Due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, online events are booming. Online summits are one way to connect with your audiences, as well as increase lead generation and grow revenue. If you’ve never hosted an online summit before, the task can understandably seem daunting.
We’re here to help.
If you’re interested in running an online summit, the process is pretty straightforward, but certain steps need to be taken well in advance.
Here’s a brief guide to online summits and nine easy steps for getting started!
What is an Online Summit?
An online or virtual summit is usually described as an amped-up webinar, and it is similar to an online conference. A virtual summit is much more than just a conference, though. A virtual summit is usually a multi-day, interdisciplinary gathering of like-minded individuals hosted online.
Virtual summits typically draw top talent and industry experts. These experts are interviewed around a particular topic or niche subject within an overall theme.
Online summits can increase revenue, grow brand awareness, supplement lead generation campaigns, and expand topical knowledge.
Why Should You Host an Online Summit?
Depending on the industry you are in, the level of marketing your summit can handle, and the virtual event platform that you use, your online summit has the power to increase revenue drastically, grow brand awareness, provide meaningful (and lucrative) networking connections, and support broader business goals and marketing campaigns.
If you have the time and willingness to put on an online summit, do it! There has never been a better time than now!
And with your brand’s support backing the online summit, more and more people will flock to it. You might be surprised at how much interest there is around your event!
Some reasons why you should consider hosting an online summit include:
- Growing your influence and authority
- Growing your email list
- Making a profit
These are easy wins. On top of that, the online summit gives value to your attendees (who want the information you are providing) and helps your speakers or vendors. An online summit usually provides a platform for speakers who wish to grow their profile. It also allows speakers to grow their email list or capture leads.
How to Create an Online Summit: 9 Simple Steps
Starting an online summit may be daunting. However, with these nine easy steps, you will be well on your way to starting your online summit.
1. First off, Give Yourself Plenty of Time (4 to 6 Months)
Before you even begin to make plans, you need to make sure that you’ve given yourself enough time. Between drawn-out and FOMO marketing, arranging your topics, organizing sessions, and getting your speakers to agree to present, these things will take a lot more time than you might expect.
It could take at least four to six months to get everything together. If you try to expedite this process, you may fail, which is different from just being stressed out or rushing your online summit.
You might not land the speakers you need, speakers might drop out, and you might lose money on poor customer experience. Take the time that you need and don’t undercut it.
2. Define Your Audience
This step is important because you’ll need to understand why your audience would attend in the first place so that you can provide the right solution for them.
In defining your audience, ask the following questions:
- Who is the virtual summit for?
- Why would they care about attending this summit?
- Why do you want to get in front of this audience?
By asking these questions, you are leading into your online summit’s goals and offers. You should be able to identify key pain points to choose suitable topics and presenters.
3. Create an Agenda and Key Topics (or Theme)
Once you’ve established these things, you can start to build out your agenda. Identify key topics or perhaps a major theme of the conference so that you can start to develop your marketing campaign.
Your agenda might want to focus on topics that you know your presenters are good at. Or, if you already have some presenters interested or locked in, then you can start to build topics around their presentation.
It’s better to identify your topics first and then start on your presenter wishlist. This will ensure that your event stays clear and focused.
4. Define Your Offers
Early on, before you reach out to your presenters, you should know what you will be selling or offering to your attendees. You may be trying to upsell to speaker packages or grow your lead generation list.
You have your own brand goals, but you also need to give back to your audience.
Common offers include:
- Lifetime or VIP access to your online summit or the recorded content
- Selling your core offer with an All-Access Pass included
- You might want to offer a bonus package, such as a discount on your subscription service or a bonus deal that they couldn’t get anywhere else
5. Identify Potential Speakers for Your Summit
Now that you’ve developed your event goals, offerings, and topics, you can begin to identify potential speakers. You’ll want people who could provide great content for your target audience, as well as someone who has brand name recognition that would lend credibility to the event.
You also need someone who would be willing to share the event with their audience. Since your speakers are part of your marketing efforts, you will want them to have a similar target audience so you can expand your reach and gain more interested attendees.
6. Recruit Your Online Summit Speakers
Recruiting your speakers might prove difficult. You will need to have contingency plans for funding, declined speakers, and if speakers cancel.
Create a tracking list so you can identify which speaker you’ve reached out to, the dates, and the responses. You’ll also want to start collecting basic information, like their name, URL or LinkedIn handles, email addresses, and bios. You can even add information like the topic they will present, why the speaker is a good fit, and correspondence notes.
Consider creating email templates so you can gauge presenter interest. You want to write an email that initiates a response. Your audience should respond with clear directives, like “I’m interested to hear more,” or “I need more information,” or “I’m not interested.” If you continue to get rejections, then you can rework your template to include more information to help them make a decision.
