November 30, 2020

The Virtual CMO Podcast, Virtual Summits

Virtual summits are one of today's most compelling digital lead generation tools. This online engagement format is an impactful way for you to build your audience, increase market awareness, and establish your brand reputation. Compared to live conferences that can expensive and prohibitive in an era of Covid-19, virtual summits are less expensive and can drive larger audiences than traditional online programs. With times changing and the online opportunities growing, virtual summits can be a great tool for audience engagement.

On this episode of The Virtual CMO podcast,  The Five Echelon Group's Founder/CMO Eric Dickmann has a conversation with the Founder of Virtual Summit Software- Dr. Mark Wade, about virtual summits and the three steps to building the right audience.

Dr. Mark Wade is a very inspiring and entertaining speaker and the founder of Virtual Summit Software. In 2010, he co-founded the American Posture Institute (API) with Dr. Krista Burns. Dr. Wade, who is considered one of the best Postural Practitioners in the world, has a passion for advancing his ability to help others. Aside from being a Doctor of Chiropractic and having forty-five certifications on posture, neurology, and human function, he is also an owner of multiple businesses who has mastered the art of scaling companies to greater heights. Mark has learned from his past business mistakes and uses virtual summits to grow his companies and teach fellow entrepreneurs how to hustle and push their businesses to the next level. Dr. Wade's driving vision is to create a better, healthier world by increasing health care by enhancing better education for health care professionals worldwide.

Three Steps in Building the Right Audience

No matter what kind of business you are in, engagement is critical when dealing with clients and attracting new customers.

Getting the active engagement of your clients doesn't happen overnight. It requires a process before you earn consumer's trust. Dr. Mark Wade tells us that there are three essential steps in building the right audience for your product or service.

  1. You need to know what platform you will use for marketing your product- Do you do a podcast? A live stream?  A blog? A YouTube channel? What are the other methods you use to build some type of audience?
  2. Attract qualified audience- Building an audience can be difficult because it is not just about finding an audience but also attracting a qualified market. Selling shoes to people looking for hats won't do you much good.
  3. You need a qualified and engaged audience- You need an audience that's engaged and looks to you as the expert or authority. People that trust you and are open to going further on their customer journey with you.
The Objectives when Running Virtual Summits

Virtual Summits and Our Transition to the Virtual World

Mark still hopes that everything will come back to normal but due to the pandemic and more remote work, the world is quickly transitioning to a more virtual world to maintain relationships with business partners and clients. Businesses have been forced to adapt and make new investments in online technologies. Most teams have found that working virtually is as good, productive, and less expensive than in-person meetings and conferences. From a financial perspective, having the virtual summit is much less expensive and more efficient than making physical arrangements because you don't have to spend large amounts for the venue, travel, lodging, and refreshments needed by the conference hosts and participants.

Dr. Wade also mentions that around three to four new platforms are popping up every month to offer options and solutions for this increasingly virtual workplace. It's incredible that despite these challenging times, we are finding ways to sharpen our skills and adapt. Technology is evolving to improve interactions online and people are becoming more comfortable with the unique challenges that come from remote work.

What Is the Difference Between Regular Online Calls and Virtual Summits?

First of all, a virtual summit is not a webinar. Virtual summits are among the many types of virtual events that aim to solve a problem or a series of questions for a specific audience by bringing together a niche or experts who can answer a particular set of topics. Often, these virtual summits are prerecorded because the speakers may not be available live and the content is posted shortly after. According to Mark Wade, 15-20% of the summits are held on a live stream so that gurus may interact with the viewers and answer live questions from the audience. Virtual summits are usually free and more easily accessible versus an in-person conference with has more associated costs.

If you're looking to build your audience, hosting virtual summits can often attract crowds of around one to two thousand participants. Some mega summits can be jam-packed with five to ten thousand participants depending on the industry and the scope of the chosen topic. Most businesses choose to hold a summit show, which lasts for several days, while some prefer a one day summit. The length depends on the amount of information to be communicated and the line-up of engaging speakers. 

