The 5 Phases of Launching Your First Virtual Summit

Virtual Summit

We know there’s a lot going on in the world right now, and attending an in-person conference is not ideal for most business owners.


That goes without mentioning, that even before the pandemic, attending an in-person conference was a time-consuming and expensive process.


From paying the costs of a conference ticket, to travel fees and meals, attending a conference could easily set you back — and that’s the last thing you want as a new business owner.


Additionally, if you were the one to host a conference, it would be an entirely different situation!


There would be costs to consider. Finding an event space, catering, travel, transportation for speakers, food, and wow, that’s your entire yearly budget set back!


Fortunately for you, the pandemic created a lot of opportunities to explore the realm of online conference hosting.


Virtual summits have become one of the most effective tools in any modern-day business.


Virtual Summits create an environment for you to generate leads, showcase your product, and engage with your audience. 


All in one place and without breaking the bank!


Hosting a virtual summit can be daunting, but if you break it down into its basic steps, it’s quite simple.


In this post, we will look at what exactly goes into planning and hosting a successful virtual summit and the benefits that come with hosting online!

1. What is a Virtual Summit and Why You Should Host One (5 Listed Benefits)

benefits of using a virtual summit

A virtual summit is a collaborative online event where guest speakers are interviewed by a host.


See it as an online conference with a collection of presentations with as few as 6 and up to 30 experts on the topic.


This is a great marketing tool if you are just starting, or if you have been a long-time business owner — anyone can benefit from using and attending virtual summits.


What’s also great about virtual summits, is that you don’t have to go through the processes of renting any catering services or even book a venue!


The appeal of a virtual summit lies in the simplicity and ease of access by all partners involved.

five benefits of using a virtual summit

Additionally, here are five benefits of using a virtual summit, if you are not yet convinced:

1.1. Virtual summits help with lead generation and increase your network size

Size Matters

One of the main benefits of hosting a virtual summit is that it will increase your lead generation.


How this happens is through the second part of the benefit: The network size.


If your reach has been limited to local areas, hosting a virtual summit will introduce your brand across the country, and maybe even internationally.


You are also able to eliminate time-wasters by hosting an event specific to your niche/field.


After all, you wouldn’t be attending a virtual summit targeted towards baking and cooking if you are mainly focused on sourcing construction tools.

1.2. It helps you to build authority and credibility

I'm the Boss

This is something that you will see across most marketing blogs.


Building your business’ website? Add trust icons.


Looking to host a podcast? Interview the experts.


Producing video content for your business? Find valid and trusted sponsors.


By merely being associated with those long-time business owners/experts, you are creating and establishing trust among your leads.

1.3. You can make money by hosting a virtual summit

Free Money

The first few summits that you host will probably be free of charge.


But like gran always says, “nothing in life is free.”


Once you have established an audience that is highly interested in your content, you can start charging people to attend your next virtual summit.


Of course, these might not be as popular as the free events.


Some entrepreneurs sell these recorded online summits to those who were unable to attend them, generating revenue for themselves.


Besides these, the kind of content you create and spread through these virtual summits are bound to get attention from real buyers.

1.4. Online events introduce (theoretically) unlimited attendees = even more customers

Gimme

Having online conferences has also made businesses more accessible to larger and more diverse audiences.


Gone are the days of traveling and prolonged home absence.


Similarly, removing financial barriers has made all these virtual summits a lotmore inclusive.


One example of this is the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in 2019 that attracted just over 16,200 participants. 


In comparison, the virtual conference hosted in 2020 registered over 26,000 users.


With online platforms becoming increasingly advanced, it is also becoming easier to host larger online events.


The only theoretical financial limit is the reach of your advertising in the days leading up to the summit.

1.5. Your content can be reused, recycled, and tracked

Spectacular Content

In many of these events, there is a lot of information that comes out and might be difficult to digest all at once.


Well, fortunately for you, materials that are used in your presentation can be reused and reformatted into content to sell after your summit.


You can do this by creating video summaries, blog posts, or even make an eBook of your presentation!


This will help you target your leads, even after your summit, as well as create informative content for different parts of the buyer journey.


You can read more about creating the perfect sales funnel here.


And, of course, when you create online content, there is a whole list of added perks when it comes to tracking engagement.


In-person events don’t provide the same tracking of engagement as virtual events.


Virtual events allow you to display content alongside keynotes to track your user engagement to create audience segments for those specific demands.


It’s also more likely that users will fill out polls which gives you a more accurate account of how well your content is resonating with the crowds.


But enough talk about all the perks of hosting a virtual summit — let’s show you how to do it!

