In this episode, we’re going to talk about virtual summits. I’m in the middle of planning a virtual summit and wanted to give you a behind the scenes view of all the different activities that need to be done.
If you’re not familiar with what a virtual summit is, it’s basically an online event where you gather up a group of experts in your field or niche and you either interview each of those experts or you have them present a particular topic that’s related to your niche and you basically create a collection of anywhere between 10 and 40 or 50 different speakers on different topics related to your niche.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- What is a virtual summit and why are they valuable?
- The program I am following to ensure a successful virtual summit
- The major steps in planning and delivery a summit
- Outreach and recruiting speakers
- Recording the summit content
- Building your summit platform and site
- Promoting and launching your summit
- Behind the scenes of my summit planning
- Sign up for my free membership tier and access to the virtual summit
- Watch out for info on the summit launch date and the all-start list of speakers I’m working with
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Transcript DownloadDownload a PDF of the Transcript
Hey everybody, Dave Ziembicki here. Welcome to StrongStart.fm. My mission is to help you design, automate and outsource the technology of your online business. In this episode, we’re going to talk about virtual summits. I’m in the middle of planning a big virtual summit and I wanted to give you a behind the scenes view of all the different activities that need to be done to create a successful virtual summit.
Some of the topics we’ll cover include what a virtual summit is and why they’re valuable, a specific program that I’m following to ensure that I have a successful virtual summit and major steps in planning and delivering a summit, how to reach out to speakers and recruit them to be part of your virtual summit, recording your summit content, building your summit platform in site, promoting and launching your summit and then a behind the scenes view of how I’m planning my virtual summit and where I am in that process right now.
If you’re not familiar with what a virtual summit is, it’s basically an online event where you gather up a group of experts in your field or niche and you either interview each of those experts or you have them present a particular topic that’s related to your niche and you basically create a collection of anywhere between 10 and 40 or 50 different speakers on different topics related to your niche.
Most of you have probably seen these over the years, there are some examples out there like a list building school where basically the topic is building your email list and you’ll get 20 or 30 experts on that topic talking about different tips and techniques and systems that they use.
Another one is you know, the self-publishing success summit from a couple of years ago where you know, a number of different speakers were invited, they were all in the area of eBooks or writing books and promoting books and things like that and so you would have a virtual summit related to how to create and publish your first book.
The idea there is you get this collection of experts, you get them to cover different elements of a particular topic and then you package that up as a collection of interviews that you offer up to your particular audience.
Why they’re valuable is because, they basically are a list building tool that also comes with a potential financial benefit to the way that summits work is basically, once you have the 20 or 30 speakers recruited and you’ve got your content all set, there’s what’s called a free access period and then a paid access period to the virtual summit.
Most of them follow the same format where basically for the first week or so, after you launched the summit, the content is free to anyone that opts in and gives you their email address and basically joins the summit. That first step there, because you’re offering huge value, I mean, think of 30 hours’ worth of interviews with a collection of experts and all you have to do is you know, give an email to get access to that information.
That is a huge amount more value than say just creating a PDF download or a lead magnet that you might give somebody in return for their email address. The opt in rates for summits are going to be substantially higher than almost anything else you’re going to do because you’re basically almost giving them an entire online course with experts from your topic area for free and since it’s concentrated around a particular time and you launch it like it is, its own event.
It’s something where you can gain a couple of thousand, all the way up to 10 or even 20,000 new email subscribers in a very short period of time. Out of all the things that are out there in terms of building your list, this is potentially one of the most valuable because you can get that huge chunk of new subscribers in a short period of time.
Now, the difference is, just creating a PDF, yeah, that might take you half an hour and then you might get some email subscribers out of that if you offer it as a lead magnet. A virtual summit as you’ll see as we go through the rest of this episode, takes a significant amount of time to plan and deliver and does take some investment and so forth.
This is not something you’ll necessarily be able to do if you have zero budget but if you do have a little budget and you’re looking at the difference between spending the next year writing a lot of blog post and you know, doing a whole bunch of lead magnets and hoping to grow your list by a few thousand versus something like a virtual summit where it is going to take a couple of months of planning but you might get that huge subscriber growth in a shorter period of time, it’s definitely something worth taking a look at.
Now, the key reason in addition to everything that I just mentioned for why I’m thinking about a virtual summit is because most summits also have a paid product component to them. What that means is that while the first week or so of the summit, everybody has access to the videos for free. What most summits do is also offer something called like an all access pass or a lifetime access pass or something like that. Where basically you sell access to the videos for either a time period or for a lifetime access to people that pay to purchase that product.