Reasons for not running any virtual events

One-Day Virtual Summit

A One-Day Virtual Summit doesn't necessarily mean a single day filled with content; it just means that your audience has a single day to consume all the information in the program. The power of one-day summits is that it overcomes the attention span issue of most audiences. Especially at a time when so many distractions compete for our attention, these one-day virtual summits aim to give the short-attention-span market reliable information in a concise amount of time. Statistics have proven that this format helps increase conversions. It only takes around five to fifteen speaker to be construct one-day summits, whereas a multi-day summit could involve twenty-five speakers or more.

AdEspresso Lists the Five Phases of Setting Up and Running a Virtual Summit

  1. Strategy and Planning
  2. Research and Recruitment
  3. Pre-Event Planning and Promotion
  4. Event Launch
  5. Post-Event
Attendees virtual events attract compared to in-person events

Engaging An Audience for Virtual Summits

Even if your summit is only two to three months out, you still have to ensure that you have an excellent communication sequence with your potential and target audience. Mark says that we can view the conversions of a summit to a hockey stick curve. You can have around 10% to 20% conversions on the first two weeks of the release of your summit and up to 40% to 60% of lead conversions at the time of the summit. The closer you get to the summit, the hotter, and the higher your conversions will be.

Virtual summits involve keynote speakers, as well as potential partners, vendors, or other sponsors. Dr. Wade points out that you have to coordinate  all these moving parts to be successful with your virtual summit. When numerous people are engaged in the summit, you've got to ensure that all parties interests are accommodated. As a host, you have to confirm that your virtual summit's launch is not conflicting with the schedules of the companies and sponsors involved. They may not be physically present at the event, but you have to make them feel involved in the summit. 

The end goal of creating a summit is bringing together a qualified and engaged audience and promoting your brand. It doesn't matter what kind of industry or business you have; what should matter most are the main objectives. If you want your summit to bring together an audience, you have to make sure that the list of topics is aligned with the next chapter of your customers' journey.

Mark makes it clear that virtual summits should never be considered as a monetization strategy. Though you will earn profit from the summit, you should keep in mind that your goal is to build relationships and establish connections with your target market. Summits allow you to foster your authority and credibility in the area by being with experts in the field and allowing the audience to trust in your domain expertise.

Spending in Virtual Events

It is also crucial for you to bring in the right people to talk about the topic. Not all speakers should talk live; many can be featured in prerecorded videos. Working your schedules around your targeted guest speakers allows you to invite more gurus to speak at your summit. You should consider inviting speakers who can clearly communicate with the audience and interact with the questions You wouldn't want your audience leaving your summit with a questions that have gone unanswered.

The One-Day Summit Formula

The CEO of the company will not always be the face of the business. You can't do and represent everything alone; you must train others to learn what you do. Team collaboration is crucial to the success of your business. As a business owner, you should allow other hard workers engaged in your management to shine and be your company's new face. Involving your team more in your business branding can increase their confidence and dedication to you and your venture.

Dr. Mark Wade gives us a perfect example of CEO Greg Smith who successfully involved his teams and partners in the face of his business. Greg is the owner and founder of multiple successful virtual summits. As time passed by, he started delegating the management of his virtual summits to his marketing team and later, co-hosting one of his partner's summits. Doing these acts made his team and partners feel more special and involved in the project. Trusting his team and partners fully with the smallest to biggest responsibilities paved the way for success in Greg's recently launched summit.

dr. mark wade

I don't know why, how I have yet to hear of a better way to injure a marketplace or launch a new product than having a summit somewhere at the beginning of those plans.”

Here are the steps that helped Greg and his team's summit become successful: 

  1. Bring in Course Creators - They invited people who want to buy courses or create courses because they'll eventually use their software. This was very much aligned with what they're trying to do.
  2. Create a Feel-Good Cause- They paid attention to the world's culture and ethnic colors of their audience that would also blend well with their company's core values. These concepts allowed them to create a summit for people of diverse colors and minority based course creators.
  3. Invite a Host or Guest from the Community But Not Part of the Company- They partnered with a host from the same community but is not working in their company. This initiative welcomed new ideas for diversity, which widened their points-of-view.

