well-positioned event, people will want to participate in it.

The standards are higher for your all-access pass

For this next evolution, I could say that all-access pass conversion rates are down, but the reality is that it’s more about what’s in the all-access pass than conversion rates being down overall. Just like with the other aspects of your summit, your all-access pass needs to stand out and give people a reason to purchase in order to see the high-conversion rates we aim for.

You need to have super relevant and valuable bonuses that are connected to the goal of the event included in your all-access pass. If your summit is focused on helping people overcome a certain struggle, your bonuses need to be related to that same topic in some way. It can't be something totally random that’s not related to your summit.

One way to address this would be to ask your speakers to make sure their all-access pass contributions are related to the summit topic, or even suggest specific offers of theirs that you think would make a good all-access pass bonus. Also, don't be afraid to edit the bonus descriptions that your speakers give to make sure that everything is clear and that the description ties into the summit topic.

You need to be louder when launching with a summit

The last big change that we've noticed is that if you’re using your summit to launch a signature offer on the back end, you need to be louder about your launch. We completely reworked our Summit to Course Launch strategy and course content this year and have been working with our Accelerator clients to make sure their launch gets the attention it deserves during and after their summits.

You need to make sure everybody who’s participating in your summit knows your launch is happening, and not hide the fact that you’re launching something. Even if someone didn't show any interest, including a PS in an email to make sure they know about the offer is a really great thing to do, and giving them the option to opt into the launch also works well. We cover the whole strategy in our Launch with a Summit Accelerator!

If you're ready to host a high-converting virtual summit to replace your slow-growth marketing strategies, and use it to lead into your biggest course launch yet, I've got an exclusive training just for you. This training is for those who are interested in working with me in our Launch with a Summit Accelerator where we help our clients host life and business-changing virtual summits that lead to successful course launches. In the free private training. I'll show you exactly how it works along with all kinds of examples. Apply for an invite to the Launch with a Summit Accelerator today!

How To Move Forward As Summits Continue To Evolve

We’ve covered a lot of changes with virtual summits, and I know that a lot of these changes might sound like bad news, but I honestly don’t see it that way.

For me personally, I think of it as a fun challenge and puzzle that my team and I get to tackle. But overall, it means that events that are not put together well are going to struggle, but well-planned, positioned, and executed events are going to stand out. This is why we are so passionate about the clients we get to work with and the strategies we use. We know that our strategies work, and if something stops being as effective, we know how to look at it and make tweaks for the way people are interacting with events right now.

When you really dedicate yourself to hosting a good event and doing it in the right way, you're going to be able to stand out and see results. It's the events that are not put together well, because the host doesn’t know what they’re doing or they try to put the event together in a couple of weeks, that are going to struggle.

Having a community where you can stay up to date on what’s working and not working with summits is always helpful too. And I love that we get to take our Accelerator clients right along with us to experiment in different niches and help them get the best results.

Shifting the focus to repeat events

Another shift that I’ve seen happening, which I think is necessary with the way summits have evolved this year, is thinking about summits as more of a big-picture business strategy rather than a one-time event.

We’ve seen plenty of people go into their summits with the goal of hitting six figures from their first event, and if that didn’t happen, they gave up. When you stop after one summit, you miss out on so many opportunities.

Hosting a recurring event that you build on every time pays off so much for the host in the long run. We have seen these events get bigger and better every time, and literally fuel people's businesses with leads and sales between events.

We want you to make money and see good results from your very first summit, but I always encourage our clients that no matter what their first summit results were, that’s not the final result their summit is going to get. I like to think of it as an opportunity to build over time because summits are a long-term strategy for your business that can pay off over and over again.

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No strategy works exactly the same way forever, and the same applies to virtual summits. Today I share the biggest ways I've seen virtual summits evolve in 2022.No strategy works exactly the same way forever, and the same applies to virtual summits. Today I share the biggest ways I've seen virtual summits evolve in 2022.
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