The idea there is that you know, a person may not be able to consume all the videos in the free time period, they want to keep them for reference later. Basically, most summits also have a paid product which is lifetime access to all of the recordings plus any number of different bonuses in return for that person paying for the access pass.
Generally, most virtual summits charge anywhere from $97 to $297 for that lifetime access pass. Again, that just gives you access to all of the materials and any other bonuses that you might setup when you create your summit. The reason why that’s interesting is again, even at $97, that’s a very low price point for access to over 30 hours of video in most cases.
From experts on a particular topic. Not to mention whatever bonuses the person creating the summit throws in. When you think about it, for $97, you get all of that access. Now, from the creator point of view or the creator of the summit, the nice thing about that is you have a way to monetize this list building activity that you’re doing.
Depending on how the math works out, you know, if you have a decent opt in rate for that lifetime access pass and as long as you keep your promotional cost in check, you actually might be able to get subscribers to your email list at a cost of zero right? If you get enough buyers of the all access pass for $97 or whatever you decide to charge for it, you work through the numbers there depending on how much it’s costing to promote and deliver the summit and you may well be adding people to your list for free.
It may even be making a little bit of a profit off of the people that you add to your list. The average case with a summit is that you might get those email opt ins for $0. Now, if you have other products that you’re trying to sell, that’s where the summit really starts to shine because basically, at the end of the virtual summit, you could do a webinar, you can do a pitch for whatever your product or courses that you’re trying to sell and at that point, if you’ve gotten all your email subscribers for zero.
Any opt ins to your paid product are basically the cost of acquisition was basically free. Anybody that’s going to be a buyer of your other core products at the end of the summit, all of that should go straight to profit because all your promotional costs were taken care off by the price they paid for their all access pass.
For me, you know, given that I’m about a year into my business and I’m just getting ready to launch my paid membership program later this fall, the combination of a virtual summit plus the launching of my paid product is really the key business strategy that I’m doing throughout the course of the summer of 2017 and fall of 2017.
Moving in to that launch phase there. For me, my goals with the summit are to grow my email list by at least 2,500 more subscribers and hopefully closer to 5,000 and then right at the end of the summit, launch my main paid product. And by positioning those things together, I think that’s going to be the biggest ROI on both my time and the promotional budget at I’m setting aside for both the summit and the membership site launch.
That’s a quick description of what virtual summits are and why they can be valuable to you both as an audience member of a summit or also as somebody who might be thinking about creating and building their own summit. Now, for me, this is the first time that I’m doing the summit and so as I usually do with anything that new that I’m doing, I go out and I look for some of the best online courses or programs that are out there related to that particular topic.
In this case, the program that I’m following for designing and planning and running my summit is called virtual summit mastery and that’s a program offered by Navid Moazzez who is one of the leading authorities on creating and delivering virtual summits.
Out of all of the online courses that I’ve bought in to and researched and invested in over the last year or two, VSM, virtual summit mastery is one of the best. The reason is that the normal stuff you would expect is in there, detailed videos, sort of step by step tutorials, a really great PDF planning guide that has a couple of hundred different steps to outline that you need to do for everything to create and build a summit, I’ll give a little bit of an overview of that in this episode but the other thing that’s included is a ton of templates and free resources that really make it a lot easier to build the sites and the pages and all the technical stuff that you need for your summit.
As well as lots of examples of entire email campaigns and swipe files and things like that for all the different communications you need to do during a summit. If you think about it, you know, this is a major online event that you’re building, it’s not going to be just one or two emails that you send out or a short follow up sequence, there is the whole sort of sales funnel side of the summit that you need to do, there’s all the communications and coordination of your speakers.
If you do an affiliate program which we’ll talk about, there’s a whole set of communications for that and basically, inside a VSM, there’s a lot of examples of each of these different elements. After taking a look at it, you know, it was sort of a no brainer once I decided to do a summit that that was going to be the course to enroll in and the system to follow.
Now, right now, Navid is in the middle of planning an upgrade to that whole program and so later in the fall of 2017, he’s going to be launching the version three of his virtual summit mastery program. Right now, it’s at version two, that’s what I’m utilizing and a number of different improvements and tweaks and modifications are happening there.
Once we get closer to that time period, you’ll hear more about that from me because I’m a big fan of that program, I’ll most likely be an affiliate of the program and so forth. But for now, I’m going to try basically the steps that I’m going through and some of the main components of planning your virtual summit.