2. Phase 1 — Strategy and Planning

Phase 1 — Strategy and Planning

The first step of hosting an online summit is planning it.


This might sound like a simple task, but these initial stages are what make or break your event.


Now, we don’t want you to worry, so let’s break it down into its basics.

Strategy and Planning

2.1. Start with goal setting.

These are the types of questions you need to be asking:

  • Why do you want to host a virtual event?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want the virtual event to do for your business?
  • Who needs to attend your virtual event?

Outside of knowing who and why you will be hosting the event, what kind of experience do you want to create for your attendees?

  • Is your focus on making money?
  • Growing your email list?
  • Or educating your potential leads?

Being able to define your event will not only help you to plan it out, but it will also help you to define what you want your event to achieve.


Next up, the date.

2.2. Set a date for your virtual summit

Here are some things you want to keep in mind when selecting a date:

  • Avoid holidays
  • Avoid selecting a date from mid-December through to January (these are usually months that people are away on holiday and spend time with family)
  • Avoid your target audiences busy months
  • Set it far in advance (we recommend around 90 days from the day you choose to set it)

Now that you have selected a date, it’s time to start setting up the rest of your timeline.

2.3. List all the bigger tasks, and fill out smaller details later

Hosting a virtual summit is a challenge to novices. Don’t try to set it up in less than 90 days.


This will give you ample time to sort out any minor problems, give your speakers time to set up their own presentations, and allows you to promote your event for longer.


A virtual summit is something you want to plan out exactly, and give ample room for the chance that something unforeseen happens.

3. Phase 2 — Research and Recruitment

Phase 2 — Research and Recruitment

So, you have your goals listed, but what now?


Well, this is the part of planning that you can cue the recruitment montage.

Research and Recruitment

Depending on your reach and product niche, you want to consider how many guest speakers you should invite.


It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out, or are a long-time virtual summit host, always invite people who are knowledgeable in their field, but aren’t in exactly the same market as you.


Even if it means that you have a group of 4 people at the event, you would rather have people who know what they’re doing than introducing wild-cards because you feel that you should have +10 guest speakers.


Sometimes less is more.


Something to keep in mind is that you want to grow your conversions, so don’t invite someone with a similar marketing strategy to yours.


Rather, invite guest speakers who offer complementary services or products to yours.


Also, ensure that you have the right target audience before you send out promotional campaigns.


The chances are likely that the target audience for your virtual summit will be the same as for your product/service, but it’s worth looking into it to ensure that you deliver valuable content to the right people.

4. Phase 3 — Event Planning and Promotion

 Phase 3 — Event Planning and Promotion

Now that you have the right people, the right place, and the right goals, it’s time to set up a promotional landing page.


This doesn’t have to be super complicated, you just want to make sure that you list:

  • Your brand
  • Social proof and/or trust icons and/or guest speakers attending
  • The key informational points of your virtual summit
  • The time, place, and platform you intend to host from

You essentially want to create a simple-looking digital invite, in the form of a landing page.


This will give potential attendees an idea of what to expect from your virtual summit.


It will also give you an idea of how many people will be attending the summit if you track your analytics.


Something you also want to do on your landing page is stress the benefits of attending your virtual summit, but keep it simple.


Communicate the value of attending.


Now that you have the basics set up, it’s time to start promoting your virtual summit.


You want to get people to attend your webinar — otherwise, what’s the point of hosting it?


Set adverts with websites like Google Ads and drive traffic towards your landing page.


A creative way to grow your guest list is to partner up with someone with a similar reach to yours and promote the event through both your email campaigns.


If you have two (or more) people promoting the event to their respective email subscribers, then you will get people from all those audiences attending.


This is called cross-promotion and you can read more about it here.


Your goal is essentially to grow with similar people.

Event Planning and Promotion

Push your subscribers to attend this virtual summit by doing the following in your email campaign:

  • List the benefits of attending the virtual summit
  • Have a great call-to-action (CTA)
  • Give a brief structure of the virtual summit
  • Offer something exclusive to the email list subscribers

You want to promote your event for upwards of 2-3 weeks — build excitement amongst potential attendees, you know?


You can always give more information later, so don’t saturate your first email with too many details.


Keep it simple and keep sharing the value of attending the summit.


Once you’ve set up a promotional platform and structure, it’s time to start planning your virtual summit.

Types of Virtual Summits

There are essentially three types of virtual summits that you can choose from:

  • Educational
  • Product demo
  • Q&A

But how do you structure the content for each of these virtual summits?


Well, let’s have a look…


Structure your summit to enable easy conversion and funneling of leads.


