How to Host a Virtual Summit (2020): The Ultimate Guide


Andy Cabasso

April 8th

Last Updated: April 30, 2020

This post is all about how to host your own virtual summit.

By the end of reading this post, you will have all the knowledge and tools you need to put a virtual summit together, whether you have a large budget and a full staff or zero budget and no team behind you.

Virtual summits, also called virtual conferences, online conferences, and online summits, have become really popular lately, in large part due to COVID-19 / Coronavirus making it all but impossible to host in-person events and conferences.

I hosted my first virtual summit in 2016, and hosted several more after that. Over the years, I had 1500+ attendees to my events. Now, I’m happy to share the knowledge I gained with you, and make your time a lot easier.

Also, in addition to this text post, I put together a companion video piece, which you can check out below:

A few basic things first, before we get to the details:

What is a virtual summit? 

Put simply, a virtual summit is a webinar on steroids.

While webinars are a single session talk broadcast online, a virtual summit has multiple talks and sessions.

virtual summit example
example of a virtual summit webpage

Simply, a virtual summit is an online event with multiple sessions. There are many variations you can have, but In its simplest form, a virtual summit has several talks back-to-back around a given theme. In its more complex forms, you can have a multi-day event with dozens of different speakers.

Your virtual summits can be free, paid-to-attend, or freemium.

They can be a single day or multi-day.

They can have a single speaker for the sessions, many different speakers, panels, workshops, or a combination.

They can be all pre-recorded videos, they can be live, or a mix of the two.

Keep in mind, there is no single rule for what a virtual summit has to be.

So, there is a lot of flexibility for you to make your virtual summit exactly what you want it to be. 

If you are going to put on a virtual summit, make it work best for you and your audience.

Here’s what we’re going to cover in this post:

  • Why to host a summit
  • What type of summit format works best?
  • Tools you’ll need, whether you have a budget or not
  • Content and materials for your event
  • Getting good speakers, and getting them to promote your event
  • Putting it all together
  • Promotion: How to get people to sign up
  • Running the show, and when the best time is for you to take a bathroom break
  • What to do after the event is over

TL;DR

  1. Hosting a summit can help you: 1) build your brand; 2) build partnerships; 3) generate leads; and 4) maybe even make some money
  2. Making your event free to attend will maximize the number of total registrants you will get (and therefore marketing leads); but, there is a trade-off in that it won’t make you any money
  3. Do not try hosting a virtual summit until you have at least hosted a webinar or two in the past, so you can see what it’s like to host an online event with an audience
  4. Making your event pay-to-attend will reduce the registrants, but they might be more likely to attend because they are “invested” in your event
  5. You can make your event “freemium” with free live access to the sessions or lifetime access to the event content for a fee
  6. Pre-recording your summit will take more time to put together, but it will be less expensive and it can be done all by one person
  7. If you are making your summit content all live, you will need at least 2 people on your team running the event to make sure it goes off without a hitch
  8. If your event is going to be all live content, check out event apps like HeySummit, virtualsummits.com, On24, and hopin.to
  9. Come up with a variety of topics your audience might be interested in so there is something for everyone
  10. To find speakers and promote your event, use Postaga, a free promotion tool 
  11. When inviting speakers, prepare a “Speaker FAQs” doc that answers questions you think they might have
  12. To get speakers, first try and build relationships with them before you make the ask
  13. Once you have a few speakers signed on, leverage those accepted invites to invite other speakers that you may not have relationships with
  14. To help your speakers to more easily promote the event, create materials for them to share, including personalized landing pages, social media and email templates, and graphics
  15. For pre-recorded sessions, you can record the speakers in Zoom or GoToWebinar, and upload the videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia, setting the videos to private or unlisted until the event date
  16. If your event is pre-recorded, you will still want your event to have some interactivity with attendees, so be sure to have a chat box next to each video that people can ask questions into (with speakers diligently attending to)
  17. Use hashtags to keep the conversation going on social media
  18. Promote your event in emails to your list, podcasts, ads, social media, guest posts, and using Postaga for outreach
  19. Around your event time, closely monitor your emails for support issues, as well as social media for conversations going on, and Google Analytics for your traffic stats
  20. After the event, follow-up with a survey of your attendees to see what they liked
  21. For after the event, send your speakers a nice thank-you gift like a gift basket or gift card

Why to Host a Virtual Summit


First off: Why are you going to host a virtual summit?

