Creating my first virtual summit was one of the most exhilarating, time intensive, exhausting and emotionally roller coaster-y times in my business.
It was the first time that I truly reached out to connect with people who I’d fan-girled over, and it’s been one of the most impactful ways I’ve personally found my voice as an influencer myself.
Creating a virtual summit is nerve wracking, discouraging, and incredibly intimidating, but after coming out of it alive, I promise it’ll be one of the most rewarding projects you’ll ever create.
Why host a virtual summit?
The benefits of a summit are threefold:
The audience gets powerful education for free
The audience benefits from FREE, valuable information and education, specific to their business.
In our summits, we have each of our speakers provide a free opt-in workbook, checklist, or some sort of bonus material to accompany their presentation as actionable collateral. It’s also a way for our speakers and attendees to start to build that tribe together.
The speakers get exposure to a new audience
The speaker's benefit from the exposure to a new or already warm market. Video is everything currently and watching presentations by real people creates that know, love and trust relationship so much faster than blogging or podcasting or social-mediaing.
Each speaker grew their email list through the free opt-ins they provided and we also give them the ability to run Facebook ads for the summit as a way to collect even more email addresses for their own list.
Speakers also have the chance to earn a commission from sales of the All-Access Pass (which we’ll talk about in a sec) and, lastly, their own authority will increase due to being presented alongside other influencers.
Attendees and speakers will see you (the host) as a catalyst for positive change
As the host, you’re the coordinator of events, the bringer-togetherer of these influential people. Without you, the event wouldn’t have taken place. This means you’ll find people are exceedingly grateful for all that you do.
Hosting a summit is a huge time and energy commitment and people understand and appreciate your willingness and ability to give back to your community in such a generous way.
After all, people love free and valuable information.
The host also benefits from new relationships – not only with the influencers, but also with the audience, which I’ve found to be the most impactful for my business.
Of course you’re mingling with those who may be at the same stage in business as you are or much further along than you, but your audience is where the real magic happens.
See, in order for anyone to sign up for the event, they have to enter their email address into your handy dandy form. That form then funnels them into your business’ welcome series, which allows them to get to know you and vice versa, building that know, love and trust element.
Lastly, the host benefits from selling the All-Access Pass– which, again, I’ll talk about later.
Why your “competition” might be your online summit’s biggest asset
I have a passion for taking “community over competition” to the next level. My message isn’t just about befriending or accepting your competition, it’s about actually lifting them up.
Promoting them over yourself, essentially. Which is exactly what we did with the Creative Brand Summit.
At the time of the summit, my husband and I were in the thick of our branding business. We worked with one-on-one clients to design and strategize their brands and websites.
And, because of this, the goal of our summit was to educate creative entrepreneurs on branding and web design en masse. It would help our clients out– we’d be able to send them some of the educational replays as a part of our process– and it would help us out, through spreading word of mouth as the host of this giant, influential branding conference.
But it also meant that, in order to truly flesh out the speaker list in the way that we wanted (creative entrepreneur-specific), we were going to need LOTS of help, specifically from our competition. Afterall, who else knows our market and our clients and the process of branding a creative business better than those who target the same people that we do?
And so it began.
How to reach out to your virtual summit speakers
A successful summit will have roughly 20 to 50+ speakers. That’s a LOT of people and that number to me was incredibly daunting when first starting out. However, the more commitments you have, the more commitments will roll in.
Why we use keynote and breakout sessions
The way that we personally choose to run our summits is that we have Keynote speakers and Breakout sessions, the same way that you would see it at an in-person conference.
Big names get people excited
First, we wanted the big names to attract the masses, create social proof, and to encourage a tight-knit sense of community.
We had lots of speakers who ran in the same groups as each other– again, direct competition of one another– and what we found was that many of the attendees knew a handful of the keynote speakers.
Ultimately, this demonstrated to the attendees that this conference was for them. They’ve heard of these names before, they probably follow the speakers on Instagram already and the speakers may even be on the attendees’ to-hire-wishlist. They’ve also seen these speakers interact with each other, which increases the FOMO.
By having people in the same groups, we were also able to attract other speakers by dropping names that they may also look up to or who were already within their immediate social circle.
Having an extremely tight knit community of speakers is a great way to demonstrate the quality of the conference and to reinforce the idea that your conference is for your very specific community.
If we chose to have speakers from all different social circles– maybe blogging influencers, Etsy influencers, infopreneur influencers, and wedding industry influencers– then my guess is that we’d have had an incredible amount of well-rounded, totally valuable information. However, we wouldn’t have demonstrated as effectively the kind of community that we were hoping to attract.
Lesser known speakers promote more
Second, the more voices you have, the louder you’re heard.
A practical note to take when it comes to creating your own virtual summit is that, if you only have big named influencers in your lineup, then you likely won’t get much word of mouth promotion for your event.
Naturally, the people who are the biggest in your industry already have a very tight strategy and schedule for their own business’ marketing. At this point, exposure for a lot of them isn’t a huge priority.