When it comes to building your virtual summit, there’s really four steps or phases that I would break it down in to. The first is planning, in the beginning, you need to think about your niche, about the topic for your virtual summit, what the name of the summit is going to be and so on. I mentioned a couple of examples like the list building school or self-publishing success summit. If you do a search on Google for virtual summits, you’ll come back with a list of many different ones that are out there.
You can get an idea for some of the topic areas in the titles. Generally, the more niche you can make your summit just like anything else in online business, the easier it’s going to be to do targeting and the more relevant the audience you’re going to get.
What you generally want to be thinking about for your topic is a couple of things, one is, does it relate to whatever your core business is right? In my case, you know, helping people design, automate and outsource the technology of their online business, productivity, content creation, these are the types of things that my business and my brand focus on. If I was going to do a virtual summit on the best fitness program experts that are out there, it just wouldn’t make sense.
That’s not really a topic area that I cover. The first thing you want to do is think about something that’s related to your space. The second thing to think about in terms of your topic area is the topic or niche that you want to be an expert in. The interesting thing about virtual summits is that while you are primarily recruiting other experts and larger names in your niche to be part of the summit, you also basically get expertise by association.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s really interesting for folks in the earlier stages of their online business and developing their audience. If you imagine, you know, you’re interviewing let’s say the third most popular blogger or podcaster that’s out there in your particular niche, some of that expertise is going to basically associate to you, the audience is going to say, these two are talking to each other, one’s interviewing the other, they’re having some back and forth.
This host of the summit must also be an interesting person or an expert in that particular niche as well. That’s one of the other areas that’s why virtual summit can be valuable. Then the third, this is probably the most important one is that during the course of recruiting the speakers, doing some initial logistics and prep calls and then doing the actual interview itself and then the follow up afterwards, you’re building a little bit of a relationship with those speakers.
The people that you’re inviting to the summit. There’s nothing better than having sort of one on one video chats with somebody to build a relationship and that’s something that’s going to happen as a side effect of that virtual summit. Especially if it’s successful, you know, after the fact of you need to ask that influencer something or there’s some value that you can provide to them, that’s something that you’re going to be able to do much more easily than if you’re just randomly emailing a person out of the blue and you don’t have that relationship there.
You know, the planning phase is obviously quite important for a virtual summit, picking the need, picking the topic area, thinking about your approach for how you’re going to go after the speakers, which speakers you want to go recruit and so forth. Really, you want to be thinking long term here.
In my case, obviously I have goals, I want to have that subscriber growth and you know, I’m hoping to have that email subscriber list come in at a relatively low or zero cost because of the paid components to it. At the end of the day, the thing I’m most interested in is A, getting a lot of value to my audience, you know, getting these experts in front of them.
Picking their brains for some of the most interesting tips or tactics that they utilized and then second, it’s really building up that relationship with those influencers. The subscriber list and even the financial stuff for our secondary, if you take the long-term perspective there.
Once that planning phase is done, the next phase on a summit is your outreach and recruiting of your speakers. Now, this part is actually fairly challenging. It’s something that a lot of people are nervous about because basically, unless you already have relationships with the people that you want to invite, you’re going to have to think strategically about how to go after these folks.
If they don’t know who you are, if they’ve never heard from you before, if you’re just sending them a random email out of the blue and they don’t know your name or your brand. Then your success rate there is going to be fairly low.
Now, at the same time, what I found is even though I am having to do cold outreach in some cases, my success rate isn’t high but it’s been at least you know, 25% so far and sometimes up to 30 or 50%. What that means is sending out an email to somebody I really don’t have any preexisting relationship with or awareness of.
I’m still getting people to respond and in some cases, commit to being a speaker for the summit. That part I was a little bit surprised by that that was as high as it was for this cold outreach. In my case, you know, maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s random, but from what I’m seeing in forums and inside the VSM program, it’s not unrealistic to think that you’re at least going to get a 20% type of success rate if you follow the program and if you use some of the outreach templates that are included.
Now, if possible, you want to try and avoid having to resort to cold outreach, that’s sort of is the last resort there. What you want to be doing is basically building up some form of relationship even if it’s just via Twitter or comments on a blog or something like that, somewhere where the influencer that you’re going to outreach to will recognize your name at least and hopefully will have a positive association with your name.
