Virtual summits are EVERYWHERE this year. They are the new webinars: the cool thing that so many people are doing to grow their list and sell products. But summits are usually free, right? How are they money makers? Why are people doing summits? Grab a cup of coffee and let me pull the curtain back to show you how to host a virtual summit.
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 043
Step One: Go Crazy
You have to be a little crazy to take on this huge task. Your life will be crazy. Just realize from the get-go that you will be saying no to a lot because you are saying yes to something HUGE. Summit is a big word because a summit is a big thing. You need bravery, time, expertise, help, and a big dose of knowing your life will be nuts. Are you there? Okay, let’s move on.
Step Two: Plan Your Why
I’m all about whys (see: The Foundation Series) because without them, you are going to lack clarity and purpose. You need to think about why you are hosting one in terms of YOU and YOUR AUDIENCE. Why will it benefit you? What is driving you to host a summit? Why would people want to attend? Why will the benefit?
Step Three: Plan Your Speakers
Speakers are a key component of a summit. If you don’t already have relationships with influencers or people who could add value to a summit, don’t think you can pull this off. Take a few steps back and form some authentic connections LONG before you ask for something.
Long before I even launched a podcast, I had connected with influencers on Twitter, following them, retweeting their tweets or tagging them when I shared their content, and even striking up conversations. NOT because I wanted something. And not in a creepy/stalker way. I simply made connections with people whose content I admired. So when I thought about starting a podcast, I realized I had connections with a lot of people who at least knew who I was. This makes an ask SO much more palpable. You aren’t just following them on social and tweeting that week before you ask for a favor or their time.
Create authentic relationships with people before you ask them to do anything for you. This may mean not doing a summit right away if you aren’t connected. I think even if you DON’T want to do a summit, you should be connecting in this way with people whose work you admire. And don’t contact them yet if you already know them! Go on to the next step first.
Step Four: Plan Your Structure
Before you begin asking speakers to get on board, you need to consider what this summit will look like and how it will work. Is it paid? Is it free? Will you have affiliates? What are the requirements for the speakers? Will it be live or recorded? (For the sake of unavoidable tech issues, I recommend recording.)
This is important especially when approaching speakers. I’ve had speakers say yes to the podcast or to different things ONLY if there were no affiliate program and no promotion required. That doesn’t mean they won’t share, but they don’t want the requirement to share. Some speakers WANT the affiliate commission so they will want an affiliate program so they might get something in return for speaking. If you are hosting a paid summit, are you then paying your speakers? You really should.
Let’s dive deeper into the affiliate section, as most summits tend to be free with an affiliate piece. Affiliates for summits can be tricky. You need to have the tech piece figured out in a way that allows people to have a tracking link that will place a cookie on someone’s email who signs up through their link. Then if they attend free, but buy an upsell, that affiliate gets the commission. The summit I spoke at earlier this year had a lifetime cookie on the links I got to promote to my people.
The downside to doing an affiliate program is the tech part and the disclosure part. Infusionsoft (an email service provider) can handle affiliate programs like this, but that’s a $199/month (to START) option. I’m not sure the other tech ways to do this, as I decided not to do affiliates. This can be a tricky issue to handle the tech.
As for the disclosure, I feel VERY strongly that we need to abide by FTC guidelines, both for legal sake and for being trustworthy. (Listen to my episode on disclosure to hear more.) But many people do NOT disclose when you’re talking about something free. The reality is that most summits running affiliate programs have a lifetime cookie that will attach when someone signs up to attend a free summit through an affiliate. If that person ever buys something, the affiliate gets a commission. So when you get ten emails in one week about a summit, many times all those people are recommending it not only because of the content or the fact that they are speaking, but they can also earn a commission.
I feel like that MUST be disclosed, both according to the FTC and also according to being a trustworthy person. I am happy to use affiliate links for people providing great content! But I really dislike feeling tricked. And when people don’t disclose that something is an affiliate link, I feel tricked and lose trust. If there is a cookie involved, you must disclose. So if you’re running a summit, you need to consider how you talk to your affiliates about disclosure.
Only once you’ve nailed down the details of how the summit will run and what you are asking and giving to your speakers can you reach out to them.
Step Five: Record the Interviews.
This is perhaps the simplest step in the process. Once you have asked the speakers and gotten your lineup, you need to schedule the interviews. I use calendly to schedule and set aside one day a week for people to sign up for interviews. (That kept me from having all day every day become summit-mania.) Make sure you leave space between the interviews so you don’t go back-to-back. You’ll need time to set up between each (with Google Hangouts especially) or even go to the bathroom.
You can use Google Hangouts or record Skype interviews with Ecamm Call Recorder. Skype will put you and the interviewee side by side. Hangouts flips back and forth between speakers and allows for screensharing, which is nice. It can be a little buggy though. Overall I had about four to five issues out of the twenty-something I recorded. Several times people couldn’t get in and we had to start a new hangout. Two times it wouldn’t work at all and we moved to Skype. The benefit of hangouts is that they upload right to Youtube, so if you aren’t going to edit, you have a ready-made video right there. The recording with Ecamm will save to your computer so you can upload it or edit it.
Let the speakers know what to expect and send an email out with information about how the recording will take place and what they need. Things like earphones are really important so there is no echo in the recording. You’ll also want to have questions for them or let them know if you expect them to do a slideshow. Be very clear about expectations. You’ll likely still get questions even if you’re clear. If possible, ask people to use a mic or even earphones with a mic rather than the built-in mic on your computer.