When finalizing the summit, you can flesh out your tracking list. Include the speaker names, the speaker’s final presentation title, the description of their presentation, tags, and the time and date it’s live.
7. Get Your Speakers to Share Your Event
Once you get speakers agreeing to attend, then you can begin your marketing strategy. You should at least have branded social elements that you can share with your attendees so that they can start to generate buzz around the event.
To ensure that speakers share the event, put it in the speaker contract and follow up with them periodically. Remind them that you have created an asset library, so sharing requires only a few clicks.
If you have the budget, you can pay them a small commission per share or pay them an upfront fee.
8. Create and Structure Critical Landing Pages for the Virtual Summit
If you don’t have branding yet, then you’ll want to get started. You should outsource it (instead of designing it yourself) and make sure that you have vector files.
You’ll want to create: the event logo (as mentioned above), your Virtual Summit Registration Page, a thank you page, event website design, and sales page. You can add session pages to your event website so that visitors will see the speakers and maybe the agenda. Luckily an event hosting platform like Accelevents gives each virtual summit a hosted event website/landing page, so all you need to do is populate it.
Make sure your sales funnel is set up, so the social media or email marketing campaign links to the registration pages, then the thank you page or event website page, and finally the sales page.
9. How to Run Your Summit, Day-to-day
There is a lot that goes on before the event, during it, and following it. Here’s what you need to know:
- You are in a major promotion stage, but you should also be testing your virtual tech and troubleshooting presenters.
- For marketing, you are continually pushing traffic to your summit: an email marketing list, social media marketing, and PPC or ads.
- All the standard traffic-gen strategies will work for your online summit.
- You can also post ebooks and use content marketing to educate interested registrants.
- Make sure your partners, including sponsors or any exhibitors, are sharing the event.
- Your live event will be hectic, so you will need to source help. Ensure you do a run-through before the event and hire a virtual event team to help coordinate IT support and customer service support.
- Don’t hesitate to send out reminder emails and alerts about who is presenting during the live event.
- You’ll want to promote sponsors and post-event plans that you already made.
- Try and keep the community building. You can allow VIP access to the pre-recorded sessions following the event and encourage connection in post-event networking sessions.
How to Maximize Your Online Summit for Lead Generation
Online summits are often used in conjunction with a broader marketing strategy. You may have an initial goal of getting new newsletter subscribers or launching a product. Therefore, the online summit will be part-and-parcel to your marketing efforts.
Optimizing the Sales Funnel
Consider that your virtual summit sales funnel will start with direct-to-consumer advertising, email marketing, or partnerships.
The first step in the sales funnel will direct people to register for the summit. You will get registrant contact information, which can also be used as lead gen.
Whether or not they attend the summit, you want your subscribers to understand that your company can provide a service or solve a problem. After they subscribe, direct them to a sales page where the main offer is available. This might be an upgrade from the free virtual summit package into a VIP package, or it might be paid access to a workshop designed to be held exclusively before the summit.
Your registrants will either purchase (the upsell) or decline the offer. You should then submit a down-sell.
As you can see, once your summit registrants register, you are at a unique advantage. You have the option to:
- Offer them an upsell immediately
- Offer them upsells at the event
- Or upsell them after the event as part of a lead nurturing campaign
Everyone can be offered the upsell immediately (although you may turn some people off with this tactic). Still, then your leads can be categorized as more serious (sales qualified) or less severe (marketing qualified) after they attend or don’t attend the summit.
These events generate hundreds of thousands of new subscribers to email marketing campaigns.
Optimizing the Online Summit
Virtual summits are usually free to attend because it provides vendors, sponsors, presenters, and your brand the ability to capture leads. Upsells can be made throughout, including an “All Access Pass” that is offered to registered attendees so that they can access the videos or recordings after the event is over.
Your online summit should have a line-up of interesting speakers, sponsors, and partners, and you can use these connections to your advantage. Partners can:
- Post to social media throughout the event
- Provide deals, coupons, and exclusive offers to attendees and registrants
- Support your marketing efforts before and after the event
- Work hard to improve event engagement
- Grow your brand authority, trust, and influence
- Creating Your Best Online Summit With Accelevents
- Virtual summits themselves are a particularly attractive lead generation strategy because they can grow your customer base and give you leads to start working with.
However, it can be hard to create a successful event without the right hosting platform. Accelevents is one of the only platforms that come with native features designed for optimizing your online summit.
Event hosts with Accelevents will have access to:
- 24/7 customer and technical support
- White-label and customized event hosting platforms
- Landing page and lead generation integrations
- The ability to promote sponsors
- Spots for branded elements in the event and on the event website
- Features for audience engagement, such as live chat, polls, and virtual spaces
- Ticketing and registration
Try the Accelevents all-in-one virtual solutions platform for free today, and see how we can help you maximize your reach and scale your business goals.