If you are thinking of doing one just because they seem to be gaining popularity lately, you might want to reconsider it.

Putting together a virtual summit is a lot of work.

When I put together my first virtual summit (it was free and the content was pre-recorded), it took me about two months solid to put it all together while focusing on little else.

Now, all that being said, a virtual summit can be amazing.

There are a bunch of benefits.

Including:

  1. Build your company’s reputation in your industry
  2. Build relationships with industry players and potential partners
  3. Generate a lot of marketing leads to add to your email list
  4. Generate some sales leads
  5. Make some money (?)

It really depends on what your goals are, but you can do all of these things.

After my first summit, I had elevated my company’s name and reputation to being among the top tier in the industry.

Just from the summit.

After the summit, so many more people had heard of us.

And, our customers and potential customers often talked about the summit during conversations with our team.

By hosting a summit featuring great, well-known speakers in the industry, alongside myself and a few co-workers, my company and I were suddenly perceived to be on that level by our audience.

We also were able to build close business relationships and eventual partnerships with some big players in our space who previously didn’t know about us so much.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is – why do you want to put on a virtual summit?

If your goal is to make money in the short-term, I gotta say there are probably much easier ways to make more money quicker.

Summits are a lot of work. 

As I mentioned before – my first one was about 2 months of time committed.

(Unless your primary business is trade show or event planning, I would probably discourage you from having your primary goal for your summit being making a profit)

If you charge for your summit because you want it to make money, be mindful that you will have many fewer attendees than if the event was free.

There are trade-offs to consider here.

Let’s talk about these goals.

Build Your Company’s Reputation in Your Industry

Hosting a virtual summit can boost your reputation in the industry you serve.

If you are hosting an event with speakers who are well-known in your space, it will impress your attendees and everyone you’re marketing this event to. 

With your company hosting this event, it gives you a certain cache in the eyes of your audience.

“Wow, this company is hosting an event featuring this lineup of speakers? They must be legit.”

virtual summit speakers panel

Since you were able to get these speakers, they will see you at least as an equal to those speakers.

Suddenly, you’re in the same tier as more established names in your space.

Also, from promoting the summit, your brand will get recognition.

After the event, people will remember you as having put on this summit.

Summits are not just like a one-off webinar, they are events. 

People remember summits much more than webinars because of all the content and interaction going on.

With many sessions, speakers, and attendees, you can get real dialogues going on social media, especially if you’re creating and promoting event hashtags.

Build Relationships with Industry Players and Potential Partners

Sometimes, you might want to invite another company to speak at your summit because you want to build a relationship with them.

Extending an invite to speak to your audience is a great offering of goodwill, and it can spark some collaboration outside of the summit.

For my summits, inviting speakers from other companies facilitated a friendly conversation, and made them much more amenable to finding other ways to collaborate.

Since we had invited them to participate in this summit and share their content and company with our audience, there was probably some sense of reciprocity. Like, “Thanks for inviting me to speak to this audience. I owe you one.”

Generate a Lot of Marketing Leads to Add to Your Email List

Now, here’s probably the biggest reason you’re going to have a virtual summit.

Hosting a virtual summit can build your email list substantially, provided your event is free.

You’re probably going to have an internal debate over whether your event is free or paid. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, I’ll just say that, having your event free and open to everyone will get you substantially more registrants. 

If your goal is to maximize the number of registrants and attendees so you can build your email list, your event should be free to attend.

But, how is just having a virtual summit going to get people to sign up?

Being an “event” rather than a run-of-the-mill webinar, a summit is more enticing for your audience. 

And, with a wide variety of session topics, there is something for everyone.

There are many reasons for people to register to attend.

Also, the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. If people don’t register and attend, they could be missing out on some great content and conversations.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that you “missed out” by not going to a conference in your industry because you saw people talking about it and sharing it on social media.

I definitely have.

Normally though, speakers and registrants don’t tend to share and talk about webinars.

But, with a summit, being an event, they may be more likely to promote it and discuss it on social media.

With all the promotion for your summit, as well as your speakers promoting and sharing the event with their audiences, you can significantly increase your email list.

(A bit later, I’m going to get into how to get your speakers to promote your summit.)

Generate Some Sales Leads

Aside from building your email list, you can also get sales leads from your summit.