Here is an outline of what your structure should look like:

  • Give a brief introduction

Introduce the topic and who you are.

  • Establish your credibility

Give a short story for why you and your product are trustworthy or list other guest speakers that will be attending the event.

  • Show the value of attending

This is the main reason why people attend your virtual summit — make it worth the while.


Introduce and address the problem that your audience is facing.

  • Pitch your product

Now that you have defined what the problem is, offer your product/service/the event as the solution to this problem.

  • Host a Q&A

This is one of the most valuable parts of hosting a virtual summit.


You get to interact with the people who are most interested in your product and give a reason to those that are still hesitant.


Hosting a Q&A session helps to establish credibility, offers value to the customers, and helps you to sell!


Another thing you might want to consider is letting the attendees know how you’re going to structure your summit.


Give a brief outline of the series of events that will take place.


This will help the people attending feel a bit more at ease, as they know exactly what to expect.

Once you have your structure laid out, it’s time to choose the platform you’ll be hosting from.


Fortunately for you, we live in a time where there are multiple platforms available to you. 


You simply have to choose!


Here are some platforms you want to look into when planning your virtual summit:

A crucial step of any event is to PRACTICE IT.


You want to practice your presentation out loud at least 5-6 times from start to end.


A virtual summit is a form of public speaking, and the more you speak and rehearse, the better you will know your content and cues.


Now all you have to do is keep practicing, and count down the days to the event!

5. Phase 4 — Launching your Event

Phase 4 — Launching your Event

This is what you’ve been waiting for!


The week of your virtual summit is finally here, and all the work you have done is finally coming to fruition!


It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though. This week can be very exhausting.


You want to be on time with everything. 


Make sure your guest speakers are ready to go live when they’re supposed to.


Because this is an online event, people will be more forgiving if you are having tech problems, but do not be late.

The Day Of The Event

You also need to email your attendees with daily interview links if you are planning on hosting a multi-day event.


If you don’t, you might face questions and posts saying “I never got the link” or “the video isn’t playing for me!”


Be prepared to handle these issues quickly!


Maybe even look into hiring or allocating someone to dealing specifically with the tech issues.


Something else you want to look into is creating a space where virtual attendees can meet like-minded individuals.


This is the one obvious disadvantage of hosting a virtual event — you don’t get the same exposure and networking chances as you would at an in-person event.


You can create a Facebook group, where you allow people who are interested in meeting people to get to know one another.


This will add a unique flair to your summit and will add another area where you can introduce value to your attendees.


Another way you can encourage conversation among your attendees is by leaving your attendees with a thought-provoking question between presentations.

6. Phase 5 — Follow Up!

Phase 5 — Follow Up!

So, now that you have hosted a great event, it’s time to follow up with all the people who attended.


There are two main things you want to follow up on:

6.1. How well you performed, i.e. looking at your analytics

So, this is something you always want to be doing, but especially so after an event.


You want to deeply assess your analytics.


You can do that by asking the following:

  • Was the partner you chose a good fit? Assess the value that the partner bought.
  • How many people registered and how many actually attended?
  • Did you make sales from hosting this virtual summit?

6.2. Send email campaigns and post-event surveys to your new leads

It's smart to keep in touch with your guest speakers so that you can leverage those relationships for future collaborations.


By sending post-event surveys, you will also be able to gauge how the attendees found the event to be.


Here are some questions you should ask:

  • Overall, how likely would you be to recommend this event to a colleague in the future on a scale of 1-10?
  • Which session(s) did you attend?
  • Which session(s) did you enjoy?
  • What content would you like to see more of?
  • If we did this again, would you attend?
  • If we did this again, would you prefer we host this on a different day/time? If so, [give options]

Following up with your attendees will give you super valuable insights into the areas that you did great in, as well as those that you can improve on.


Due to virtual summits also being large events, it’s easy to track and gain insights into how new customers are being funneled.


If you can identify areas where your leads are stuck and not converting, then you can work on improving your marketing strategy.

7. Conclusion

And there you have it! You have the steps to hosting a virtual summit!


Hosting a virtual summit is a wonderful way to boost your authority, create new leads, build revenue, and more in a relatively quick time frame.


If this process is a bit daunting, look no further than using tools that will simplify the process for you.


One of the best tools to use for this is systeme.io!


By using systeme.io, you will be able to create the perfect sales funnel to track where leads are in the buyer’s process, send promotional event emails and follow-up email campaigns, and even set up an evergreen webinar!


Systeme.io also offers a freemium version, so you simply cannot lose!


You are fully equipped and ready to start hosting virtual summits — so what are you waiting for?

Get your free account

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