How to host a virtual summit: Ideas to boost engagement

Virgil Wadhwa
• February 3, 2023

(10 min read)

If you’ve been keeping up with virtual event trends, the constant stream of virtual summits won’t be anything new to you. The challenge, however, is knowing how to stand out from the competition and create something that’s fresh and engaging for your attendees. Here, you’ll learn how to host a virtual summit event that captivates your attendees.

What is a virtual summit? 

A virtual summit is a single or multi-day event that virtually brings business leaders, experts, and other professionals in the same field to discuss topics related to a specific niche or industry. 

As the name suggests, attendees from all over the world can join “virtually” to connect with like-minded individuals beyond their physical borders. But that’s not the only benefit a virtual summit brings to the table.

Virtual summit benefits: How they fit into your marketing funnel and buyer’s journey

Like an online conference, a virtual summit can solidify your company’s industry reputation amongst the leaders and decision-makers, nurture prospects, and drive lead generation. 

This means focusing on matchmaking the virtual summit experience you create with the intent of the audience. You must ask yourself: what is going to provide value to the audience and move them further into the buyer’s journey? 

  • Discover new audiences and nurture existing relationships with thought-leadership summits: Consider thought-leadership summits that cater to industry experts and help you increase brand awareness and affinity within them. Or creating a VIP prospect experience that would leave a lasting impression on the attendees.
  • Boost stickiness and advocacy: How can you continue to grow affinity and advocacy with your customers? User summits that focus on retention are key. ADOBE MAX is a great example of hosting an event focused on helping users get the most out of their product suite.

To host a profitable virtual summit, it’s important to know which stage of the funnel you’re addressing, so you know exactly how you’ll create the ultimate virtual event FOMO.

How to host a virtual summit that will invoke FOMO: Follow these ten steps

The way your attendees feel will make or break your summit. Period. 

Understanding the virtual atmosphere is an important first step in planning a virtual summit because it’s very different from what you might find at an in-person event. 

Physical interactions are full of emotionally high moments. Case in point: a live concert in person versus a live concert on your computer screen—it’s not exactly comparing apples with apples. 

Or is it? 

Virtual summit planning will require special considerations, including a good mix of visual and auditory elements, a well-designed virtual stage, and ample activities that engage and immerse your attendees. 

So let’s start learning the step-by-step process of hosting a virtual summit that gives any physical event a run for its money. 

Step 1: Know your why and set SMART goals and objectives to help you track your event’s success.

Think about the overall event experience you want to create and what you want your attendees to take away from it. Then assign some specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals to help you achieve these ideas.

Step 2: Make your summit about your attendees. 

Your virtual summit ideas should be guided by your audience. When you know your audience and why they’ll care about your event, you can create an engaging experience they will truly value. For example, if you settle for an average host instead of of a good, high-energy summit host, you risk creating an inferior experience for your audience.

Step 3: Plan your virtual summit format

In some cases, people either have virtual summits as an extension of a main in-person summit or physical events as an extension of a main virtual event. A hybrid format like this can help you tailor the format according to the type. For example, you can offer a curated in-person experience to VIP attendees or vice-versa.

Step 4: Plan your virtual summit content. 

This can be done in many ways, including incorporating special segments, interviews, or guest speakers.

Some of the best ways to create great content for a virtual summit include: 

  • Hosting a panel discussion
  • Engaging summit presentations
  • Creating a live show
  • Interviewing special guests
  • Including special segments
  • Showcasing a product
  • Using fun and engaging games
  • Incorporating Q&A sessions
  • Using polls and surveys
  • Recording on-demand educational or informational content

Step 5:  Plan any partnerships for your virtual summit. 

You might consider bringing on sponsors who can support the cost of hosting the summit or help to offset some of the costs for your attendees. Partnering with established brands is a surefire way to increase sign-ups and attendance at your events.

There are many kinds of event sponsorship available. However, you need to onboard the sponsors that align with your vision.

Step 6: Invite speakers 

While hosting virtual summits, be sure to consider your target audience for the event and who they will be excited to see. Industry leaders with a good reputation among your target audience can significantly drive up registrations and event attendance.

Step 7: Find gifts for your attendees. 

Make sure it is memorable, sharable, and high-quality. Think beyond the stock standard. What is going to be useful? For example, a journal, snack, coffee box, or premium cozy sweater. 

Another idea to consider is offering an exclusive gift for the first 50 (or whatever number you decide on) registered attendees—which leads to the next important step…

Step 8: Take your virtual summit’s landing page live and go heavy on promotion. 

