This podcast episode and show notes explain what it takes to plan a virtual event so that you are setting yourself up for success.
Executing a virtual summit is a challenging but rewarding journey. You have to have a strong foundation before you start implementing anything, even if you’re following the proven Virtual Summit Mastery method, because you will face obstacles in this process.
Today I want to go through five steps that you can take to increase your chances of successfully hosting your first virtual online event. Or even if you’re hosting your second, third or fifth event or 10th event for that matter. I always advise the VSM students and everybody I’m speaking with to go through these steps because they get your events started on the right foot. It would be best if you planned a virtual summit before you can take even the smallest step.
So if you haven’t already, you can listen to podcast episode one if you want to learn about eight ways virtual summits can grow your business. I will be touching on some things from that episode. So it might be worth giving it a listen, but let’s dive right into the five steps of planning a virtual summit and setting yourself up for success.
1. Clarify Your Why
Firstly, you want to clarify your WHY. You want to understand exactly why you want to run your virtual summit because you will face challenges. You will feel overwhelmed at times, even if you’re following any proven method, whether that’s the VSM method or whether that’s another strategy.
It will feel like you cannot pull off the virtual summit, and that’s totally fine. Taking the time to plan a virtual event is the first step in combating overwhelm. In these situations, it’s good to know exactly why you want to run your summit in the first place so that you can push through these barriers. So a few reasons why people commonly host virtual summits are:
- They want to establish thought leadership.
- They want to push through a plateau that their business is facing.
- They want to foster new connections in their space.
- They want to learn about and master a certain topic.
You need to be aware of the reason you are running this event. If you know what is driving you, you will have the mental strength and the resilience to push through the barriers that will inevitably come. This is one of the reasons why people plan virtual summits.
You will be confronted with countless tasks that you feel like you need to execute simultaneously. You will get negative feedback eventually, and you will feel like you’re pulling way more strings than you can handle at the same time. But that is totally fine. That is something to be expected. And that’s something that you don’t need to be too harsh on with yourself. It’s just part of the journey, especially if you’re running the first event.
If you want to learn more about this process and everything I’m outlining in this episode, you can check out my book, the Virtual Summit Mastery Method. You can find it here and see what that book is all about because I’m diving deeper into the VSM process of hosting events online that I outlined in this podcast.
2. Define A Profitable Virtual Summit Theme
The second step to plan a virtual event is defining a profitable virtual summit theme. Summits give you more authority in your field. They give you the expertise you want to be connected with. You will build thought leadership if you run your summit successfully.
So you better pick a topic that you are truly passionate about. And some questions to ask yourself in this context are:
- Can you speak for 500 hours or more about this topic without ever getting bored? Can you really spend so much time talking about this topic?
- Can you answer the same questions over and over again without getting bored, without getting annoyed about what it is that you are talking about?
- Do you see yourself working in this field for the next two to three years at least?
If you answered these with Yes, that is a good sign that you have the right topic in mind for your summit. You are building tons of new connections, tons of new relationships in this space that you are in. And those will bring opportunities with them, whether that is a partnership with a company in the future, whether that is a new job that you might get offered, whether that is a new affiliate partnership or a joint venture partnership.
You will notice that people are coming to you because you are becoming a new expert in the field or establishing the expert position you are already in. A virtual summit easily gives you enough work for two to three years, especially if you start to repurpose all the contents, as I’ve shared in the first episode of the VSM podcast. You can also watch this presentation by Tristan John Griffiths as he outlines how to repurpose summit contents.
Be prepared to dive deeper into your topic for the next two to three years.
And then lastly, what do you want to become known for? What is it that when you are not in the room, you want people to describe you with? What is it that you want people to see yourself being an expert in? And that needs to be part of your virtual summit theme.
This long-term commitment is why you need to plan a virtual event before you run with your idea.
3. Do Competitive Research
Thirdly, do your competitive research. And this is a step that I see many people skip or treat, not with the care and attention that it deserves because competitive research sometimes can be intimidating. To plan a virtual summit, however, competitive research is a must.
How Coaches, Consultants, Experts, and Speakers Are Using
Our Proven System to Build Wildly Profitable Online Businesses With Virtual Summits
While Making A Bigger Impact On Their Audience, And Adding Targeted Subscribers To Their List.