That’s Joe, yeah, I’ve seen him comment on a bunch of my blog posts and he’s been in my free Facebook group helping out the audience, things like that. You want them to hopefully recognize your name and then have that first association be relatively positive. In order to do that, obviously, you have to be planning well in advance of when you want to launch your summit and well in advance of when you are going to start your speaker outreach. In my particular case, it was very early in May 2017 when I decided, okay, I think a virtual summit is going to be the strategy I’m going to use for building out my email list.
At that point, you know, I joined the virtual summit mastery pretty much right away and figured out okay, I’m going to make sure that I take about a month to try and build up some relationship with the influencers that I’m thinking about inviting to the summit. What that meant was I joined you know, all of their email list, I joined any of their free programs or communities and really started interacting with the people that were in those communities, trying to add as much value as I could which I just generally enjoy doing anyway.
It wasn’t just a sort of a marketing tactic or anything like that. I love going into forums and you know, helping people where I can and so on and so forth, this just gave me a target list of places to go do that, that had the side benefit of building up some potential awareness with the speaker.
The other thing I did and that I outlined in a blog post that I’ll link to over in the show notes at StrongStart.fm/024 is I also setup some automation where I took every one of the speakers that I was thinking of inviting and I found out whether they had a blog or a podcast and then I popped that blog or podcast feed into the application called if this, then that or IFTTT.com and with that automation platform, basically what happens is, anytime one of the speakers puts out a new blog post or a new podcast episode, it sends me a text message on my cellphone.
Usually within two or three minutes of that speaker hitting the publish button, I know that they have new content out there. What that does is it gives me a quick time window where I can go in, read their content, make some comments on their blog post, add some free value, you know, tweet out a link to their article and so forth to give them some exposure to my audience and so on.
It’s just a couple of very simple things there to be able to start building up that relationship with the speaker. In my case, it was actually pretty successful right away so one of the people I was inviting to the summit is Pat Flynn, a well-known podcaster and blogger and so forth. With that automation, you know, every time he posts, I go out and read the post add some comments to it and the very first time I did this, once I setup this automation.
You know, I got some really nice feedback form him in the comments and so basically, A, he took the time to read the comment that I wrote and took a little bit more time to actually add a comment of his own there.
You can be pretty sure that the next time he sees my name somewhere on the screen, it’s probably going to stick out a little bit and he might remember that as opposed to you know, somebody who he’s never interacted with before. Again, I set aside about a month’s worth of time to just try and build up that basic relationship with some of the speakers before I started the actual outreach process. You know, my strategy there was something that I am following from virtual summit mastery.
What the recommendation there is when you’re thinking about all the speakers to invite, you want to have a mix of like the really, super popular people, the middle and then maybe some new and up and coming people that folks haven’t heard about. Sometimes the most popular people are called the A-listers, then you have B and C list types.
It’s not anything to be sort of negative or pejorative against people with the smaller audience, it’s just that there’s people that are at different phases of their business and their growth and so on. Now, depending in on your niche, it might make sense to have some of each of those and it usually does.
In my case, I am having about an equal distribution of those three types of speakers because you know, my audience is at various stages of growing their business. Some haven’t even started yet, some are in the solo entrepreneur phase where they’re doing everything themselves and some are already at the higher end where they’ve got a virtual team or even employees and things like that.
They have a more complex and larger business to manage. In my case, I want examples of each of those types of three speaker types for the summit content that I’m doing because I wanted to be able to appeal to the broad swath of my audience.
Now, the next thing that I did that I don’t think I saw mentioned in VSM is I set a target of three A list speakers that I wanted to recruit into the summit and my goal was to land at least one of them, right?
The reason I did that and I focused on that as the first thing before doing outreach to all the other people on my list is that I figured, if I got at least one A-lister to commit early then that would open up the door for everyone else. Basically, if you’ve got a super popular person that’s committed already, it’s basically social proof for all the other speakers that you might outreach to.
Well so and so already committed and that’s a big name, therefore yeah, I’m going to commit too because I know that person’s name alone is going to bring in a big audience. That was really my strategy was to say okay, well I’m going to target three people in my niche that I really want to get in to the summit.
Assume that I’m going to get one of them and then focus my outreach effort early on, on building a relationship with them and then trying to land at least one of them. You know, again, because this is my first summit, I don’t know if it’s luck, random or if it was a brilliant strategy that I just outlined, but, I was lucky enough to land at first, one A-lister off of my list and then about a week or two later, A second A-lister as well.
