Virtual summits are among the most affordable and rapid methods for generating boatloads of traffic, leads, and conversions for any industry.
If you’re considering leveraging virtual summits to bolster your business performance, check out this guide where I lay down the essentials, benefits, networking tips, and FAQs about this strategic event.
Virtual summit meaning
A virtual summit is a synergetic online activity featuring a collection of back-to-back expert discussions concentrated usually on a specific niche or theme.
It is one where you organize a series of webinars and interviews with credible people and that you launch over many days.
It is an online, multi-session event. You can apply several variations to its program flow and access vis-a-vis attendance pricing (e.g., free, freemium, paid-to-join).
They can go live, take off from pre-recorded videos, or both.
For example, Island Innovation founder James Ellsmoor organized the Virtual Island Summit 2020 for world-class experts and participants from over a hundred island communities.
It aims to discuss cross-sector collaboration for implementing United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The free-access summit with its multi-format, interactive sessions then featured its speakers on its website like this:
Image source: virtualislandsummit.com
Essentially, virtual summits are strategic dialogues bringing together different outlooks and discussing the industry situation overview and some big questions.
Summit vs online conference: Difference between a summit and a conference
Summits are typically one-time, independent events with a comparatively focused subject. Participation and presentation opportunities can come only through invitations.
Below are some of a summit’s defining elements:
- Summits are about concept sharing and dialogues. Your attendees can join in top-level discussions, hear from topical thought leaders, and be present in all sessions (in contrast to breakout activities)
- Summits can be formal and cater to the interests of specific groups such as medical representatives and practitioners, company executives, government agencies, and other big-league industry players.
- Summits usually center on specific issues, such as a trending global predicament. Groups gather to tackle the problem and aim to come up with a feasible solution or proposal for moving forward.
On the other hand, a conference is a sizable meeting where people from particular industries or organizations meet together to converse about topics around their niche or area of interest.
So, summit vs conference — how exactly do they differ then?
Conferences are often open-ended without a general event end goal in mind. Every speaker can have a desired audience takeaway after their presentation, but compared to summits, conferences are more about sharing relevant information than finding solutions to problems.
An online conference acts more as a venue for getting more and new industry-related ideas to bring back to work.
Here’s another difference between a summit and a conference.
Conferences also typically target a much wider audience than summits. Instead of only a select sector, conferences accommodate a vast spectrum of professionals in an industry, such as business owners, teachers, etc.
They even take place for extended periods with several activities. Like summits, conferences introduce relevant speakers sharing their professional insights (although these can concentrate on business-specific issues).ec
However, unlike summits, the attendees mainly listen and seldom get the chance to participate in dialogues. They learn and then interact with resource speakers and other participants after the event.
Virtual summit benefits
These are some of the valuable virtual summit benefits your business can gain:
1. More high-quality leads generated
Virtual summits can quickly and massively increase your website traffic, list of email subscribers, and number of qualified leads.
First is by introducing irresistible offers and offering value, such as giving prospects free or discounted access to a virtual summit relating to their interests, search, etc. in exchange for their email address, like Bestseller Summit Online did:
Image source: bestsellersummitonline.com
You can also take advantage of your speakers’ networks. Your invited resource persons will want to promote their speaking engagement to promote themselves and strengthen their clout.
However, you can further compel them to share the summit with their social following and email list by giving them attractive incentives.
Because these followers and subscribers already trust the industry leader, they have an existing vested interest and are more likely to want to sign up for your virtual summit.
Through your event and speakers, you reach a profitable group of instant pre-qualified leads and shorten their journeys through your sales and lead generation funnels.
2. Wider network
Virtua summits are terrific venues to link up with other industry leaders and your participants.
By bringing together stakeholders in your niche, you and everyone else can freely exchange insights, contact details, ideas for future collaborations, affiliate arrangements, and more.
Since you offer these leaders a powerful platform for reaching new audiences, building their authority, and bolstering their influence, they become more open to interacting and keeping you in their network for more possible partnerships.
You also get to forge strong relationships with your attendees, including those who have never followed, subscribed, or signed up for your membership services.
Once you give them a memorable summit experience, they’re more likely to spread the word about your event and invite others to join.
3. Bolstered credibility
Besides your fellow speakers’ clout, you also get to bolster your industry authority and credibility through your online summit.
By sharing accurate, value-laden niche insights, you impress your attendees and project a knowledgeable and trustworthy brand image.
You also boost your position as an influential industry figure as you discourse with other thought leaders and their influence rubs off on you. Amplify that by highlighting together your and their work during the summit.
4. Increased profit
Virtual summits can generate boatloads of profit because the qualified traffic and leads, wider connections, and boosted authority all contribute to your bottom line.
You can also monetize your virtual summit through various ways.
One popular sales offer is the all-access pass, which provides participants lifetime access to a virtual membership storage of all the event’s interviews.
The all-access pass can also include other perks such as discussion transcripts, downloadable audio and/or video clips, and others.
Knowing your audience’s vested interest in your online summit, take this chance to upsell or cross-sell to them. An example is a new product you’re launching or specific service they can access at lower rates during the summit.
You can even give limited time offers and discounted vouchers to persuade prospects to sign up to your summit like this:
Image source: entrepreneurshq.com
Another way is reaching out to companies for sponsorships (though this can depend on your summit size). For instance, if your speaker advocates for a specific product and contact the supplier or business to see if they’d like to sponsor a video or ad.
Here’s another method: using affiliate networks.
When your speakers mention specific products or tools (and it’s bound to happen), reach out to these creators and discuss affiliate arrangements. The’ll give you a link that, when used for purchases, can then score you significant amounts of profit.
