Virtual summits are great! You can connect with different influencers, brands and audiences in your field, all at the same time. The core function of virtual summits is to leverage other people’s experience and expertise to position yourself as an authority in whatever industry or topic you are basing your summit around.
The two top reasons to put out a virtual summit are 1) it is a great way to make connections and meet influencers and brands in whatever industry you are in, and 2) it is a way to rapidly grow your audience and to get their attention.
Here are 10 steps to set your virtual summit up for success:
1. Experience the virtual summit model as a user
One thing to consider before planning your event is to spend time signing up for free summits or paying for them to see how people put out these events. I typically recommend my clients create a separate email address and sign up to as many summits as they can, so they get communications and get an inside perspective of what attendees experience when participating in a virtual summit. This could become a great resource to get ideas from, to experience tools and to see the whole process so you will be ready to create your own virtual summit.
2. Research your audience
Regardless of the topic you are going to cover, you need to have an idea of who your audience is, where they reside, and what their most pressing needs are. Without an audience, you have no one to deliver your event to. If you are going to use Facebook ads to drive traffic, you need to look into whether your audience has a presence on Facebook to be able to reach them.
Another recommendation is to survey your audience through survey builders like Typeform. Come up with a short list of questions you want to ask so you can get feedback even before putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
3. Develop and validate your topic
This should be obvious but it gets missed frequently. You need to choose a topic that matches the needs or desired outcomes of your audience. Once you identify who you want to serve, you need to give them the solution to their problem or the path to their desired result. A few ways to determine if there’s a need and excitement around your topic is to look at the market and the existing offers that are available. Are there “how to” books (Amazon)? Are there courses (Udemy)? Are there other events (EventBrite)? Are there groups (Facebook)? If you can’t find any of these, you probably need to re-evaluate
4. Setup a landing page
You don’t have to have your backend and full-blown website set up before you start reaching out to potential speakers, but you want to have some sort of landing page so potential speakers have something to reference. You will be communicating with a lot of them for the first time, and they will want to know what your event is about and how it would benefit them before committing their time.
Always remember their time is just as valuable as yours, so give them solid information so they will think your event is one they want to be part of. If you already have a few speakers for your event, put short bios on your landing page so other speakers can see who else is taking part. This will go a long way in building your speaker-base and having them see you are a legitimate person putting out an event.
5. Contact potential speakers
You should have done some homework on who you want to reach out to. Always have more people to reach out to than you want on your event so that based on the response you are getting, you can decide if you need to reach out to more speakers.
You want to look for people who are comfortable speaking into a microphone in front of their computer. Maybe they’ve been on podcasts, other summits or have been a speaker in person. They don’t need to have fancy gadgets; a webcam and microphone will typically work just fine. This will set you up for success even before you hold your summit.
6. Start conducting interviews
Be ready to start scheduling interviews once you reach out to your potential speakers so you get them at the height of their enthusiasm for your event. This way, you are also respecting their time and getting them while it is fresh in their heads. You would not want to delay the interviews and have to conduct many of them close to your event.
7. Start building your virtual summit site
Start getting your speaker module set up so you can add pictures and bios to the Summit page once you get commitment from your speakers. This drums up enthusiasm for people who find out about your event as they can see who is going to be speaking.
Also, start building your email campaigns or autoresponder. This can be time consuming, but they don’t have to be lengthy. They can be scheduled ahead of time with links to the speakers’ interviews. Focus on getting some backend pieces taken care of while scheduling and conducting interviews, even if you are outsourcing your autoresponders.
8. Seek out sponsors
There are technology costs, advertising costs, and your time spent to put out your event. Bringing on sponsors can help defray some of that. It does not have to be fully monetary and can be in the form of discounts on products and services or whatever is going to be the best match between your sponsors, event and audience. Besides being a great way to build great relationships moving forward, this can also add value to your audience.
9. Make it easy on your speakers
If you want to set yourself apart, pre-design Facebook, Twitter and Instagram images and posts for your speakers to share. They are putting in their time and effort into your event and obviously also hope to get some traffic from it. They are not going to make the images and think about tweets, etc. You can arrange with them when they should post those images to their audience or let them decide for themselves. This shows you care about their needs, their time and their audience. You will want these images for your own use as well.
There are so many ways to generate traffic. Are you going to run Facebook ads, use Twitter , LinkedIn or Instagram? Think about your audience and where they are more likely to be. Also, think about whether you are going to have someone handle that for you, as it is very time consuming. This is not something you can learn in a month. It is easy to set up, but to have it be effective, keep in mind it will take some time.
Consider what traffic generation method is going to work the best for you. Is it going to be paid traffic, or maybe podcasts or blog posts where you can talk about your business program and upcoming summit? This is just as important as Step 1. Put some thought into traffic generation and how to pull that off so you will have people joining your Summit.
Hopefully, these 10 steps and extra x-factor step will help you plan your Virtual Summit!