Virtual Summits vs. Challenges: Why I won't stop doing either anytime soon

challenges making money Jan 09, 2024

Ready for another marketing strategy showdown? 

In previous podcast episodes, we've compared bundles with summits and free summits with paid conferences. Today we’ll compare virtual summits to challenges! I ran one of each, just a few months apart, so the timing was perfect for doing a true head-to-head comparison.

On the surface, these strategies might look similar, but they serve totally different purposes in your business. 

Today, we're going to cover...

  • What a challenge is
  • The difference between summits and challenges
  • Why I decided to run a challenge and have used them consistently in my businesses for years
  • My favorite and least favorite things about the challenge strategy
  • How the results compare
  • How to know which strategy is right for you

Want to get a full behind-the-scenes look at my experience with challenges? Click here to register for my free training on how I use challenges between summits to add $100k+ to my business each year.

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What is a Challenge?

Challenges are typically 3-5 days long with one person hosting it. The point of the challenge is to help your audience make progress toward a specific desire.

You do that through daily trainings and action steps to help the audience learn and make progress each day.

There is generally a community aspect where participants can get feedback from the host, ask questions, and cheer each other on. 

The last day is usually a webinar with an opportunity to buy your offer.

To give you an example...

My signature challenge, Start Your Summit That Sells, helps people get started with their summit planning since “getting started” is something people consistently reference as a struggle.

Over the course of the first four days, we go over mindset, set goals so they get excited about what’s possible, choose an audience and topic, choose a date, and create a basic timeline to build momentum.

From there, people have what they need to continue the process and our program is the natural and very helpful next step for those who want to continue.

Why I Host Challenges When Summits Are My Thing

Anytime I try something new, I'm questioned about why I'm doing such-and-such strategy if summits are so great.

The truth is, summits, challenges, and so many other strategies serve totally different purposes in your business. For me, summits are my core momentum builder and bring in more leads, revenue, and connections than anything else. And then challenges are my lower-lift way of engaging with my audience and generating revenue between summits.

Overall, I love challenges because...

  • We've done them before so it's an easy rinse-and-repeat for me at this point
  • I get to help people overcome a sticky area of the summit hosting process so they can get started confidently.
  • People can ask me questions in a set container. One of our team members often points out that our audience really just wants chances to talk to me and get their questions answered, and this is a place they can do that. It works for me because there are limits around what they can ask and get my direct feedback on.
  • It effectively converts our existing audience so it’s a fairly quick way for us to get a cash injection while engaging our audience and providing value

Where Challenges Differ From Summits

The goals of challenges are far different than the goals of summits. In most cases, when you’re looking to make a big splash in your business, a summit is what you want to do. I'll break down a few of the biggest differences...

List growth

A primary benefit of hosting virtual summits is the list growth aspect. Most summits bring in thousands of new subscribers.

On the flip side, a challenge is not nearly as much of a list growth strategy as a summit. There are some people out there who do teach challenges as a way to grow your list, but I’ve just never seen it have that kind of effect for us without spending quite a bit on ads. For my most recent challenge, we grew our list a bit, but only 50 of those were NOT from paid ads.


One of my favorite parts about summits is the fact that I get to nurture 15-30 connections through having speakers and bring them alongside me to promote and benefit through the event That also has ongoing benefits because you then have relationships with those people, which leads to so many more opportunities down the road.

...but that’s not how a challenge works!

Sure, you could bring speakers on…buuut then you’ve turned your challenge into a summit. 😉

Revenue from the event itself

And then, last, where a summit makes money on its own through an all-access pass, a challenge doesn’t do that. You could try to add in an all-access pass or do a paid challenge, let me know how it goes if you do, but with the general model, it’s just your offer at the end that makes you money.

The stakes are a little bit lower with a challenge because they’re easier to pull together on a short timeline, especially once you’ve done it once. And typically when I launch through a summit, I generate at least the same amount of sales as I do with a challenge. Add in the AAP revenue on top of that and it all adds up. Not to mention giving the piece of mind that you’ve already made a profit before the summit even starts and you’re adding thousands more leads.

You can hear more about my thoughts on funding your launches AND turning a profit with a virtual summit here.

But if you’re looking for a relatively quick and easy way to engage, serve, and make money from your existing audience, challenges are great for that.

How the results compare

Overall, both of these strategies are strong, but I’m going to do a quick comparison of the results from a summit and challenge I ran 3 months apart to give you a more concrete idea. 


I saw higher engagement with my challenge because I put myself in a position to be able to engage more. With my summits, I do a couple of live videos here and there, but the live videos aren’t the point. When I’m showing up on live video every day during a challenge and bribing participants with prizes to then go post in a thread with their homework, that brings up some great engagement.

I do think a summit brings a different type of engagement, but if you’re looking for 1:1 engagement with you, I’d say a challenge is a bit stronger. 

List growth

List growth was the biggest difference between the two. I did run ads for both the challenge and the summit, but we saw 7x more list growth in our summit than in our challenge - or as a percentage, the challenge brought in 14% of the new subscribers that the summit did. That’s simply because having speakers promoting as a part of your summit is so incredibly powerful.

So where I wouldn’t consider a challenge a list-building strategy, a summit absolutely is!


However, I would consider them both great revenue-generation strategies IF you have an existing audience for the challenge to generate revenue with or money for ads.

Our challenge, even though it didn’t bring in nearly as many leads, brought in 82% of the launch revenue that the summit did because it was effective at converting our existing audience. And a disclaimer on that that we have a decent-sized email list. Without the email list, we’d have needed to rely on ad spend to get results.

So, overall, both strategies are really effective at the things they’re designed to be effective for and at least for me, way more effective than just running straight ads, spending hours making Reels, creating other content, doing podcast interviews, etc. Not to say that those things aren’t worth doing! Just that if you’re looking for something that will bring results quickly, those things aren’t it.

Know which strategy is right for you

So overall, both of these strategies are wonderful, but you need to know which is right for you at any given time. 

I love summits for bringing in a ton of leads, revenue, visibility, engagement, and connections with industry experts.

And I love challenges for keeping engagement and revenue up between summits..

They’re the perfect match!

A challenge is best for you right now if…

  • You’re looking to test a new offer you want to launch. A challenge is easier and quicker to launch so if you need something to test with, go with a challenge.
  • You have an existing audience and are looking to re-engage them or generate revenue as quickly as possible.

You can choose either a summit or a challenge if…

  • You have an existing audience and you’re looking to launch a proven offer.
  • You’re looking for something to create engagement with your audience - you just need to be a little more mindful that you’re building that into a summit.

And a summit is best for you if…

  • You want to grow your email list by hundreds or thousands.
  • You want to generate revenue without much of an existing audience or with an audience that you kind of feel is burned out.
  • You want to make connections and get visible.

To dive deeper into that and learn how I can help, I’m hosting a live strategy session next week to share more details about how I generate an extra 6 figures in revenue every year between summits with challenges and breaking down all kinds of details. I’d love to see you there! This training can also help if you’re still not sure if a challenge or summit is right for you right now.

And if a summit is coming up as the right move for you right now, I’d recommend that you dive into our Summit to Sales Training series.



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