I wound up getting two out of three where my goal was to at least get one out of three. I was super excited about that and I do think it’s helped open the doors with a lot of the other speakers that I’m outreaching to and especially when I have to resort to cold outreach. Because it’s basically a little bit of instant credibility there when you can say, “Hey, you know one of the top five people in this niche has already committed to joining this particular virtual summit”.
So, I mentioned a few other techniques for trying to land those A-listers, targeting them building up a relationship with them first by adding a lot of value to their audience. The other thing really comes down to some of the basics like just making sure your emails are very crisp, very clear, understanding that the person’s time is valuable.
They are not going to read a 5,000-word email or anything like that. Also, you need to make sure that any materials that you create and send are either well-designed or professionally designed. So, one of these first steps in VSM is basically building a one page overview of your virtual summit and making sure that is a very nice-looking PDF, well-designed, easily readable, no grammatical mistakes or anything stupid like that.
That’s something that you want to do right away because when you’re doing an outreach you may not yet have your site and your landing pages and all these stuff that we’ll talk about in a minute to build up for your virtual summit. So, at that point you still want to have something that you can give the speakers and so a one page overview that’s well designed shows them that yes, this person is going to put time into their brand and the materials related to the summit and it just gives them something a little bit more tangible than just an email when you do that outreach to them.
The other thing at this point when you are doing the outreach, you’ll need to do is at least have an idea of how you are going to promote and position the summit. So again, the speakers that might be considering joining you they’re going to be thinking about what is this going to look like for my brand, right? So, if you wind up having a poor looking summit or making mistakes or it looks amateurish or anything like that, that’s going to be a negative to those speakers.
So, what you need to be thinking about and making sure they know is, yes, I am going to invest I professional design or yes, I have an advertising budget or a marketing plan for how the summit is going to be positioned and who’s going to be targeted and so forth. So those are a couple of things that you want to have in the beginning for when you initially do that outreach.
Now the part where summits get a little bit complicated is we’ve just talked about planning, we talked about the second phase which is outreach and recruiting and then the third phase is building your summit platform and your summit website. So, if you remember our description of a summit, there’s really two parts of it. There is the free site and there’s the paid site.
And so, in a lot of cases that actually means you’re going to have either two different sites or two different parts of the same site. One that you are going to allow free access to during the week the summit is running and then the second is going to be for the all access pass buyers. Once the summit is done the free phase has moved into the paid phase, you’re going to need to be able to protect that content and require a user name and password and a purchase and all that kind of stuff to access.
So, this is where it can get a little bit complicated and again, it’s the reason why a program like virtual summit mastery or something like that is going to be what you want to do here because there’s many step by step instructions in there and templates and things like that for building out both of these different types of sites.
So, the thing is during the free part of the summit what you do basically is you unlock two to six videos every day and allow anyone that’s opted into the summit to view those videos for free. Those videos stay unlocked for 24 to 48 hours and then afterwards they go back to becoming protected content and only available to the all access pass paying members.
The free side is usually a dedicated WordPress site and domain with its own sales page, a page for a list of sessions and then page is free to individual session with the video of the speaker interview and so forth embedded. The paid side is generally either a WordPress site with a membership plugin or some kind of online course service like Teachable or Thinkific.
Something that basically lets you upload videos, create pages and then protect those pages and not allow access to them until somebody has purchased your all access pass product. So that paid site is a little bit more complicated because it needs to be able to accept credit card orders, it has to be able to protect pages and content and then it has to be able to manage user access and then in some scenarios also needs to have an affiliate program and tracking mechanisms and things like that built in.
So that part can get relatively complicated if you are not technical. So again, VSM provides a lot of instructions and templates for doing that. You’ll have to decide whether to use an existing site that you have or to go off and create a brand-new site that’s specific to the summit. Generally, in the program Naveed recommends having an additional site that is specific to the summit for a variety of technical and marketing reasons.
So that’s something that you’ll need to think about there but having it as a separate site especially if you are not all that technical, it’s probably going to be a lot easier for you than try to manage all of the integration of your regular site, the free part of the summit, the paid part of the summit and all of these moving parts.
So again, this isn’t something to underestimate. This does take some time to set up. There’s different people and consultants and so forth out there that can help with that but it is something that you want to make sure you are aware of when you start building a summit is it’s not just a matter of recording and uploading the videos, there is a fairly decent technical component to it.
So, the next phase of building your summit is actually recording the summit content. So, this can be intimidating at first. If you’ve not done interviews before, if you have not done recorded video chats with a guest or been a podcast interviewer or something like that, this is something that you might have to practice a little bit and prepare for in order to get ready.