By having a session related to your business and what you do, and by promoting your business in the summit’s materials, you can generate qualified sales leads.

When you strike the right tone of “informational” and “salesy”, you can share your knowledge, demonstrate your expertise, and highlight how your service solves a problem that your attendees should hire you for rather than try to do it without you.

Make Some Money (?)

I never sought to make money from my virtual summits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

Some online conferences exist just like plenty of other in-person conferences: they exist to make money for the hosts.

Your online summit can make you money by having paid admission, sponsors, and virtual exhibitors.

You can have paid virtual workshop sessions, or sponsored sessions, or a virtual exhibit hall, just like many in-person conferences.

With summits, you can get creative on the configuration and make it work for you and your audience.

The thing is, there are trade-offs.

Making it pay-to-attend will limit your audience to some degree, and therefore, limit the new emails you get to add to your list.

But, it’s all up to you.

Virtual Summit Formats – Live vs. Pre-Recorded

Next, we’re going to talk about formats for virtual summits. As mentioned before, your sessions can be either live or pre-recorded. 

Regardless of which format you choose, I strongly recommend that you not try hosting a virtual summit until you have at least hosted a webinar or two in the past, so you can see what it’s like to host an online event with an audience.

So, let’s get a bit technical now about the format differences and how it’s going to work to put on the show.

Your virtual summit is going to have multiple sessions with potentially many different speakers.

How is that going to work?

One option: You can pre-record and edit the sessions ahead of time, and then “broadcast” the sessions at their scheduled time.

This format is easier to ensure the sessions are good-quality.

But, this will be a time investment on your end to record and edit the sessions.

And, with the material being pre-recorded, it can be somewhat more challenging to get audience engagement.

Or, you can have live sessions broadcast back-to-back.

This format has a real “live event” quality to it.

But, the live format will have its own challenges, because you will have to ensure that your speakers show up to their sessions and are good quality for your audience.

And with sessions back-to-back, it can be tricky to manage unless you have a decent-sized team to help you put this together.

Or, you can do a mix – have some live sessions and some pre-recorded sessions, which combines the benefits and challenges of both; I would not generally recommend this.

I want to get a bit into the logistics of how these work and the benfits and drawbacks of the live vs. pre-recorded debate, so you can choose what’s best for you.

Pre-Recording Sessions

Here are the pros and cons of pre-recording your sessions:

Pros:

  • This can be put together by one person
  • You can ensure the sessions will be good quality material
  • Ability to edit out speaker mistakes
  • Ensuring the speaker has good-quality audio / video
  • Can be recorded and edited with free or inexpensive software

Cons:

  • Just scheduling the speakers to record their sessions can be a big time investment on its own
  • Recording and editing the sessions takes a lot of time (figure, each session is an hour or so, and you need to sit in on each session, take notes of any issues that need to be edited out, and then go through the video and edit it after it’s recorded)
  • The sessions don’t “feel” live because the speaker cannot have polls in their sessions

Live Sessions

Here are the pros and cons of doing live sessions:

Pros:

  • More “live” event feeling
  • Can do things like polls and live Q&A on your sessions rather than in a chat box
  • Less time investment on your part than if you had to record and edit each session

Cons:

  • You need more than 1 person on your team to work on this to make it happen
  • Can’t 100% control for the speaker’s audio / video / connection quality
  • Can’t control for content quality
  • Requires using a paid virtual summit / livestream app to host

Live vs. Pre-Recorded: Which Format Should You Choose?

Here’s my thoughts:

If you have a team of staff that can dedicate time to working on the event, and a budget for the event, doing it live is a great option. It can be quicker and easier to put together, since you don’t have to record all the sessions ahead of time. 

There are going to be some challenges with doing it live, such as preparing each speaker for their session. But, if you have a team working with you, you can have an “on stage” section for the current session, and a “backstage” section where your team members can work on preparing upcoming speakers and check their audio and video.

But, if you are on a budget, and/or you are the only person on your team who can dedicate time to this, pre-recording makes everything so much easier to put together.

Also, if you are pre-recording your sessions, you can run the event on the cheap. All you need is software to record (e.g. Zoom), YouTube / Vimeo, and a website to embed the sessions.

With a live event, you will need dedicated live event software, like HeySummit, virtualsummits.com, Hopin.to or On24.

heysummit virtual summit software

Paid vs. Free Virtual Summit?

