In a world where change is the only constant, coming together (despite distance keeping us apart) to (re) affirm purpose, align leadership, strengthen collaboration across an organization, or build a resilient future has never been more important. And to this end, when executed well, summits play an indispensable role.
This is why over the last year when lockdowns and social distancing prevented in-person gatherings, the need for virtual meetings skyrocketed. In fact, the number of search impressions for web and video calling software massively increased by 500% in just the first 4 months.
However, while the need today for virtual summits is clear, many organizers lack the know-how to capitalize on the benefits that only virtual meetings offer. Without an awareness of how to leverage a virtual platform effectively, organizers can end up with a summit that fails to achieve its goals.
But first, let’s explore the many benefits that you can achieve with a virtual summit before we discuss the steps that will help you reach them.
Why a virtual summit is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must-have’
More people, more ideas, more collaboration
One of the primary benefits of holding a virtual summit is that you’re able to reach far more people than if you were holding an in-person event. This means that people from all over the country and the world will be able to attend. Take, for example, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. When it was held in 2019, 16,200 participants attended the event. However, when held virtually in 2020, more than 26,000 individuals from 134 countries attended the summit.
Less travel, space, and marketing costs
The second main advantage of holding a virtual summit is the reduction in expenses. It’s around 75% cheaper than in-person meetings given that you no longer have to pay for travel or venue costs. And the bonus is that virtual summits still allow businesses or campaigns to generate a lot of revenue through either virtual ticket sales, donations, or the purchase of products.
Steps to hosting a successful virtual summit
When you’re planning and executing a virtual summit, you can’t simply copy-paste your previous approach to in-person meetings. Keep the following steps in mind to maximize the benefits of using a virtual medium for your summit.
- Look for ways to leverage the benefits of virtual into your logistics
There’s plenty to consider when planning your virtual event - for instance, will you have live sessions as well as recorded ones, or how to ensure a seamless experience for attendees joining in from different time zones. But it’s important to think about ways you can use the fact that your meeting place is a virtual one to your advantage.
For example, you can combine synchronous and asynchronous activities during your event so that no matter when someone is tuning in, they will be able to have an interesting, immersive experience. At the recent international congress hosted by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, organizers planned live presentations and some pre-recorded workshops into the schedule. That way an attendee from London and from Australia could both join at different times, but have access to important content - something that would be impossible at an in-person event.
Another benefit of hosting virtual events is that you are no longer hampered by geographical or travel constraints when recruiting Speakers. This means that you can approach more speakers, as well as more exclusive ones to speak at your summit.
- Choose the right tech for your virtual summit
The online event platform you choose to host your virtual summit will make or break your event, so it’s important to pick one that enables you to host your event exactly as you envision it.
So choosing a platform that is completely customizable will make your life a lot easier. You should be able to use the platform to easily set up everything you need at your virtual event venue, from Stages to Networking areas.
Secondly, it’ll be really helpful if your platform has all the tools you need to facilitate a seamless experience for speakers and attendees, by which we mean that it should not require your participants to have to install or download any software to attend sessions or interact with each other. It’s a lot easier to centralize your efforts instead of switching between tools, which is both time-consuming and confusing.
Finally, you also need a platform that enables two-way communication and engagement - keep in mind that your summit may be the only time in the year when many attendees see one another.
- Set up informative and easy-to-use landing pages
If you have a simple website, you can make do with a single landing page for your virtual summit, but it’s also worth the effort to have a dedicated website to the virtual summit with its own domain. Keep in mind that the website or landing pages should be designed to drive attendance. You can also create individual landing pages for each speaker so they can drive traffic to those pages.
To get people to opt-in to your virtual summit, you’ll first need to make your page as informative and attractive as possible. Don’t be afraid to get creative - you want your landing page visitors to be wowed. The virtual event platform you choose can really help you out here. Zuddl has a landing page customization feature where you can use ready-made templates. You can customize it to clearly explain the purpose of your summit, highlight who the speakers are, and set out the different sessions and activities that will take place.
Additionally, remember to make registration really easy for attendees.
- Create a marketing and sales funnel
Don't make the virtual event registration procedure super-complicated. All you need to do is set up a basic automated email sequence that is triggered when a prospective attendee opts into the event on the registration page.
Marketing integrations enable organizers to send attendees successful registration emails along with follow-up emails about the event. This is especially useful when combined with analytics from the event. Platforms with Zuddl will give you details about your attendees’ micro-movements throughout the event, giving you insight about what sessions they found most interesting, what questions were most upvoted, etc.
You can use this information when your event is over to create targeted campaigns and communication.
- Promote your virtual summit
Around 65% of marketers say you need more than 6 weeks if you want to drive the desired amount of registrations, so make sure that you plan in social media and email marketing ahead of time.
And don’t stop there. You can use podcast interviews and guest blogging to also promote the event. Ask your sponsors and speakers to spread the word. Giveaways and paid ads are other ways to promote your virtual event if your budget allows. This is a great way to reach people that you would otherwise not be able to reach.
Ads are fairly simple to purchase on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram but you’ll need to create an advertisement concept that is eye-catching and memorable.
- Host your virtual summit!
On the day of your summit, you and your team are going to have to keep everyone in sync - but you can use your virtual event platform to pull this off. Tools like event tickers will let you share important information with attendees at your summit, such as upcoming sessions or surprise activities. And you can use in-platform tool reminders to alert Speakers about session timings.
And with an arsenal of tools and zones at your fingertips, you’ll be able to host a series of structured discussions designed to generate ideas and alignment, keep conversations lively and interactive, and facilitate collaboration.
Tips for after the virtual summit
Keep the momentum from your virtual summit going even after it officially ends, to optimize performance. For instance, you can make recordings and other material from the summit available for access to attendees, and repurpose the content in your post-event emails and social media campaigns. And you could also send out a survey to see if attendees felt the summit goals were achieved, and to get their opinion on what worked and what could be improved for next year’s summit.
Virtual summits take careful planning and execution but if done right, they can help you drive far greater value than you achieved at previous in-person summits. But keep in mind that with this new medium, comes new opportunities as well as challenges. Talk to our experts about how you can use a platform like Zuddl to get the results you want and need from your virtual summit. Let’s talk.