Run a strategic paid campaign to drive as much qualified traffic to your landing pages. This might include Youtube ads, Linkedin ads, and platforms like Instagram and Facebook if your target audience frequents these platforms.

Reach out to speakers and hosts to share an event invite or a teaser on their social media.

It’s a good idea to reach out to your existing email subscribers with the news of your upcoming events. Also, consider partnering with other email newsletters to help you spread the word about your event, and make sure your event sponsors do the same.

Step 9: Conduct cold outreach.

A little bit of cold outreach builds a healthy mix in your marketing strategy. Build a list of people you’d love to attend your virtual summit and reach out to them on LinkedIn or via email. 

Step 10: Plan to measure your event’s success and ROI.

After your virtual summit, it’s a good idea to analyze the performance and measure the success of the event. Gaining insights on what worked and what didn’t can help you host an even better virtual summit in the future.

With some foresight and the right virtual summit hosting platform, you can easily plan how you will measure your event’s ROI pre, during, and post-event.

Looking at the top in each category, event organizers are most commonly tracking their success and ROI through the number of registrations (43%), the number of new opportunities identified (46%), and improvement in market awareness (43%). 

Step 11: Post-event thank you messages and gifts.

Once the event is over, send your speakers and attendees a thank you email and a gift to stay top of mind and also because it’s a nice thing to do. The gift could be something tangible in the mail or something digital, like a voucher. 

Now, let’s dive into some creative ways to ramp up engagement and networking at your next virtual summit. 

Virtual summit Ideas to boost engagement and networking 

 

Even if your virtual cooking demonstration was a hit last time, it’s good to try different things when creating a virtual summit—to keep your events fresh and engaging. 

The best formula is to choose an activity based on your target audience preferences and jazz it up by applying a theme to it. For example, if it’s the holiday season, you could run an ugly sweater competition or a gingerbread house decorating session.

Stuck for virtual summit ideas? We’ve got you. 

  • Virtual games: Guess who, Murder Mystery, trivia, charades, or an online scavenger hunt. This is a great way to get everyone working together as a team or ignite healthy competition.
  • Sponsored giveaways: Get your sponsors involved with a themed giveaway relating to their service or product. Also, a great way for sponsors to start a conversation with your attendees.
  • Virtual creative sessions: Cooking classes, sip, and paint, dance class.
  • Virtual entertainment: A live music performance, magician, or tarot card reading.
  • Virtual health and wellbeing: A journal practice session, guided meditation, or a virtual yoga session.
  • Food, drinks & snacks: Get creative with bringing people together with food. For example:
    • Send everyone a Starbucks voucher to grab a coffee and tune in for a virtual coffee with others.
    • Send country-themed sweets boxes to attendees in different countries (i.e, Someone living in Australia gets a US-themed candy box and vice versa) 
    • Run a virtual cocktail social hour and invite your attendees to share their favorite cocktail creations with others.

When it comes to hosting a virtual summit, the only limit is your imagination. However, bringing these virtual summit ideas to life can be difficult if you don’t have a reliable hosting platform to execute them. 

Use Airmeet to host and create virtual summits

Airmeet is the undisputed king of virtual events. You can host engaging and glitch-free online events that takes your event experience to the next level. Get powerful engagement tools like leaderboards, polls, q&a, and Iframe integrations to include virtual photo booths, games, and more.

  • Airmeet is the only virtual events platform that allows you to design an attendee-first experience that feels human and comparable to in-person events.
  • Airmeet offers the best networking experience with virtual spaces purpose-built to encourage natural, spontaneous connections.
  • All the features and tools to launch, create, and deliver memorable and feature-rich experiences that drive engagement and networking.
  • Know if it was a successful summit and measure the ROI of your virtual conference pre, during, and post-event with advanced analytics.

In Short

Virtual summits are a great way to expand your reach, rope in new leads, and drive growth. But hosting a virtual summit that brings results need you to adopt an attendee-centric mindset. When you curate and solve for your attendees, good things follow.

A virtual summit platform plays a big role in your summit’s success. It either limit, or empower you to create unique and engaging experiences for your guests. Moreover, a good virtual event platform will enable you to measure event performance and success with ease.

Congrats! You’re all set to host an amazing online summit

You have learned the steps to hosting a fantastic virtual summit. We wish you all the best in creating an engaging experience for your summit attendees and furthering your business goals. And remember, there are no rules for what a virtual summit should look like. You can make it whatever you want it to be—as long as you’ve got the best virtual event-hosting platform, of course.

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