Should your summit be free or paid to attend?

There are pros and cons for each:

With a paid summit, the pros are that you make money, and registrants are more likely to attend because they spent money on it and there’s “buy-in”. But, you’ll have fewer overall registrants, and fewer leads.

example of a paid virtual summit
free virtual summit example

With a free summit, it’s the exact opposite: many more registrants, but the registrants are going to be somewhat less likely to attend, and you make any money off of them.

Overall, my preference is to have the event be “freemium” – free to attend, but if people want to view the sessions after the event is over, we charge a nominal fee of $99 for lifetime access to the content. You can also have other freemium tie-ins like promotional offers for your services, like X months free access to your app or something.

Timeline for a Virtual Summit

Virtual summits have a lot of moving pieces that you are going to have to plan for.

Setting up a pre-recorded summit could take 2-3 months of your time. A live summit, while still time-consuming, might take a little less because you do not need to record the sessions. 

Here are the pieces that you will need to think about.

Virtual Summit Preparation

  • Choose event date / time
  • Decide on free / paid / freemium
  • Create collateral for speakers (FAQs, speaker release)
  • Sign on speakers
  • Create promotional materials for the event, as well as each individual speaker
  • Create a website w/ registration page
  • Get speakers the promotional materials
  • Start promoting the event
  • [Pre-Recorded / Live Summit Timeline pieces]
  • Follow-up after the summit is over

Pre-Recorded Virtual Summit Steps

  • Schedule recording times for each speaker
  • Film and edit each speaker session
  • Insert recorded sessions to the appropriate private pages on your website

Live Virtual Summit Steps

  • Prepare each speaker
  • Run the show

Tools to Host a Virtual Summit

Hosting a virtual summit means you’ll need some tools.

Most of them, you probably already have.

You’ll need:

  • Email marketing software (e.g. Active Campaign / Hubspot / Mailchimp)
  • Payment gateway for paid registration (e.g. Stripe)
  • Registration / membership software (e.g. WooCommerce)
  • Website platform (e.g. WordPress + Offsprout page builder)
  • CRM (e.g. Pipedrive / Hubspot CRM / Active Campaign)
  • For pre-recorded summits: Video hosting (e.g. YouTube / Vimeo) 
  • For pre-recorded summits: Video editing (e.g. Screenflow / iMovie)
  • For live summits: Summit software (e.g. Hopin / On24)
  • Social media marketing software (e.g. Hootsuite)

You should already have email marketing software and a CRM for managing your contacts and leads. Use that for sending out your emails and managing your registrants.

The only thing that will remain is the platform for hosting your virtual summit.

If your event is going to be all pre-recorded, you don’t necessarily need anything new.

What you’ll do is:

  • Record your sessions ahead of time
  • Edit them
  • Upload them to your own YouTube account, making them “unlisted” so people can’t find them
  • Create webpages on your virtual summit website for your sessions (making them hidden / private / draft mode until they are supposed to go “live”)
  • Embed the videos onto those pages
  • Embed a chat widget / live chat app on those pages so people can ask questions

Doing it this way is relatively easy, but will take some time to set up.

One thing to note is, if your event is pre-recorded, you will still want some interactivity here… so what I do is embed a chat box onto each session page. 

This way, people can ask questions of the speakers even though the video sessions have already taken place.

Instruct your speakers to make themselves specifically during their scheduled session times so they can answer incoming questions. This solves your lack of interactivity challenge.

If you are doing your virtual summit 100% live, you will need software for hosting your summit.

There are a few platforms I know of that focus on this:

Each of these platforms is meant for live events with multiple sessions.

on24 virtual summit software
hopin.to virtual summit software
virtualsummits.com virtual summit software
heysummit virtual summit software

Updated April 23, 2020:

For a recent summit I attended, the organizer used On24 and it looked amazing

The summit had multiple concurrent sessions with different lineups of speakers and keynotes, and On24 handled everything.

On24’s platform had the lobby area, pages to see the agenda and session tracks, as well as individual session rooms.

I was very impressed.

For any larger organization looking to put on a polished, professional-quality virtual summit, I would recommend On24.

virtual summit using the on24 platform

Updated April 30, 2020:

I attended another virtual summit that used Hopin.to and I found the user experience to be great.