For me that was certainly the case. I mean I am on episode 24 or so of my podcast but all of my episodes are basically mini-trainings. I haven’t done interviews on my podcast yet. So, in my business most of my content has been me talking to a camera, to a microphone not necessarily interviewing another expert.
So that’s something that takes a little bit of planning in terms of the technical set up and then also just getting better at creating questions and having the flow of questions go naturally and so on and that’s something that as I record this episode I’m just in the middle of beginning the interviews with my speakers and starting to work through that that learning process.
Now some summits will have the speakers actually presenting content. Maybe they will run through a presentation or something that seems like a webinar but for people doing their first summit, one of the easiest ways to do it is to just have all of your videos be interviews with that particular speaker and that’s basically the model that I am doing.
My summit will be about 30 experts in the topic area that I have chosen and most of the recordings are going to be video interviews with me asking those experts questions about the particular topic and their area of expertise.
From a technology perspective, you know obviously this needs to be a recorded video. I wouldn’t just stick with audio. Go with a video chat, in Zoom, Skype, something like that. In my particular case, I chose Zoom. I’ve really been impressed with Zoom and that’s at the website zoom.us. Really been impressed with that over the last couple of months.
I live in a very remote area where the internet access is pretty poor. I’ve had to actually use satellite internet to be able to get even reasonable upload and download speeds and even over a satellite connection which is fast but has a lot of latency, Zoom has really been performing quite well for me over those challenging conditions.
So, in the first couple of interviews and then all the testing that’s been done, I’ve been really happy with that particular application. So, what I’ve been doing is just using Zoom that records the audio and video. You get a recording both that flips back and forth between who the active speaker is and you also get a recording that they call as gallery review with both you and the person you’re interviewing side by side and so recording that up to the cloud or recording it locally.
That’s basically the way you create the initial part of your summit content. Then once you have the raw videos, the next step basically is you can edit those videos down if you need to take out any errors or gaps or anything like that and if you want to, you can get fancy like putting titles in there and putting people’s names and their brand and so forth or links underneath the videos and so on.
You could also just keep it simple and just have it be the raw recording out of Zoom and have that uploaded to some place like Vimeo or Wistia or something like that because basically for each of the videos that you create for each of your summit speakers, what’s going to happen is they need to get embedded into your website.
So obviously Wistia or Vimeo or something like that can be used to upload your videos to those services then they give you an embed code and then you just stick that inside each of the speaker pages on your summit websites both the free and the paid access site. Where it gets a little bit tricky is obviously you have to manage the access to those videos.
So, one thing you can do with WordPress post is you can publish them then you can un-publish them. So, for the free side of the content what you can do is schedule the post to go live on the day that you want those videos to be available to your free people that opted into the summit and then after 24 or 48 hours, you can un-publish that post.
So that people can’t access the videos anymore unless they opt into your all access pass and they pay the $97.00 or whatever you are charging for that. Then they become members of your site and then on the membership side, the access to those videos will be enabled. So again, a little bit of technical details there. When I get to that point with my site, I’ll record full tutorials and demos and all these types of things and then obviously inside of the VSM program there’s instructions for doing all of that stuff.
So, when you think about it, each individual step isn’t all that complicated but when you think about it, if you are going to have 20 or 30 speakers or even more, this kind of gets to be pretty complicated because basically you have to manage the logistics of all of those interviews. So, what I did is I set up a Calendly account for myself and whenever I do outreach to the speakers.
And one of the speakers says that they are interested, what I do is basically send them that Calendly link and then in there I set the boundaries of when I’m available in my hours and so forth and say, “Okay pick any time slot that is open in Calendly and schedule your interview” and when they do that, it automatically puts a Google calendar invite out to myself and that speaker.
Inside of that invite is the Zoom link that they’ll click to join the video conference at that time and that side of it is relatively automated but in my case, right now I’ve got about almost half of my speakers lined up already and then I’ll have the other half here in the next week or two. There’s a lot of calendar invites out there, a lot of time slots open and so forth.
So, you need to be paying attention to that to make sure that you’re ready and willing and able to do the interview and do the recording at that time but once you have that speaker list filled out and you’ve got whatever your target is 20, 30, 40 people to commit to being a part of your summit, it’s a big relief at that point.
I’m not there yet but at the rates I’m seeing success in terms of getting the speakers, I know I’ll be there within a week or two and that’s a nice feeling especially once you get that first one or two and definitely once you get your first A-lister, after that it’s quite a relief because at that point you know that it is really just a numbers game.