When you see that other events in your space with massive marketing campaigns that have these excellent speakers in their lineups and seemingly have millions of budgets, it’s easy to get frustrated. You are asking yourself how you’re going to compete with those events. When I look at conferences like Ad World, for example, or when I look at online events that have speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, PatFlynn Seth Godin, I get anxious sometimes, too.
I’m not at that level to compete with them yet, but that’s totally fine. That is not something that I can let myself discourage or be discouraged by. That is just something that I need to be aware of and that I need to find a differentiating factor on.
To find this differentiating factor, consider the following questions:
- What products are being sold in your market?
- What other events are happening in your market?
- What pain points are those products and events focusing on?
- What is it that the vendors and event hosts want to solve for their own customers?
- What topics do the events talk about?
- What problems or challenges do those products, whether it’s physical or virtual products, what challenges are those products solving for their customers?
- And most importantly, what are the customers saying in their reviews?
Go through the reviews and see what customers are missing from those products. What is it they wish the product would deliver that it didn’t deliver? What is it that the current offerings are lacking? That is your chance to differentiate yourself, to differentiate your event with, by looking at what other products are lacking and what other events are not doing as good as they could.
That is where you can differentiate your event on. That is the benefit you can deliver with your virtual summit that the competition doesn’t, which sets you apart. Finding this differentiation factor is another important reason to plan a virtual summit before talking to speakers or building the event’s website.
And don’t forget: Competition validates your market. I’m always hesitant to enter markets where no products are being sold because, if we are honest, neither of us is so smart that we have the first idea that nobody ever had before us.
There is no such thing as being the first in the market. Chances are very, very likely that somebody else tried entering the market that you want to enter and failed. Likely, that’s why no products are being sold. If I see events doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in my space, I’m encouraged by them, actually.
Of course, I cannot compete with millions of dollars in ad budgets or in budgets to pay speakers, but that’s not the point. I see people making money in my space. And that is the reason why I keep focusing on virtual summits. That is the reason why you should embrace the niche that you are in, even if it feels like you cannot compete with the offerings that are already there.
Trust me. When you dive deep enough and look at what those offerings are lacking, you will have a way to differentiate yourself.
4. Plan The Monetization Strategy For Your Summit
The fourth step to plan a virtual event is setting your strategy for monetizing your summit. I want to talk about four things that you can do to make money with your event.
And I will dive deeper into those in future podcast episodes. And I also dive deeper into those in my book, the Virtual Summit Mastery Method. So the first method to monetize the virtual summit is by selling All-Access Passes. These are essentially selling tickets into a membership that you are building after your summit ended so that attendees can keep access to all the summit contents, even after your event is over.
Similar to physical conferences, virtual summits usually have a start date and an end date. And when that end date is over, the summit host usually takes all the contents offline and only gives access to people who pay for the access.
You are effectively building a membership area from your summit contents.
The second way to monetizing a virtual summit is bringing on sponsors who pay for publicity. So this means that you are working with other people in your field who have an audience that overlaps with the audience you are attracting with your virtual event. They will benefit from being in front of that audience.
You can charge up to five figures for a sponsorship package. Depending, on what types of perks you are adding to those sponsorship packages, you can easily pull in five figures; if you can deliver what the sponsoring companies are looking for.
Thirdly, you can sell affiliate products in partnership with your speakers or sponsors.
So another income stream is that you’re teaming up with your speakers and with your sponsors, and throughout your event, you can promote their products as an affiliate. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want to turn your virtual summit into a pitch fest but what you can do is on the speaker page, when you describe what the speaker is doing for a living, put a link to their product.
And maybe put some additional information like a video outlining what they have to offer. Plus an affiliate link on the speaker page. And the same goes for sponsors. It’s definitely a good option to include affiliate links in your virtual summit.
And you can even do sponsorships based on affiliate commission. If you really want to. You can really get creative here. Maybe that’s one thing I should have outlined earlier at the beginning of this episode. Nothing I say is set in stone. You can always, and you should always put your own spin on these things.