It was pretty simple to use:

There was an area for attendees to view the presentation, as well as a separate “networking room” where attendees could interact a la Zoom meeting, using their webcams and computer microphones.

And, there was also an expo area where sponsors could promote their services.

The platform is very polished and looks awesome.

Hopin virtual summit software platform for hosting virtual events

I also recently sat in on two different virtual summits that used a real clever method of hosting a live summit.

One used Zoom. The other used Crowdcast.

Both of these apps are more built for webinars than for virtual summits specifically, but they pulled it off nicely.

Basically, they had one official “summit room” in Zoom/Crowdcast for all attendees.

And for preparing the next session’s speaker, the hosting organization had a separate Zoom/Crowdcast room where they helped prepare the speaker and test out their equipment.

This method could also theoretically be replicated with multple Zoom rooms if you have different session tracks running at the same time.

And to keep the live summit interactive beyond the Zoom space, they also had different “hallway rooms” and “expo rooms” where conference-goers could meet with vendors and have conversations, using tools like Google Meet and live chat.

I thought that was particularly clever.

virtual summit using zoom and having separate rooms for attendee interaction

Content and Materials for Your Event

I would recommend preparing as much of your content ahead of time as possible.

Before announcing your event, schedule all your content pieces. This will include:

  • Announcement / press release 
  • Blog post
  • Email series
  • Ads
  • Social media cards
  • Social media posts
  • Landing pages
  • Website

As far as an announcement goes, you’ll want to mention the day(s), time, and some of the notable speakers you will have. 

Beyond just a single announcement email, you should have a few emails go out to your list. This should include emails like:

  1. Initial announcement
  2. Announcement of some speakers and what they will be talking about
  3. “Preview” of 1 session and what it will be about
  4. Discussion of a problem that your audience has and how a speaker session will address that problem
  5. “Only 3 days until our virtual summit – grab your ticket”
  6. “Starting tomorrow!”

The biggest challenge is going to be setting up your website, if you are doing it pre-recorded. If it’s live, you’ll just be using the summit platform for the entire event.

With a simple, bare-bones virtual summit, you could just have a single landing page, but I really prefer having a dedicated website to the summit itself, complete with its own domain.

On the website I’ll have a homepage with all the important details, a page for a schedule of the talks, and a link to a “login” page for confirmed registrants.

Just for the pre-recorded sessions, you are going to need to create webpages to host the session videos.

Promotional Content for Speakers

If you want your speakers to promote your event, you need to prepare promotional materials for speakers.

They aren’t going to create promotional content themselves. It’s time and labor-intensive. And, as a good host, you should be providing it for them anyway.

Make it easy for them to share your event by creating ready-to-go email templates and social media content.

You should have a document of templates ready to go, including:

  • Email templates for their audiences
  • Social media post templates
  • Social media “cards”, personalized for each speaker’s session

You should create a personalized landing page for each speaker that they can send traffic to. 

Also, you can use this to see how many registrants your speakers are each signing up. 

Getting Good Speakers (and Getting Them to Promote Your Event)

Speaker sessions and their content are the core of your virtual summit; without them, you have nothing.

virtual summit speakers page

For your sessions, you should have an idea of the type of content you are looking for. For example, if you are doing a summit specifically for businesses within a particular niche, you might want a variety of sessions, on topics like:

  • Marketing
  • Operations and Management
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Software and Tools
  • Productivity
  • Skills and Training

You may already have an idea of what people you want to speak at your event, regardless of content, because they are well-known in your space and you think would be a good draw.

That’s fine. Be flexible.

But, with speakers, it’s always helpful to approach them with an idea of what they can speak about. 

You can always let them know that you are open to other topics if they have ideas, but giving them some suggestions can make it easier for them to say yes. If there is a topic they have spoken about elsewhere and they can repurpose that material for your summit, then all they need to do is a little promotion and show up to your event.

One question I’ve gotten a few times is: How do you actually get speakers?

It’s really simple actually, I just reach out to them.

If you feel like you are a “nobody” in your industry, and are wondering “why would anyone want to speak at my event”, I need you to dispense with that thinking right away. 

You’re giving the speakers a platform. And it’s super-convenient since it’s from the comfort of their own offices or homes without having to travel anywhere.

It’s a very minimal commitment, especially if they are presenting content they have presented before.