They may give you a shout out in the P.S. of their newsletter, or they may do an Instagram story about the event, and you’ll notice that it brings in the sign ups by the drove, but many of them won’t say a thing, and that’s okay.
This is where your Breakout session tribe comes into play.
Our Breakout sessions consisted of up-and-coming or new entrepreneurs who had some valuable insight to share. And this was where the majority of our traffic came from.
Because, again, all of our Breakout session speakers looked up to our Keynote speakers. They were already in the same circles, and they were SO EXCITED to be featured in a summit alongside of their inspirations.
We also gave them a voice in an industry that’s difficult to get a leg up in. Sure, there are podcasts and vlogs and blog post interviews, but as a new or budding creative in your field, you don’t tend to get featured very often, if ever.
We gave them this platform to speak on, and they were grateful.
They spoke SO loudly during the promotional period– the summit wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without them.
The importance of the All-Access Pass
What is the All-Access Pass (AAP)?
The AAP is the exclusive pass that you sell to your audience that includes all of the replays of the summit, plus any bonuses that you may want to include.
It’s also the only way that you get paid to put on such an event. So, if you’re venturing to put in 40+ hours of work into this thing, then I’d say that the AAP is very important.
One of the fun things about the AAP is that you can put whatever sort of bonus materials in it that you’d like. We personally include the links to all of the speakers’ opt-ins, the video replays of all of the presentations, and a massive, multi-winner giveaway.
During our interviewing and recording process with our speakers, we ask if they would like to contribute anything to a big, multi-winner giveaway. Most of the speakers do in fact include something (this may be a digital product like an eBook or access to a paid course, or a time commitment like a one hour strategy session), and because of that, we can talk about that special thing during their presentation.
In turn, this is mutually beneficial to both the audience of course, but also to the speaker, since, while we’re talking about this awesome thing that they’re giving away, the audience is getting to know what kinds of services or products they could expect to not only win from the speaker, but also to buy later.
The catch is that the giveaway is only available to those who purchase the AAP, yet the likelihood of winning something is enormous, as we tend to have around 40 or so winners.
Marketing the All-Access Pass
One of the big marketing pushes for the AAP ties into the way that we actually structure the summit.
I personally want our Summits to feel like real, in-person events, even though they’re exclusively online. Thus, the way that I personally like to structure it goes something like this:
- Morning sessions, starting at 9am afternoon sessions and then our evening sessions with the event ending at 5pm each day.
- We schedule our keynote speakers for every other hour during that time (9am, 11am, 1pm and so forth) and we have our breakout sessions in between those times.
- Keynote sessions tend to be about an hour long, breakout sessions are each 10 minutes long and are presented back to back in between the Keynotes.
All that to say, that we have a LOT of information, and two of the biggest selling points of the AAP are that:
- Ain’t nobody got time to sit through four days worth of content from 9am to 5pm
- Because of the value that’s provided, it’s a no brainer to make the small investment to purchase the pass and be entered into this crazy giveaway.
The pricing structure of the virtual summit
So, we say the event is free, yet we also talk about the AAP, which is paid. So which is it? Paid or free?
The summit itself is a FREE event. Anyone can come and watch it during the streaming timeframe, they can watch each video as many times as they would like to during the streaming timeframe, and they can come and go as they please.
The only investment that’s required to actually see the videos is the attendee’s email address, which is the ONLY place where the links to your videos will be displayed. If you don’t have the day’s email, then you don’t have the speakers’ links.
The AAP comes in after the videos have been taken down (though, the most popular time for it to be sold is before the event goes live). Each day’s content is available for 24 to 48 hours. After the 24 hours are up, the videos are placed into the AAP vault where only AAP members are able to access them.
Here’s how we structure our AAP pitch:
Early Bird Tickets: This price is available from the beginning of promotion through the day before the summit start date and it is by far the most popularly sold ticket. You may also include an early bird special bonus for those who sign up early– maybe an additional, exclusive eBook for free. For this example, let’s price the Early Bird price at around $69.
At the Door Tickets: This price is available only during the event. It’s around $20 to $30 more than the Early Bird ticket. Having a live chat at your summit and “did you miss yesterday’s presentations?” are great ways to encourage door ticket sales.
Evergreen Tickets: Evergreen tickets will be an additional $20 to $40 more than the Early Bird ticket and is only available after the summit is over. Having this as an evergreen product makes it a great up- or down-sale product for other sales and launches that you may have.
A little something to walk away with
It’s been incredible the amount of growth we’ve seen in our business and social circle with our first summit and I’m so excited to continue working on the next and the next and the next.
I know that this article and this whole Tradecraft issue is a LOT of information to take in. Even just with coordinating speakers, let alone deciding whether this should be pre-recorded or live, what kind of platform you should use, the email and promotional schedule, etc.
I would LOVE to be kept in the loop about any virtual summits you may be hosting and would so love it if you’d let us know what kind of summit you’re planning in the comments below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My door is always open and I’d love to help wherever I can with your new, exciting event!