This is a compelling tactic because the experts reveal and tell attendees which tools to harness, and you’re getting commission from purchases (not to mention soaring conversion rates).
To leverage this strategy, ask affiliates for a coupon code for your summit participants’ use only.
For My Virtual Summit Funnel, its affiliate program lets promoters give free VIP access tickets to their invited participants and then specifies several ways potential affiliates can get heaps of earnings in return.
Image source: coldericemedia.kartra.com
Now, if you’re launching your summit for free, add paid upgrades to earn revenue. For example, give your attendees for access for seven days and then present a paywall.
You can also try using the all-access pass as your summit’s upsell offer. Split-experiment you pricing for this and find the balance between offering free and locked resources.
Networking hacks: Tips for networking on virtual summits
Even as a host, you still need to be mindful of how you can effectively connect with valuable industry players joining your summit.
Here are four networking hacks to help you do that:
1. Set your networking objectives.
Maximize your networking efforts by establishing your goals for it at the onset. Ponder on these questions to guide you in crafting them:
- Who is the most valuable leader or brand to connect with, and what do you hope to achieve in your interaction with them? Identifying your target networking persona helps you narrow your focus and ensure achieving a productive, purposeful discussion and exchange of details.
- How can I find them? Go through your list of summit participants (and make them available to those joining) and select your targeted persons for networking. You can also search for them ahead on LinkedIn, Facebook, their websites, etc. to orient yourself with their profiles and professional background. Insert your photo and contact details, including that of your speakers and attendees, in the list to make everyone easily findable later.
- How many persons can I practically and meaningfully link with? It’s tempting to aim to talk to as many contacts as possible during the summit, but doing this can steer you from your networking objectives. Interactions can also go for more than 15 minutes, so you’ll want to talk the longest to your most valuable networks. Focus on them and review the program for optimum networking opportunities pre-, post-event, and in-between.That way, your mind can concentrate on initiating more fruitful discussions rather than the numbers.
2. Create a post-event community.
Depending on your summit’s style and objectives, you can build an online community for your speakers and participants to stay connected after your virtual summit.
Doing this helps you nurture professional connections started in the summit and build a sense of belongingness in your attendees (because of the common ground in their summit attendance).
It can also serve as a place for promoting related events, giving and getting feedback, and communicating with the speakers and participants, especially if there’s a follow-up discussion, mentoring, etc. agreed in the summit.
3. Send and publish relevant post-event messages.
Besides thank-you-for-joining emails and social media posts, keep connecting with your attendees by sending and publishing other relevant messages (ideally, within 24 hours while your conversation with them is still fresh in their minds).
For example, create images of valuable quotes from the summit, present a few highlights, and encourage your attendees to share their takeaways (mentioning or tagging you in their social posts so you can republish them). Look out as well for your speakers’ content about the summit and share them.
Doing this on social media benefits not only the ones present in your virtual summit but also entices those who weren’t there to join in your next summit.
Depending on your summit arrangements, email them your promised post-event resources and stay in touch with your contacts by delivering other related and future promotional messages.
Examples include whitepapers, articles, and research studies relevant to your discussion with the or a project they said they were working on.
4. Categorize your contacts.
The last of these networking hacks entails organizing your contacts to guide you in your following interactions with them.
Create an easily accessible, updatable electronic copy of your networking contacts’ details for your quick reference anytime, then sort them according to the quality of your interaction with them.
You can group your contacts into these:
- People with whom you have no apparent connection yet, but you wish to maintain within your network;
- Contacts for whom you have specific business reasons to follow up; and
- Industry players with whom you’d like to forge a more meaningful client relationship.
After you’ve organized them, follow them up and send timely messages accordingly, giving every segment the necessary amount of attention.
Virtual summit FAQs for CEOs
Below are some questions CEOs frequently ask about virtual summits:
What makes a summit successful?
To succeed in hosting a virtual summit, it has to be highly relevant and interactive, and your content must be compelling ang aligned with the event’s objectives.
You should also evaluate your event implementation and performance and see which aspects to improve for the next summit.
How much does running a virtual summit cost?
Virtual summit expenses rely primarily on the amount of technology you’re using or need to purchase and the workload you will accomplish yourself or outsource.
The hardware and software requirements include webcam, microphone, headset, an email marketing application, sales funnel builder, a reliable webinar or video conference tool, and other programs frequently used by infopreneurs.
Graphic design, video editing, social media marketing, and other related tasks are also required. You can save much if you can do these yourself or hire freelancers with affordable rates.
Should I commit to organizing a yearly virtual summit once I launch one?
Many online summit organizers launch their events more than once because they’ve experienced the tremendous advantages the activity brought them on their first run and wish to maximize their efforts in building their brand.
However, you don’t have to feel obliged to continue hosting your summit every year if you choose to pursue a different direction.
How can I earn from my virtual summit?
You can get substantial profit from your online summit through various sales offers to your leads and mailing subscribers.
These include all-access passes (as mentioned previously), upsells, order bumps, sponsorships, affiliate links, paywalls, and more.
Do I need an extensive mailing list before running my virtual summit?
No, you don’t necessarily have to secure a large email list (or any size for that matter) to kickstart your online summit.
As mentioned, one benefit of virtual summits is growing your email list. Even if you don’t have an existing one yet, you can use the event to build your subscriber base from there.
Whether you’re new to your industry or a long-time expert already, virtual summits are nifty marketing tools to acquire a targeted audience and potential customers.
Remember, although you can earn revenue from your virtual summit, your event’s true asset is not that upfront profit, but your networking contacts and engaged prospects.
Develop favorable relationships with them and find win-win collaborative projects and partnerships to bolster your and their business.