I mean even if I have to invite 200 people to get to the 30 that’s my target, that’s okay. That’s just some hustle that you need to do there to make sure that your summit is going to be successful. So, at this point, we’ve gone through planning the virtual summit, doing the outreach and recruiting of speakers, building your summit platform and your site.
And then the final phase is really promoting and launching your summit. Now in the end this is the most part because if you fail at this part, you will spend all of that effort and record all these interviews and set up all this technology and then you won’t have too many people show up for your summit and then the thing can very quickly turn into a net loss for you.
So, promoting is a really important part of the process and generally in VSM methodology, the promotion period is about three weeks prior to the launch of the live phase of the summit or the free access period. Now leading up to that promotional window there is a ton of work.
So, what you have to think about is what your promotional strategy is going to be. One thing the VSM recommends is adding an affiliate program to your virtual summit and what that means is offering the speakers plus anyone else that you recruit to be an affiliate a percentage of the revenue from the all access passes that gets sold based on the people that they refer to that.
So obviously on the online business space most of us are familiar with affiliate marketing and the scenario there is you give somebody a special link that is your affiliate and then when they market whatever your product is to their audience and the customer buys, they click that person’s affiliate link and then there’s tracking that gives you credit for each affiliate.
How many people they’ve referred to your paid product and how much revenue they’ve helped generate. So, with the summit we’ve talked about having an all access or lifetime access pass and let’s say we’re selling that for $97.00 a person. What I will be doing and what most people do is they offer the affiliate program to all of their speakers and what you are trying to do there is entice the speaker to share the summit with their audience.
That’s really one of the biggest benefits of the whole virtual summit concept is that you’re picking a topic that is in your niche. You are picking speakers that are experts in your niche that likely have a larger audience than you do and you are basically going to get a percentage of that speaker’s audience by marketing the summit to them.
You know they are already interested in the speaker because they’re in that person’s audience so it’s not too much of a leap to expect a pretty decent percentage of them to also be interested in your summit because you are going to hear from at least one expert that they know, like and trust and likely many others that you’ve recruited.
So, the trick is trying to entice the speakers to promoting your summit to their list. Now for the really big names, the A-listers, a lot of times they aren’t going to promote. The reason for that is they’re likely already promoting a lot of their own stuff to their audience or promoting things that are bigger affiliate payouts and so a lot of them don’t want to over promote to their list.
So, going in your expectation should be hey if you land Gary Vaynerchuk or something like that, he’s not going to send a personalized email out to his list of millions of people saying, “Hey you should go to the summit” the A-list types are just not going to make sense for them to do that. The B and C list people though is where you’re really likely to see the most promotion and also the most conversion from their audience because they have a motive there too.
They are still trying to grow their audiences, they are trying to add value and so forth and so the B and C list types are usually a lot more likely to promote and at that point you can get a couple of hundred or maybe even a thousand or two added to your email list just out of one B-lister who is really promoting your summit.
So again, a way to entice this is to offer an affiliate program. So, what you do there is basically say, “Well hey, anybody that clicks through and buys the all access pass through your affiliate link” you will give them let’s say 30% of the revenue or 50%. So, in my case, I’m probably going to be doing 50% and then in a few rare cases, if a person really refers a huge number of people then I might up their level to like 75% or something like that.
And that last tier there of offering a 75% commission if somebody refers let’s say more than two or 300 paying members is to maybe offer an enticement to the really large B-list or the A-list type people to say, “Okay this may be worth my while to promote this to my list because I am going to get a pretty large percentage of the revenue if I do that”.
All the other things that you would do in a normal affiliate program contest and tracking and leaderboards and all that kind of stuff are also recommended if you have the ability and the time to do that. So, in my case, I’m going to offer an affiliate contest. There will be some prizes for the top affiliate who refers the most people that buy the lifetime access pass and so forth.
So, there’s just a number of different things there within an affiliate program that you can do to try and entice the speakers to promote out to their list and in addition to that promoting your summit, it comes back to any other type of promotion that you would need to do. Like if you were launching a course or a program or something like that, all the other methods are viable.
So, Facebook ads, contests, content marketing, I’m still in the middle of deciding how many of these I’m going to do. It really does take a lot of time obviously to do all of that marketing. I’m deciding where I am going to spend my budget so I have to set aside a certain budget of X thousand of dollars for promotion and what I’m still working through is how much of that am I going to do on Facebook ads.
