The reason why

At this time in 2015, I didn’t have EHQ.

I didn’t have a network of influencers, and I didn’t have a big email list.

3 months later there was $50,000 sitting in my account. 15,000+ new leads were on my email list and I just had a realization of how much we could pull off in 90 days.

How did I get there?

Long story short: I fell in love with my now co-founder Sarah. Cheesy but true – the things we do for love huh?!

As she’s Swedish, and I’m from the complete opposite side of the globe, trying to figure out where we should live caused some friction. Until we realized there was a solution: online work.

I’d been dreaming for some time of being in a position where I didn’t have a boss telling me where I had to be. We could be wherever we wanted, whenever.

But how could we make this a reality?


 
What could we do to kick-start our business, without a large marketing budget?

As a recent graduate, Sarah needed an income, and quick. She set a deadline for New Years Eve 2015 for us to be making a decent amount of money online. The pressure was on!

We weren’t just doing this to make money, we were doing it to be together.
 

Our first summit

The first step in creating your first virtual summit is obviously to select the topic. For me it was a no-brainer as I’d been contemplating a course, teaching people how to generate leads on LinkedIn. We surveyed a group of entrepreneurs on LinkedIn and realized there was definitely demand.

Whilst sitting on a towel on a Sydney beach, writing a one-page business plan, we had a revelation. As much as I knew I had expertise in how to use LinkedIn for sales, I knew there would be a lot of other, more qualified people out there. Why would I do the teaching?

This is when we realized we should do a virtual summit. And we did a damn good one too, if I can say so myself!

It was coming to the end of September, and we had less than 3 months to hit our goal. We weren’t going to fail.

In the end we managed to attract 15,000 people to register for the LinkedIn Success Summit, successfully making over $50,000 in revenue.

When those first sales started rolling in, they came in slowly at first. Each time I’d shout out to Sarah “guess what?!” It became a way to celebrate each new customer.

I feel it is important to celebrate each win, however small. I took this a step further and set up our mobile phones to ‘ding’ every time someone purchased from the summit.

Now I know the thought of doing your own virtual summit can feel overwhelming, and without having a formula to follow it would be. The first time we did the launch it was all a bit of trial and error. 14 summits on, we have a proven process that has been refined over time.

The essential steps

I want to share with you the essential steps you’ll need to take to create your own virtual summit:
 
1. Choosing a topic
How much expertise you need in order to do the interviews depends on the promise you’re making your audience. Are you targeting beginners or a more advanced audience? Being on the same level as your audience can be a good thing because it means you’ll ask the questions they also have.
 
2. Software and tools
Here’s pretty much the only place where you’re going to need to spend a bit of money. There are a few things you can’t do without: an email automation and CRM system, a payment provider, and a hosting platform. You need to be able to collect, and send out information, get paid (oh yeah!), and the last thing you want is your page to crash when thousands of people are heading to your summit.
 
3. Identifying speakers
This is crucial. I have a strict set of criteria that I want each speaker to fulfill. Even if you’re doing your very first summit, or maybe especially when you are, don’t settle for mediocre – you’re building a name for yourself as someone who’s bringing the best there is on that specific topic. A few big names that people recognize will function as a drawing card for the rest of the lineup. Make agreeing, and scheduling a time for the interview as quick and hassle-free as possible. As for numbers, we used to do between 30-40 interviews, before landing on about 20-25.
 
4. Recording interviews
Think you need a professional studio? Nope. We did our first summit in our spare bedroom, with my computer stacked on top of a shoebox to get the right height for the camera. Fake it ‘til you make it! Just make sure you’ve got a good external camera, and microphone, uncluttered background and good lighting, and you’re sweet! When it comes to the interview itself, I prefer seeing it as a conversation, with a few questions set up beforehand. If it’s too scripted, people quickly lose interest, but it’s up to you to find your own style that you’re comfortable with. If you, and of course your speakers, are enjoying it, your audience will most likely do too!
 
5. Website and branding
Don’t fall into the trap of spending half your budget and time here. If you’ve got good content, an interesting lineup, and good customer service, no one could care less about your logo. It wasn’t until 2017 that, we had a professional designer to help us. We used a WordPress template and had a Fiverr designer do our logos for less than a lunch out. Functionality first! The rest are nice to have, but your time and money are much better spent somewhere else (read: point 5 below.)
 
6. Marketing partners
Without an existing audience, you’ve got to look at collaborating. Find potential partners who have an audience of people that’d be interested in, and benefit from your summit. Share a piece of the cake with them in return for spreading the word about your event. We’ve had some amazing partners onboard since the very beginning, and without them, our results would not be as impressive.
 
7. Email sequences and copywriting
You’ll want to set up a big chunk of your time getting this right and if you’re going to spend money on something other than tools and software, unless you’re a good writer yourself, I’d say it should be a copywriter. If you can’t afford it, do your research, that’s what we did. Don’t copy others, but use what’s working to inspire your own content. Map out sequences and funnels that have been tested and proven by others and write every single sentence with care.
 
8. Selling
Here’s the money-making part, and in my case, the relationship-saver. Jokes aside, to make this worthwhile you need people to buy your upgrade, as this is how you and your affiliate partners will make money. I offer a few different pricing levels, including an early-bird price, another during the summit and a third and final prize after the summit’s over. The standard upsell is an “All-Access Pass” with on-demand access to your summit content. This is best paired with bonuses of some sort. If you’re looking to build a membership community around your summit, you can use that as an incentive as well.

 

Is a virtual summit for you?

I could go on, and on about this.

There are many finer details that go into creating a successful virtual summit rather than a mediocre one, much more than I can cover here, but the point I want you to walk away with after reading the above is this…

If you think you don’t have time to succeed with a virtual summit, or if you think it’s too hard to pull it all together, or that you can’t do it because you don’t have an audience yet…well, you’re wrong.

If a new graduate and an in-love aspiring entrepreneur can do it, you can too.

And if love’s not your reason, I’m sure you have another one. You might want to quit your 9-5, need extra money for a vacation, expand your list of leads, establish yourself as an authority…

Whatever it is, virtual summits could be your answer.

 

Action Steps

  1. Firstly, you need to choose a topic. Is there enough demand in the market? Decide on your content, offer and pricing.
  2. Select your software such as email automation, CRM, payment and hosting.
  3. Source and invite your speakers. Don’t give up after one try, you’ll need to follow up. Record your interviews with a focus on good lighting, video quality and audio.
  4. Set up your summit website, create a logo and simple branding.
  5. Research and invite affiliate partners onboard. They’ll be a key part in getting attendees to join your summit – especially if you’re starting out with a small, or no email list.
  6. Set up your email sequences, and don’t rush through this step as it’s crucial. If you can afford to, hire a professional copywriter. It will be money well-spent.

 

Result You Will Achieve

A profitable summit that builds your authority and email list.
 

Mentor: Liam Austin

Co-founder of Entrepreneurs HQ, a community of 150,000+ small business owners. Liam delivers one marketing tactic each morning via his email newsletter EHQ Daily, and runs live training and masterminds inside EHQ Club.

 
This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.