Regardless of whether you're tech-savvy or want to bang your head on your desk just thinking about it software platforms, tech for a virtual summit can be intimidating - there are so many options!
As you've probably realized, a virtual summit requires a lot of different tools. If you’re not familiar with the process, you’ll find yourself running into one thing after another that you didn’t realize you needed.
To make the process go more smoothly, let's do an overview of the tech you need for virtual summits. We'll cover:
Some of the links in my recommendations are affiliate links.
Let’s start with a quick overview of the types of tech you need, and then we'll break each of them down.
The big pieces of tech to consider include:
It sounds like a lot...and it is. But if you take another look at the list, you probably have a lot of those covered already. In addition, quite a few can be combined into one platform and there are a few that are optional.
If you find yourself overwhelmed as we go through these, stop and come back later or work through one piece at a time.
Lastly, we have tutorials for the tech inside of our Summit in a Box® program.
Alright, let's jump in and break each of these down.
First is an event hosting platform which is where your summit itself is hosted. This is where attendees go to interact with the event and watch presentations.
The options for where you can host your event are endless!
There are all kinds of platforms out there specifically for running virtual events or you can use a regular website or course hosting platform to put your summit together.
But on the flip side, you’re limited by what the creator of that software thinks an event should look like and how it should function. You'll likely run into roadblocks with things you want to do.
All of my summits up to this point have been hosted on WordPress.
However, if I started over from scratch, I would use Kajabi. I love the freedom of both of these platforms, but Kajabi is easier to use overall.
We have WordPress and Kajabi summit templates and tech tutorials inside of Summits in a Box® to make setup easy.
The good news is that you can use whatever you're already using for your main business website. And, in a lot of cases, your event hosting and website platform can be the same.
Since all of my summits are on WordPress, all of my pages are on there too. I use the Beaver Builder Plugin. If I were starting from scratch, I would use Kajabi because it's easy to use and you can do so many of the things we're covering today in one place.
However, my recommendation to you is to use what you're already using and comfortable with.
Next, let's cover your video hosting platform. This is the place that stores all of your summit’s presentations, registration page videos, and any other videos you end up creating.
A lot of times, this can be the same as your event hosting and website platform.
For example, if you're using a platform like Kajabi or a course platform like Teachable, you can upload your videos right to those places.
However, if you're on WordPress, you don’t want to upload that many videos to your website, so you do need an external platform.
My favorite place to host videos externally is Vimeo. They have all kinds of settings to control your video privacy, customized branding, add calls to action, and more. However, you do have to be on their business plan to use it for a summit. As of right now, that plan’s $50 per month. It's not cheap, but once you start hosting summits, that feels worth it.
The next piece we'll cover is your cart or e-commerce software, which you use to sell your all-access pass.
When an attendee clicks the "buy" button on your all-access pass sales page, they'll be brought to your cart to complete the checkout process.
Like everything else we've talked about, if you're already using a cart platform to sell things in your business, you can use that.
However, if you're looking for something new or something with more features, I recommend ThriveCart. It's a one-time fee, and they have so many great features, many of which directly increased sales in my most recent summit.
For those of you with Summit in a Box®, we have a full setup tutorial for you.
Next, right along with your cart software, comes affiliate management software. This is the software that will allow you to track which speakers and affiliates referred customers so that they can receive a commission on those sales.
Most cart platforms will also have affiliate management built-in, which makes this nice and easy.
If you’re on WordPress and using WooCommerce as your cart software, I’d recommend the AffiliateWP plugin.
Otherwise, ThriveCart is the clear winner if you need something else.
One warning about ThriveCart: When an affiliate copies their link and pastes it into their browser it redirects to a prettier version of that link. Naturally, many affiliates grab that shorter and prettier link to share with their audience. However, as of October 2021, that shorter and prettier link does not track affiliate sales. I learned that the hard way, as have other summit hosts. Make sure you’re affiliates understand they have to use the original version of the link or use a tool like bit.ly to shorten it.
Next up is the private member's only area. This is a guarded access members area or course platform for all-access pass buyers. It's where they'll go to access their videos on an ongoing basis, bonuses, worksheets, and anything else that was included in their purchase.
