How to Run Your First Virtual Summit Like a Pro [Best Practices]

The events industry finds itself in an unprecedented scenario. With events being canceled or postponed, now is the time to go virtual and embrace online events as a solution that can get us much needed results in these difficult times.

The show must go on and for that to happen event organizers need to seize the opportunity that virtual events can provide us in a new ecosystem. When events grind to a halt there has to be a backup plan and taking your events virtual provides just that.

At the core of this are virtual summits, which will provide you with a temporary solution to fill the void left by the coronavirus outbreak. This will never replace live events, but it does provide you with a contingency plan for creating events and limiting the damage suffered when live events are canceled.

What is a virtual summit?

A virtual summit, is a collaborative, online event, featuring a series of expert interviews that focus on a specific area or niche. The beauty of virtual summits is that they can cover any industry and any business whether that’s B2B or B2C. Here are a few examples for you to get a feel of what a virtual summit should look like...

  • SaaS Breakthrough 2019 [link]
  • Product-Led Summit [link]
  • Reach-Summit 2020 [link]

Generally speaking, virtual summits are free to attend live but require you to pay to access the content after the event is over, which is usually referred to as an all-access pass.

The benefits

Providing you do it right (we’ll explain that in a moment), running a virtual summit comes with a lot of benefits that go beyond just generating revenue.

Increase influence and authority: This is a fantastic opportunity to position yourself next to the biggest and best thought leaders and experts in your industry. Because their influence and authority will rub off on your brand and do big things for getting your name out there.

Grow your subscribers: Virtual summits are one of the best ways to create a huge influx in traffic with an audience that is interested in your niche. Because when you provide high-quality and valuable content for free you can turn this traffic into new email subscribers.

Product development: Although what you’re offering is initially free, after the summit has finished you will have a lot of valuable content that can be transformed into a product in itself. As we briefly discussed, by offering an all-access pass you can provide lifetime access to the talks and content.

Planning

planning

Ok, so we’ve highlighted what the benefits of a virtual summit are and now it’s time to get to the serious part, the planning.  Where do I get started? How can I ensure that it’s going to be a success? Are all some of the questions popping up in your head, so to help with this, we’ve broken how to plan a virtual summit down into small steps so that you can quickly and easily apply this to your first summit.

Just like with any live event, the first step to a successful virtual summit has to be the planning. This requires you to get your thinking caps on and ask yourself a number of questions. Note: Give yourself a good amount of time and start preparing as far in advance as you can.

Live or recorded: Just because your summit is virtual doesn’t mean that you can escape the logistics. First things first, do you want the event to be live or recorded? The former means you’ll conduct every interview and presentation live at the summit, whilst the latter means you record all of your content in advance and then just release the recordings.

Providing that you and your speakers have a good internet connection, there are more perks to running your event live. The summit will offer more engagement because attendees can have their questions answered in real-time. However, this also comes with a few extra challenges, mainly in the way of coordinating everything at once.

Dates: Next, you’ll want to identify your dates. At this stage, you should have an idea of what the topic will be for the virtual summit so look around and make sure that it doesn’t clash with any other events that are likely to be in the calendars of your attendees. Generally speaking, a virtual summit should be around 3 to 5 days (depending on how much content you plan to present of course).

The topic and content: This depends on the overall purpose of your business and for this reason, should be aligned closely with what you do. Then you need to think about what topic would address the pain points of your audience.

You can then start thinking about the summit name and how the speakers will cover the different aspects of that topic. Make sure that the topic is niche and that you have your audience in mind at all times. After all, you want to get as many ideal customers to register as possible.

Once you have this, you’ll need to start drawing up the assets needed to create and promote the summit. This includes: articles, landing pages, ebooks, email campaigns, social media and any other copy that you can think of.

Finding speakers: Now it's time for the most important part. Reaching out and getting your speakers on-board. These are the influencers who can talk about the topics which you have decided you would like to have in your summit. These are the people who are being featured in industry outlets, and the people who others tend to reference or quote.

This is the major pull factor for your attendees and is what can make or break your summit. Aim for 25 to 30 speakers and identify their niche and what aspect of the topic they will be covering.

Remember: Speakers who promote or share your event will increase the reach of the entire event for everyone involved.

Pre-summit planning and promotion

speakers

Record the interviews: Once the speakers have committed you can start recording. For this we would recommend using Zoom. To ensure top quality content, do your research on the speaker beforehand and tailor your questions around them. Prepare some questions and share them before you start recording.

A good virtual summit interview lasts around 30 minutes and gets straight to questions the attendees really want answered.

Create your website: Now it’s time to embed the recorded interviews with your speakers on separate landing pages across your website. If you start doing the recording early, you can give yourself a valuable head start in preparing for the summit. Create one landing page and tailor them for each speech to provide visual consistency.

Promoting: The month prior to your event should be completely dedicated to its promotion. This is the defining factor in how many email subscribers you’ll generate along with how much revenue, so it can’t be understated how important this part is.

All the content that you’ve created needs to be distributed. Social media campaigns, email campaigns, guest posts - you name it.

Launching

In the week leading up to the event and during the event itself, email people every day with previews and reminders, and a clear schedule of all the speakers so it is extremely easy to attend the sessions of the speakers they want to listen to.

You should also focus on keeping your speakers happy and well-informed throughout the process. One of the best ways to do this is to be clear and simple in your directions. They can become frustrated if they feel confused or unsure of what to do or when to do it.

Try to be as organized as possible in your communication before the event.

Post-summit

post-summit

At this point, run a series of emails telling your attendees that this is their final chance to purchase the all-access pass. Those people who purchase the pass will have access to the sessions forever. Otherwise, once you shut down the summit, they will disappear to those without the pass. This creates a sense of urgency and scarcity, which will in turn increase conversions.

Also, make sure you send a thank you note to all guest speakers for their participation and hard work in promoting your event. And finally, start looking for ways to leverage your new relationships with influencers for guest posts, podcast interviews, and anything else you can do.

Topics: Event Planning

Thomas Davey

Written by Thomas Davey

Copywriter and marketing specialist who enjoys showing the world what can be done with the power of events and some good technology.

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