How much of that am I going to add to bonuses in my affiliate program, am I going to hire affiliate manager and things like that. For my first summit, I’m probably going to do most of these things myself. I may outsource the Facebook ads and a few other things but I do want to learn a lot of these techniques so if I have the time, I’m probably going to do most of them myself.
But if I start running into crunch time, I’ll hire out a couple of those things just to make sure that my first summit is successful. So again, promoting is a key part of it and that’s something that you also need to plan for. So, the last thing that I wanted to cover is just exactly where I am in the process that I just outlined. So right now, like I said, I’m about a third of the way through recruiting my speakers.
I’ve got about 15, well I have 15 that are committed of them two are A-list names and a handful are B-list and then a few are C-list types. I still have to do some more research and outreach to probably another 20 or 30 to net the final 15 that I need to do. So, at this point I got 10 or 15 emails out that are pending and so I expected a few out of that and then I’ll have to do 20 or 30 more to finally fill out my list there.
So that part for me has taken longer than I thought but part of the reason is that I have been shifting a little bit as I go the type of people that I want at my summit. So initially I think I over focused on the A-list types and it is a lot more effort to do the relationship building and the outreach and so forth to get a full cast of A-list types in there.
So, over the couple of weeks I’ve been doing this, I’ve been shifting a little bit more to B and C list types just because the success rate there is higher and then again, those folks are a little bit more likely to go the extra mile for you just because of the dynamics of their audience and yours. So, as I said, in terms of targets I am hoping to gain at least 2,500 email subscribers from my summit.
I am targeting 5,000 and then my stretch goal is 7,500. So, in VSM there is a number of different case studies and things like that that you can see at the very high end of the spectrum. Some people have added 20 or 30,000 new email subscribers to their list during the summit period but I do see a lot of normal what I would call or “average” people in summits hitting that 2,500 to 3,000 mark.
So, I feel pretty confident that that’s a good minimum bar that I am confident that I am going to get but I do want to do that target of 5,000 or stretch for even more than that. The other thing that I think people underestimate a lot that VSM says right up front that you should do is to allow at least four months of time to plan, recruit, build and promote your summit.
And so luckily, I did follow that advice. I could say I started in May then did some initial planning and at first thought I was going to launch in the end of August but then after a couple of weeks, I’ve decided to push that out a little bit more just to make sure I had enough runway and so basically, I said, “Okay, well I’m planning in May and my summit launch and that free access period is going to be in the middle of September.”
Okay so given other commitments and all the other stuff that I have going on, that seemed to be a reasonable timeframe but right now, I’m at about the halfway point and I would say a tiny bit behind schedule but I am definitely glad that I pushed that out and left myself at least that minimum of four months there to do it and I would say allocate that four months about evenly across the topics that we talked about.
A month for planning, a month for the speaker outreach and recruiting, a month for all the tech stuff and then a month for the promotion. It certainly can be done faster. I mean if you are working full-time in your business and this is the only thing you are going to be doing for that time period then yeah, you could probably get a whole summit all set up in one to two months or something like that but for the vast majority of us, definitely plan on that four-month type of time window.
And then the last thing I wanted to mention is obviously as you could tell from this episode, I’m a big fan of the virtual summit mastery program and there was recently a launch of that and the program is closed now and it’s basically going to re-launch in the fall with a version three, a big upgrade to the course.
So, I am working with Naveed directly as part of his additional coaching programs and so it’s likely that I’ll be an affiliate for 3.0 when that comes out and by that time, I’ll have already launched my virtual summit. I’ll have the results of a full breakdown of everything that worked and did not work and so forth. So definitely be on the lookout for that later this year.
If you are thinking about a virtual summit now after you have heard this episode or if you think that might be something that’s going to work out for your business. So, with that, I wanted to thank you for joining me today. If you’ve been enjoying the content here on StrongStart.fm, it would greatly help us out if you could give us a quick positive review over on iTunes.
My goal is to help as many people as possible reach their goals so we need to spread the word. I also would like to encourage you to join my free membership academy. In addition to easy access to every download and free resource that I’ve created in the last two years, you also get exclusive additional member content and access to my private Facebook group.
You also get access to the free period of the virtual summit that we talked about in this episode. So, what that means is that if you join my free membership, all of my free members since they are already opted in, they’re going to automatically be added to the list for the free access period for the virtual summit and during that week, you’ll have full access to all of the videos.
So, if you want to join us there, head over to StrongStart.fm/joinfree. Thanks, and we’ll see you on the next episode of StrongStart.fm.
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