If you're selling a course and already have a member's area set up for your business, just use the same thing for your summit.
If you don't already have something and you’re on WordPress, I recommend LearnDash.
Next is a countdown timer. In order to increase all-access pass sales with limited-time offers, you need a countdown timer. This tool should both display a countdown timer and redirect people once an offer has expired, whether that’s a price increase, cart close, or something else.
I’m a huge fan of Deadline Funnel for this, and I’ll probably never use anything else. It’s affordable, reliable, and easy to use.
If you’re on WordPress and don't want to use Deadline Funnel, you can look into HurryTimer. There’s a free and paid version.
If you’re on Kajabi, you can use their built-in timer features.
For those of you with Summit in a Box®, we have full tutorials on using Deadline Funnel and Kajabi's built-in features.
You’ll also need an email marketing platform to manage and communicate with attendees.
When someone registers for your summit, you'll segment or tag them as having done so, and send a registration email sequence. You'll then communicate with them throughout the summit about what's happening each day and follow up after the summit is over.
If you’re starting from scratch or want something new and robust, I recommend ConvertKit.
Next up, let's talk about live calls. If you're incorporating live calls or videos into your summit, you'll need a platform for that as well.
For interactive live calls, where I want my attendees to able to unmute and talk, I keep it simple with Zoom. It can even do breakout rooms for networking sessions. It’s easy and everyone knows how to use it.
StreamYard is another great option for going live into a Facebook group. Some summit hosts record speaker interviews on there as well. Their video quality is better than Zoom, too.
This next one is totally optional, but if you're hosting a summit with at least 2000 attendees, a live chatbox on pre-recorded presentation pages can be a great way to increase engagement.
My favorite tech tool for that is Chatroll, and you only need to buy it for a month since you only need it while your summit is live. It's affordable, reliable, and easy to use.
Upfront it can feel expensive (I use the $199/month plan for pre-recorded summits with about 6500 people), but the reliability is worth it compared to other tools.
Next, let's cover getting captions and transcripts made to make your summits videos more accessible.
I’ve used Rev and Temi in the past, but now my team uses Descript. They’re machine-generated transcripts that you can edit and then export both as transcripts and closed captions all-in-one. Otter.ai is another option, similar to Descript.
Next, let’s talk about collecting and storing speaker information. If you don't have a solid system for getting speaker information and storing it, it’ll be a stressful mess.
Luckily, there are tools to make it nice and easy.
Personally, I'm a big fan of a tool called Content Snare. It not only collects and stores information from your speakers, but it follows up with them as well.
If you message Content Snare before you buy and let them know that you're an event host, they'll give you their Team plan for the price of their Startup plan.
You only need it for about 3 months, depending on your summits timeline, but I really love Content Snare.
If you don't want to use a tool like that and don't want your follow-up automated, I would just use Airtable. You can use it to both create forms for speakers to fill out and store the collected information in a nice, easy-to-use table.
We do have Content Snare and Airtable tutorials and templates inside of Summit in a Box®.
Next up is something that not everybody will need, but if you're scheduling interviews with speakers or you want them to choose when they're available for a presentation, you'll need a scheduling calendar.
There are a couple of great options out there, but I personally use Acuity. I love that you can make a special calendar just for speakers with specific dates and times open.
Calendly is another popular option, but I've never used it myself.
The last thing we'll cover is file storage and you probably already have a tool you use for this. For a summit, you'll need a place to store and share speaker promotion material, presentations, and more.
I use Google Drive for any files I need to share with my team or speakers for summits because it's so easy to use and share access with.
I do use Dropbox in my business as well and always have a few speakers that share their presentations on there.
Your action step is to get at least one tech choice out of your way. If there’s a tech piece you don’t have a solution for, do a little research and make a decision.
If you have questions, hop over to the Summit Host Hangout Facebook group and ask in there. My team and I jump in and answer questions daily and there are so many other summit hosts in there that have used all kinds of different platforms. It’s a great place to learn about a tool you might not have known about.
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.