Weaving in Your Product Messaging

First of all, you must know if your customers would want you to have a product day. This would be when you can freely explain the concept of your product or service and advertise it to them. You can add value to your clients' lives by presenting a product or service that would help solve their problems. Mark tells us that it is crucial for you to launch summits before you start building your company. In the virtual summit that Mark Wade launched called- Digital Dementia Summit, he and his team were able to generate thirty thousand leads and earned over a quarter of a million dollars just from that summit's audience base. His summit's audience was initially directed from just working with doctors, and then, later on, progressed to inviting more general consumers. As Dr. Wade puts it – "I don't know why,  I have yet to hear of a better way to inform a marketplace or launch a new product than having a summit somewhere at the beginning of those plans."

How to keep virtual summit attendees entertained and focused

Businesses should make it their goal to make some money out of their virtual summits. Whether you are planning to host an educational or sales-focused summit, there should probably be something that you can sell to your audience. Make sure that the product or service you are putting on sale in the market is in line with your virtual summit's core messages. Dr. Wade tells us that the common mistake with virtual summits is that most are too educational and no longer entertaining. When people want information, they want to be educated but also entertained. Your summit needs to have the right blend of knowledge and entertainment. This is what we call edutainment style summits. Edutainment style summits are a good way to get to that sale through your summit.

Summit Story Arc

One of the best ways to get a sale after the summit is by putting in forethought and creating a summit story arc. This is the arc you want to take this audience from whatever problem they have to this journey where they want to go in across that summit.

Your goal is to  solve a lot of those problems, but what you're really doing is building a relationship with your clients and demonstrating that you can help this specific audience. The Summit Story Arc allows your potential and target clients to have a glimpse of what awaits them in the journey. Everything that you would be selling after the summit should solve your customers' problems. During the summit, you should clearly enumerate your audience's current problems, from the largest to smallest, and then present your product or service as an effective solution to their dilemmas.

Determining the Success of Virtual Events

Marketing Process After the Summit

After the summit, there should be a separate marketing sequence to make sure whatever message you delivered is reinforced in a post-summit offer. Even if the virtual summits are free, businesses can still monetize the summit in many different ways. The most common way is selling something which is called an all-access pass. It may be free to attend the summit right now, but as day one ends, those sessions are currently closed and over, just like in a typical conference. As that session ended, you can't listen to the guest talk anymore and jot down notes. However, if you want to replay sessions or maintain access to all of them, you can buy an "all-access pass," which allows you to keep access to those recordings. Summit offers are where the monetization happens in the summit. You and your team can put some extra things in the package to make the offers  look and sound appealing and attractive.

On the last day of the virtual summit, business people should consider holding something called- "the halftime talk." This halftime talk tells your fully-informed audience that they still have so much to learn; that is why you offer them masterclasses, joint seminars, workshops, webinars, and even provide them with an email series. Your halftime talk must be backed up by the marketing team to give them fresh news and updates regarding your offers.

Live Stream Replay


  • From a financial perspective, having the virtual setup is much less expensive and efficient than the physical arrangements.
  • The end goal of creating a summit is bringing together a qualified and engaged audience and promoting your brand.
  • Team collaboration is crucial to the success of your business.
  • Your summit needs to have the right blend of knowledge and entertainment.
  • Everything you sell should be geared towards solving your target customer's problems.

Episode and Guest Links

Eric Dickmann - Founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group, can be found online on Twitter or his personal website.

Dr. Mark Wade  - Founder of Virtual Summit Software can be found online on LinkedIn.

  • Host seamless virtual events for a global audience with vFAIRS!
  • If you are an aspiring summit host who want to get access to free training and grasp valuable information, join Mark’s Facebook group– Viral Summits.

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