In 2021, I held a virtual summit that made over $5,000 in revenue. Compared to the earnings of other virtual summits, it doesn’t sound like a terribly large amount of money.
However, I looked at my online summit as more than a one-off revenue generating event, and more like a long-term product I can continue selling long after it was over.
In this post I wanted to go over a few things with you.
- How to run an online summit
- How to create a virtual summit
- Virtual summit ideas
- Virtual summit funnels to copy
There’s so much more I’ll get into, but for now that’s a baseline for what to expect in this comprehensive guide.
What Is An Online Summit?
An online summit is an event where interviews with experts in a given field are broadcast for a limited time.
They’re typically free for anyone to attend, and after the online summit is over, the interviews are taken down from the internet.
For my past virtual summit, I did interviews with 28 guests and broadcast about seven interviews per day.
The logo for my virtual summit earlier this year.
How Do You Make Money With An Online Summit?
Typically you’ll sell an All-Access Pass — which gives purchasers access to the interviews for life.
The way the virtual summit funnel works is, you have a landing page where folks can sign up for free. Then, after they sign up, you give them a limited time offer to buy the All-Access Pass at a stark discount.
I priced mine at $59.
Then, as the virtual summit gets closer to ending, you bump the price up multiple times to encourage purchases.
The final price for my All-Access Pass was $149.
Virtual Summit Ideas
I’ll give you a few examples of some virtual summit ideas..
- Side-Hustle Summit — This was the one I made earlier this year. I brought experts on to talk about 28 different side hustle ideas for people to try.
- Solopreneur Summit — Interview a bunch of solopreneurs, and discuss how they created their own solo business.
- Crypto Summit — Hold a virtual summit about cryptocurrencies and invite some of the biggest names in the space to come speak about upcoming trends, etc.
- Blogging Summit — Interview various successful bloggers and discuss how the audience can build their own thriving blog.
- Mental Health Summit — Hold a virtual summit relating to mental health, and interview various authors, bloggers, and experts in the field.
I could keep going on with more virtual summit ideas, but you get my point.
There’s really no limit to this. If there’s a community online for it, you’ll be able to create a popular online summit for it. What communities do you belong to? What do you care about? Start there.
What Virtual Summit Software Do I Need?
Unfortunately there’s no dedicated virtual summit software out there. You need to do a dance between various online tools like:
I managed to marry many of these tools together into a makeshift virtual summit software solution. I’ll talk more about that in my funnel session.
How To Create A Virtual Summit
Okay, so there’s a lot of moving parts to this. Let’s talk about how to create a virtual summit, in depth. Here are the three biggest components to any successful online summit:
- Interviewing your experts — Interviewing 30 people is tough. 30 is a good number for any virtual summit. You’ll need to cold email some 60 people AT LEAST to get 30 influencers interested. Then you need to write up questions. Then you need to schedule the interviews. Then you need to sit down for an hour and conduct the interviews. Then you need to create timestamps from your conversation. Then you need to get ghosted by 1 or 2 of your guests who said they’d interview with you but didn’t. As you can see, this is quite a lot of work. This step alone is probably 50% of the work.
- Designing your funnel — Designing marketing materials, graphics, landing pages, checkout pages, email sequences, your All-Access Pass, and any freebies will be another 25% of the job.
- Launching the virtual summit — It’s showtime. Time to publish the interviews, market the interviews, generate discussion, and scoop up any last All-Access purchasers before the event is over. This is another 25% of the work.
Let’s talk in depth about interviewing your experts, first.
How To Get Guests For Your Virtual Summit
A list of guests for my summit.
When diving into how to create a virtual summit, we need to spend some time talking about where and how to win guest interviews.
Honestly, I used Medium for mine.
My publication, the Post-Grad Survival Guide, publishes a lot of content about side-hustles, so naturally I looked in my own backyard first.
You can do the same. What’s your online summit going to be about? Check Medium’s topics page to find good writers. Search your keyword at the top of Medium, then click the tag on the right hand side on the next page.
Great, now you’ll be on the “tag page” for that particular tag, and you’ll be able to see some of the top writers, popular stories, and related tags all in one place.
From here it’s as simple as clicking into various writer profiles, checking to see if they have any contact information on their profile, and sending them a message on Twitter or via email.
Here’s a guy I found named Sylvain Saurel.
He’s got a link to his Twitter and a website I can visit. Dope. I want to send him an email, so let’s say I got his email address. I’d send him an email like this.
“Holy hell, Sylvain. Just read your recent article about being Bitcoin and I’m floored by your knowledge on this topic.
