Online Conference: How to Host a Successful Virtual Summit

Hosting a virtual summit is one way of growing your email list, boosting your sales, expanding your network, and becoming an industry leader.

However, launching an online event takes more than slapping together a few virtual sessions and throwing in a few fun interviews with guest speakers.

It takes A LOT of work. You’ll need to carefully plan your virtual summit, figure out the logistics, get speakers onboard, implement your networking hacks, and promote your event (among many other things).  

The good news is, we’re here to help. 

In this guide, we’ll cover why virtual summits are beneficial to you and a few tips and tricks on how you can host one successfully to support your digital marketing efforts.  

Why host a virtual summit?

If virtual summits take so much work and effort to put together, why host one in the first place?

It’s because of the many virtual summit benefits, including:

  • Establishing your company’s reputation within your industry. Having industry experts at your virtual summit helps make your company more credible and influential. With this, attendees such as other business leaders and marketing consultants are more likely to see you as an industry authority and someone to learn from. 
  • Building relationships with potential partners and industry players. Virtual summits provide a space for gathering and meeting key players within your industry. This gives you many opportunities to form connections and future collaborations.
  • Growing your email list. A virtual summit helps you capture your target audience’s email addresses in exchange for joining your online event. With permission, you can use those email addresses for your other marketing initiatives. 
  • Generate more sales leads. When you achieve the right balance between being informational and sales-focused, hosting a virtual summit can help you generate and even qualify leads. Data shows that 86% of online event attendees report equal or higher engagement levels than in-person events, so use this to your advantage to get more leads. 

Additionally, let’s end the confusion on summit vs. online conference

Summits are geared towards more specific audiences, such as a particular industry, while conferences include various company representatives from broad fields.   

Summit discussions focus on big-picture topics and ideas and uncover solutions for industry-specific problems, both on a macro and micro level. 

However, business conferences tend to be more open-ended with no concrete end goal since the focus is on exchanging opinions and new information. 

Now that you know the difference between a summit and a conference let’s go over how you can host a successful summit.

Steps to hosting a smashing virtual summit

Launching a virtual summit requires tons of work, preparation, and it involves many parts. 

This guide will break down the process and the best strategies for hosting an online summit.  

1. Iron out your online event logistics

Like any event, virtual summits require careful planning to be successful. 

Outline the most crucial parts of your online event, including:

  • The event date and time
  • Deciding on whether you will run a free, freemium, or paid virtual summit. 
  • Prepping and creating materials, such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and promotional content
  • Listing down your potential speakers, including the deadline for sending out invitations and getting their confirmation
  • Creating an attendee registration website or landing page

Identify all necessary event logistics and get a head start on your prep, so you don’t end up scrambling to get everything ready (or forget anything critical). 

2. Outline the content you want to cover

Virtual summit content includes everything from your summit name, branding, and overall theme to the specific guest speaker interview topics, such as strategies to manage your ecommerce projects

Planning what topics to cover will help you create and put together your content more seamlessly, whether for your specific audiences (such as marketing consultants), promotional materials, or your pitch to getting speakers on board. 

The infographic created for Pareto Sales & Marketing Virtual Summit is a great example of this. 

An infographic content pitch for speakers.
Caption: Plan and create your pitch to encourage speaker participation. 

The compelling, comprehensive infographic details everything potential speakers need to know about the event. 

The clearer your content is to your audience (and potential speakers) and the value they can get from participating, the more likely they are to get on board.   

3. Choose your software and hardware

You’ll need specific hardware and software systems when you mastermind online events. 

For instance, you’ll need a good webcam, microphone, computer, and access to reliable, fast internet. 

You’ll also need the right software, such as a virtual event platform that includes landing pages. It also helps to choose an online event solution with features such as an email autoresponder, payment processing, checkout systems, membership website, and more. 

For instance, online event platform GoToWebinar offers a wide array of tools that let you plan, promote, and host your virtual summit. 

The platform allows you to host your event with up to 2,000 people. Its features include tools for audience engagement such as polls, screen sharing, custom branding, and email marketing. 

You can also access a detailed analytics dashboard. 

 A sample event analytics dashboard.
Get valuable insights with the GoToWebinar event analytics feature.
Source: GoToWebinar.

You’ll get valuable insights, such as attendee reports and source tracking, to identify which of your promotional channels generated the most sign-ups. 

Reliable hardware and software can help you run a seamless virtual summit with little to no hitches. It will also provide a better experience for your participants and speakers.

4. Promote your event

Set aside ample time to promote your mastermind online event — ideally a month before the start of your virtual event. 

The promotion period is also an excellent time to lay out the groundwork and implement your networking hacks

Optimize your event promotion through channels that work best for you, such as email and social media. 

60% of online event organizers use social media to drive significant registrations because of its effectiveness in increasing sign-ups.

You can also share your upcoming virtual summit details and invitation with your online communities and run affiliate programs to encourage sign-ups.

Virtual event platform solution HeySummit offers native tools to optimize your event sign-ups, such as letting you set up an affiliate program to help get your event out to wider audiences.

The HeySummit Affiliate program settings interface.
Caption: Set up your affiliate scheme easily with the HeySummit Affiliate Programme.
Source: HeySummit.

With an affiliate program, you can incentivize people such as marketing consultants or a fellow industry leader with big, established audiences (including speakers) to help promote your event for you.

Wrapping up our tips on hosting a virtual summit

Now that you know the essential steps to hosting a virtual summit, you can start creating your first online event.

While the tips here are by no means comprehensive, you can use them as a guide to help kickstart how you will mastermind online events and turn them into smashing successes. 

Hosting a virtual summit is a lot of work, but the trade-offs can be excellent. This includes letting you put your networking hacks to great use to build relationships and establishing yourself as an industry leader.