I know, it’s easier said than done, especially if you are in a larger market like “SEO” and you want people like Brian Dean or Neil Patel to speak. Those people aren’t likely going to speak at your event for free, regardless of whether you are charging your attendees.

That also brings up another question: Are you going to be charging people to attend? If yes, your speakers, especially the more well-known ones, will want a speaker fee. Obviously, they’ll see this event as you profiting from their content, so they will want to be compensated for that. But, if you are not charging attendees, and you let your speakers know that, then they may be more amenable to working with you without a speaker fee.

When I put on my summits, many speakers asked me that question: “Are you charging for this?” And, I told them, “We are not charging people to attend, but we will put the content behind a gate with a relatively nominal fee of $99 after the event is over to get lifetime access to the sessions. But, we realistically do not expect that we’ll cover anywhere near the amount of money that we spent promoting and putting on this event.”

So, how did I get speakers to my events? I built relationships with many of them ahead of time.

I made connections in my industry so other companies and people knew who I was. I interacted with them online, at in-person events, and guest-posted on their websites.

When I reached out to speakers, most of them knew who I was.

And, after some of the speakers committed to speak, I would use that commitment to reach out to speakers who didn’t know me.

So, if I got a bigger-name speaker to agree to speak, I would then reach out to someone else and say, “Can you speak at my event? This other well-known person in our space is also going to be speaking.” 

That adds credibility to your event, making them more likely to say yes.

I like to prepare a “Speaker FAQ” document for potential speakers that lays things out like:

  • What do we expect of speakers
  • What kind of session content are we looking for
  • Day / time of event
  • Logistics for how the event is going to work
  • Materials we will provide
  • Materials needed from the speaker

Once you get a “Yes” from them, there’s a little housekeeping to be done.

Once you have your lineup confirmed, there are some things you will need from them for your website and promotional materials:

  • Headshot
  • Name as you’d like it to appear
  • Company name

And then, I would recommend putting together a simple “speaker release” form they can e-sign that basically says “This speaking engagement is a work-for-hire and my company will own the copyright for this content and can distribute it however we see fit, yada yada yada…”

Next, there’s the question of “How can you get speakers to promote your event?”

Some speakers won’t have a big audience to share your event with. And that’s fine.

With my events, I often chose a mix of well-known speakers with a relevant audience to my business’s target audience, along with speakers I knew would be great presenters and put on a good show.

But, if your speakers do have their own audience, ideally, they will also share and promote your event.

So, I would make it clear to them in the speaker materials that you need all the speakers to share and promote your event so that it can reach as many people as possible.

If your event charges an admission fee, you could consider doing something like having an affiliate program for speakers so they get a cut of all attendee registration fees that they bring in.

Recording Your Speakers (if Pre-Recording Sessions)

If you are pre-recording your speakers, I recommend using webinar software like Zoom or GoToWebinar, with just you in the audience.

I prefer Zoom because Zoom lets you record the video from the speakers appearing on webcam, while GoToWebinar does not record the webcam component (at least from when I last used it in 2018).

using zoom to record virtual summit sessions

The webcam component makes it seem a bit more real and personal than just seeing slides.

Before you get recording, test for the speaker’s equipment. It’s important to make sure their audio sounds good. Attendees will leave if it’s frustrating to listen to the speaker.

Keep a notepad handy in case there are any mess-ups that need to be edited out for the final product.

At the beginning of the session, announce the speaker like you would for a webinar, and make a small housekeeping announcement for attendees. For example, you might want to say something like:

“Thank you for attending this session on [topic] at [name of virtual summit]. If you have any questions at all during this session, please feel free to ask it in the [question box / live chat] next to this video and we will get to those questions. Continue the conversation on social media using the hashtag [hashtag you choose]. And now, here’s [speaker name].”

Then, let your speaker go and give their talk. If there are any issues and they need to stop, make a note in your notebook so you can skip to that point later when you are editing.

After the session is over, thank the speaker for their time, and then we get to editing.

Edit out any flubs or mistakes or things that needed a re-take. You can use your preferred editing software. I used either iMovie or Screenflow. (Today when I make videos I always edit with Screenflow)

screenflow screenshot

Then, upload the finished, edited video to your YouTube / Vimeo account, keeping the video unlisted, so that the video will only show up where you embed it, and people won’t be able to find it by searching on YouTube or Vimeo.