Would love to interview you about your experience with cryptocurrency as part of a virtual summit I’m running. Let me know if you’re open to chatting with me. I expect some 2,000–3,000 people will show up for our free event online. I have about 10,000 email subscribers in total so we’re going to get a lot of people to show up. All you would have to do is sit down and record an interview with me sometime over the next two months. Advance happy new year to you and everybody else on your team. Keep doing your thing!!! Would love to hear from you. Cheers, Tom”
This is an example of an actual cold email that worked for me.
You can also look videos up on Youtube related to your topic, leave a comment asking for the person’s email address, then send them an email if they oblige you.
Also, Google searches tend to work quite well. You want to attract influencers with big email lists to come interview with you so you can hijack their audience for promotion. Make sure you have a nice balance between experts with little audience and experts with big audiences.
I record my calls with Zoom. It’s free to record when there’s two people on the call, so that’s all you need. Use a tool like Calendly to easily setup time to talk.
One more thing.. Why would guests agree to interview with you?
Offer them a generous affiliate link for your summit so they can earn money. Also, emphasize the marketing boost they’ll get from coming on. You should have thousands of attendees if you market the online summit right (more on that later).
How To Create A Virtual Summit Funnel
The next step in how to create a virtual summit is the virtual summit funnel. Here’s a list of things you need:
- A landing page to explain what the summit is and collect attendee email addresses.
- A landing page offering folks your All-Access Pass.
- Email follow up sequences reminding registrants when the online summit is and detailing any important information.
- Virtual summit graphics for marketing purposes.
- Email follow up sequences designed to sell your registrants the All-Access Pass.
- Creation of the All-Access Pass itself.
I could create an entire online course about this (and I might, someday), but for now all you need to know is the basics about how you can get started creating your own virtual summit funnel.
I hosted my summit interviews and All-Access Pass on Teachable. I created two separate schools — one designed for the free event, and the other designed for the paid AA pass.
You can create landing pages for each school. One was more focused on the free event, and the other was more focused on selling.
Landing pages, interview hosting, and checkout pages can all be taken care of through Teachable. Heck, you can even email registrants through Teachable, but I opted for the more robust ConvertKit solution instead.
Yes, there’s a way to send Teachable registrant info through to ConvertKit.
You can create automatic email follow ups in ConvertKit giving registrants any important information that they need.
I wrote all the important emails for my summit as drafts then I simply manually broadcasted them at the proper times.
Typically, you’d want email broadcasts announcing..
- Any upcoming All-Access Pass order bumps.
- The release of new interviews, so one email for each day of the Virtual Summit.
- Any follow up emails after the summit.
Marketing And Promotion of Your Virtual Summit
This is where your guests help you again. You need to send them an email about 4 weeks out giving them their affiliate link (that can be arranged through Teachable), and telling them it would mean the world to you if they could shout this out to their email list.
A tweet won’t fucking cut it. You need real power here. Email lists are the power and will generate exponentially more sign ups than a tweet.
Tweets are worthless — make sure you dance around that crucial point in your email in some way.
If most of your attendees help you promote, and if many of them have a big email list, you should be sitting pretty.
How To Run An Online Summit
Alright, let’s talk about how to run an online summit, which is where the rubber meets the road.
There’s a few things you need to do when using my Teachable-ConvertKit combination to run your summit.
1. Each Day, At 8 AM, “Publish” That Days Videos On Teachable
Okay, so the great thing about using Teachable to run a summit is, everybody makes their own username and password, and they can login to watch whatever content YOU release on the backend.
This is how I divided up my summit on the backend. I have the interviews listed under my “Day 1” category, then I select them all and toggle the “published” setting up at the top of the screen (it’s the check mark).
Once they’re published, I move on to the next step.
2. Send An Email Out To Registrants Notifying Them The Interviews Are Ready
After I publish the videos, then I send a video out to registrants letting them know that that days interviews are ready.
Then you simply respond to any email questions throughout the day and check social media for any tweets.
That’s how to run an online summit the easy way.
This is honestly pretty much all that I did last time for my summit. I published the interviews then sent an email out notifying everyone the emails were ready.
You can do a lot more if you want to, like:
- Encourage folks to share their thoughts on Twitter using a hashtag for the summit.
- Create a Facebook group for the summit.
- Share content heavily on social media about your summit.
There’s a lot more things you could do, but I’m not convinced it would even do a fraction of what a nice email blast from someone with 10,000 subscribers would.
I’d spend most of my time making sure the summit funnel converts well. If you get a 4–5% conversion rate (meaning 4–5 attendees out of 100 registrants buy the All-Access Pass), then you’re good to go.
Anyway, that’s how to run an online summit.
I hope that helps you if you’re looking for information on how to create your own virtual summit. Let me know if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).