Step Six: Promotion
This one really happens throughout, once you have some speakers lined up and have the structure in place. You’ll find the same challenges and best practices when it comes to promoting anything. Use your email lists, your Facebook groups, other people’s Facebook groups (following the group rules), and reach out to influencers who might have audiences who are interested. You can also encourage sharing within the community of your speakers by providing them with easy shared graphics.
I wanted to create a good experience for my speakers and connect them with as many of the attendees as possible, so I have been pushing out individual speaker graphics and bios on social media and created a Facebook group for the summit where speakers can interact (if they want) and share their paid products, courses, and services with attendees.
Step Seven: Set Up
I have found this to be one of the most tedious parts of the summit with lots of little details I didn’t think about until I screwed something up. Like: how I handled my email list.
I started promoting in my Facebook group before I sent out an email, so people who were already on my list signed up for the summit. When I sent my weekly emails, I didn’t want to include the summit registrants (since that’s not what they signed up for), but when I excluded them from the weekly email, that excluded the people who were signed up for weekly emails AND the summit. I created a workaround by making a segment of people who signed up for the summit and also any other part of my list and then promoted to my list with a tagging automation in ConvertKit where they could click a link and have a tag added so I knew they were registered, but also that they still should get weekly emails.
You also need to figure out where to host the videos and if you want to edit them. I’ve learned the hard way how long it takes to upload a 30 minute video from iMovie to Vimeo. (And also just how long it takes me to edit video in iMovie.) You may want to outsource tasks like video editing or uploading, but keep in mind your timeline. By the time I realized I wanted help with video, for example, it was too late to get it done in time by outsourcing.
Here’s a list of details you’ll need to nail down:
- How to handle the email side in terms of segmentation
- What kind of welcome series of automations you’ll send
- If you will edit the videos
- Where you will host the videos
- How you will communicate and send out the sessions
- How long sessions will stay active and what happens when they aren’t
- What happens when people sign up in the MIDDLE of the summit
- A payment portal if you are selling a lifetime pass to the summit sessions
- How you will set up the access to the paid portion
- What happens after the summit?
So. Many. Details. Many of these things are not difficult per se, but added together, there are a lot of moving parts and things to consider. I probably haven’t considered all the details yet and will probably run into some big hiccups. At the moment, I’m in the throes of editing a crazy number of videos. I may not sleep for the next week. Which leads me to the last step…
Step Eight: DIE
You’ll want to die or feel like you’re dying during this process. Or right after. It’s a LOT of details. I was glad to share this responsibility at least partially with Holly Homer, Becky Mansfield, and Paula Rollo, but since this was my brainchild, I took on most of the details and work. Go back to step one and remember that you’re crazy. You can do it, but it’s a LOT.
I thought I’d give a little breakdown of how this looks for me so far. I did a lot of bootstrapping with this summit, as I do with most things right now in my business. I don’t have a full breakdown of the costs YET, but here are some estimated and exact costs and how I cut corners without cutting quality. This will just give you an idea of what you MIGHT need.
I paid Stephanie Jones of Jornie.com to design a super streamlined logo for the summit. (You can see it on the site.) You can actually see her session on design during the summit. This price may not reflect her full prices on packages— contact her for pricing!
I already have a Vimeo account, but I upgraded because I did all the videos in one week. (Hint: don’t do that. Do them as you go.) Why Vimeo and not YouTube? On YouTube, videos can be unlisted, but that means only they aren’t searchable. For anyone watching the summit live, they can access the video later by clicking through from my site to the video on YouTube and saving the link. There are workarounds, but because we are charging for lifetime access, I didn’t want people to have a backdoor. I would be sad for people to pay and then find out other people got free access by being resourceful.
Domain Name: $20.16
I bought the domain from GoDaddy with a coupon and I bought privacy, which means all my info isn’t public to creepy marketers.
For now, I’m sharing hosting with some of the other summit hosts, so that cost is absorbed. In the future, this might need to be bigger, but it’s on a dedicated server. Without splitting it, the cost would be about $55/month with Media Temple.
I already had a theme and framework purchased that I have license for, so I used what I had.
I made some missteps here (as I mentioned above with segmenting subscribers) and in hindsight would have opened a new ConvertKit account for this list. (I may move the list to a separate account.) For NOW, I had a great package I bought with ConvertKit last year as a webinar/course package, so currently the list hasn’t outgrown my paid-for numbers. But it’s about to. And we don’t have final numbers for attendees. You COULD just use Mailchimp and go up to 2000 people. But I think for something like a summit, your plan is to get authentic, targeted people, but also hopefully to make some money with targeted products. For this, I prefer the intricacies of ConvertKit where I can tag people and see who bought things (my integrations with DPD will add a tag to users so I can more specifically know my subscribers). This will likely be the most costly, as this cost will go on past the summit, since email is a month-to-month thing.
What I WISH I’d paid for: A video editor. Maybe also a virtual assistant to handle some of the social sharing tasks that fell behind as I dove right into the interviews and video editing and other things I just couldn’t handle all at one time.
Non-Sleazy Summits– a podcast interview with Navid Moazzez
Finding Speakers for Your Summit – another from Navid Moazzez (he’s the king of summits!)
Have questions about how to host a virtual summit? Want to host a summit? Leave a comment!
The Profitable Blogging Summit 2016 is over, but you can sign up to get information about next year’s summit! Find out about the Profitable Blogging Summit 2017.