I’m just sharing what works for hundreds of VSM students and what works for me personally, but always get creative and put your own approach into action with your virtual summit. It’s your event, after all. So your brand, your personality, has to shine through in everything you’re doing.
Back to the monetizing strategies.
There’s one more that I want to talk about, and that is a little bit counter-intuitive at first, but it makes sense. You can keep your summit free forever and use the newly built email list to sell your own products, which might sound counterintuitive because you are spending months of work putting together your virtual summit.
You are likely paying a team to do the video editing, the Facebook ads, the copywriting, the web development, and the rest of the other required services. Chances are, you are not working alone, if you have many events in a year or if you are at that stage that you can’t afford a team yet.
So why keep it for free?
The reason is that people share everything that is for free. And if you can deliver a virtual summit with, let’s say, 15 to 20 expert interviews and keep it for free, you can only imagine how many attendees you will get. Because people want free stuff, they will sign up for the free ticket, which puts them into your email list.
And then you can nurture them. You can build a relationship with them. You can even automate the onboarding, and you should because you likely will get hundreds and thousands of attendees. So definitely leverage automation right here. And then, with that email list, you can promote your existing products to it.
One of the most common ways that summit hosts go from five figures in revenue to six figures in revenue is selling their coaching products. They can also sell consulting services, and they can promote whatever they do to their email list. And if the summit is kept free, people will join your list quickly, and you will grow your business even more quickly.
5. Get Into The Right Mindset For Your Summit
The final step to planning a virtual event is getting your mindset right for your virtual summit. It would help if you accepted that the process would be challenging. If you are doing your first event or working by yourself, you will be overwhelmed sometimes. You need to understand that you will be pulling a lot of strings at the same time. That’s exactly why you plan a virtual event before executing it.
And I’ve totally underestimated that effort myself when I ran my first summit in 2015. I felt more like once I felt like quitting; I won’t lie, but that is part of the process, really. It’s part of growing and understanding the processes that it takes to run a virtual summit, and you become better over time. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
Communication skills are key when you’re running a virtual event because you will be communicating with speakers, with attendees, with sponsors, with your team, maybe with the VSM community. If you’re a member of virtual summit mastery, you can definitely, and you should leverage the fantastic community that we have going on here.
You will be talking a lot. You will be writing a ton of emails and Slack messages and tweets. Clear communication is a must-have when you’re organizing a virtual summit, and you should give yourself at least 90 days for your first event and probably for every event you’re doing.
So that means that if you are a machine in creating virtual summits, and if you have your processes nailed over time, you can run a summit at least every quarter. Maybe you will even get quicker than that. I’ve seen people do a summit every six weeks or every five weeks, but those are people that have like 20 summits under their belt.
So it’s nothing to compare yourself against, and you want to make sure that you’re doing the summit with the right expectations. You cannot go from not knowing anything about virtual summits to running six-figure summits within a month or two. That doesn’t happen. You’d have to learn that you become comfortable when you’re uncomfortable.
You might not be used to being on camera, for example. Yet when you’re recording the summit sessions, mostly they will be video interviews. You might not be used to talking to sponsors and arranging sponsorship deals. Again, that’s something that’s part of the journey of hosting a virtual summit. And you might not be used to reaching out to influencers in your space without them having any relationship with you.
But that is something that I think is a massive benefit of running virtual summits is that you are growing as a person a lot in this process because you’re getting pushed so far out of your comfort zone that your approach to dealing with failure, dealing with challenges, and also dealing with successes will change while you’re running a virtual summit. And I think that’s a good thing.
And I want to finish this episode with one piece of advice that I give VSM students repeatedly. Take action before you feel ready. When you’re looking at a summit like this one massive task, this one massive project, it’s easy to get paralyzed by all the things you have to do.
I want to leave you with the message that you don’t need to overthink it. Just take one step at a time. Do your research. Consider subscribing to this podcast. If you want to learn more about virtual summits, pick up my book, the Summit Mastery Method.
Suppose you want to learn the seven steps that are proven to organize a successful virtual summit. Join the VSM program if you have the budget for that. And if you want to learn from 65 video lessons, take action.
Whatever you do, don’t get paralyzed. Take action. Do the first step. Implement these five steps that I’ve shared with this podcast episode.