There are alternative ways you can do it with hosting your video (e.g. Wistia), but I found that this method is free and works pretty easily.

Announcement and Promotion

So, we discussed materials, sessions, software, and everything you need to prepare for.

Once you are ready to start promoting, and I generally recommend doing so with 1-2 months of lead time, make your announcement.

Share it in a press release. 

Go on podcasts and talk about it.

Share your event in social media groups as well as on your feeds.

Start running ads to your audience.

I personally prefer Facebook Ads over Google or LinkedIn because they had the lowest cost per conversion, though each year we ran ads the cost per conversions were going up (likely due to increased competition on the platform).

Let your speakers know that they should share it with their audiences.

Share it with your email list, and give them links so they can also easily share your event.

Promotion is important. Without promotion, people won’t show up.

For my promotion, I use Postaga.

postaga all-in-one link-building outreach tool

Postaga is a free outreach tool that helps you find websites to reach out to that are relevant to your audience. (full disclosure: I make Postaga, so I may be a bit biased)

With Postaga, I can search for websites and blogs in the industry we’re trying to reach, find contact people at those blogs, and reach out to them to share and promote our event.

link roundup search in postaga campaign

You can even use Postaga to find speakers relevant to your audience.

Running the Show (and when is the best time for you to take a bathroom break)

The event is going to run a little differently if it’s pre-recorded or live, so we’ll talk about them separately.

Regardless of whether it’s live or pre-recorded, you should be monitoring your emails, social media, and Google Analytics.

Monitor your emails for the inevitable issues: some people may have trouble logging in or registering last-minute (it always happens).

Also, monitor social media so you can be involved in the discussions about your event. Monitor your hashtag, comment on anything that deserves attention, and also post about each session. 

Live-tweet interesting information, being sure to share key takeaways from the sessions as they are happening. 

Beyond the social conversations and help tickets, you should also be mindful of web traffic.

In a window on your computer, watch your real-time traffic statistics on Google Analytics. Make sure that people are able to register and log in to attend. 

See how many people are in your sessions and which sessions are popular. After the event, you’ll want to see this data so you can do a debrief later and see which sessions were the most popular, to keep in mind for future events.

Pre-Recorded Virtual Summit

With a pre-recorded virtual summit, all you technically need to do is flip a switch to make your recorded sessions to “go live” at their designated time.

You could conceivably schedule this all ahead of time and do nothing on the day of the summit. You don’t want to do that though. 

Even if sessions are pre-recorded, you should monitor the session pages. Make sure everything is accessible and working correctly.

See if any questions are coming in. 

If there are not many or any questions coming in during a session, you should “plant” some questions to get a conversation started with your speaker.

Thankfully, your attention will not be needed 100% of the time, so you can find time to go to the bathroom and eat lunch.

Live Virtual Summit

A live summit is a different animal completely; finding time to go to the bathroom will be a bigger challenge! Pro tip: Don’t drink anything and you won’t have to go to the bathroom (this is a joke).

First, you should test out your summit platform. Make sure you and your team know how it works and can get it to do what you need for your sessions and your configuration.

With a live summit, you will need at least 2 people on your team managing this: one “on stage” with your speakers to act as a moderator and manage the session; and one “backstage” helping to prepare the next upcoming speaker’s session. 

I would recommend doing sessions back-to-back while you have your attendees’ attention. Taking a break for awhile might result in people dropping out and not coming back.

What to Do After it’s Over

After it’s all over, we need to get attendee feedback.

Run a survey to all attendees, asking questions like:

  • Overall, how likely would you be to recommend this event to a colleague in the future: 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]

Beyond this, you might want to offer “lifetime access” to registrants if they pay a nominal fee. We mentioned this “freemium” model above, but now is the time to send a salesly follow-up email for it. 

For example, “Thank you for attending. If you found the content valuable and want lifetime access, you can get forever-access to all X sessions for $99 (or whatever you charge).”

Also, last but not least, thank your speakers, and thank your attendees.

You couldn’t have put on this event without them.

As a gesture, I like to send speakers a gift basket, thanking them for their participation.

Conclusion

Putting on virtual summits can be a great way to build your brand, get customers, and get more leads.

Follow these steps and you will save a lot of time and money that I spent learning from trial and error.

Let us know if there is anything you want covered in more detail, and we’re happy to share more. Just reply in the comments below!

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