When it comes to face-to-face networking, relationship building, and peer-to-peer learning, in-person conferences offer a ton of value. Whether you’re a conference speaker yourself or an attendee, you’ve got the chance to meet leaders in your space and others in your shoes, and that will always present opportunity.
But with today’s evolving technology, in-person events aren’t the only way to learn from and build relationships with others in your space or position your brand in front of engaged crowds. In fact, I recently participated in a virtual summit as a marketing keynote speaker, and I believe these kinds of virtual events offer lots of benefits to attendees.
For one thing, because virtual summits are online and eliminate the need to book a flight or hotel, they’re a lot easier to attend — and for parents like me, that’s a major bonus because it means less time spent traveling and more time with family.
Admission also costs a lot less, generally less than $200; compared to live events with ticket prices in the ballpark of $1,000 or more per pass, virtual summits offer an affordable way to gain access to the same basic knowledge and content you’d get from a live event.
Plus, there’s always the fact that virtual events are pretty much permanently available for you to “attend” and check out whenever it’s convenient for you, as opposed to the one-time occurrence of live events.
Benefits of hosting a virtual event
But these events aren’t only valuable to attendees; v irtual summits are also interesting from the standpoint of an organizer.
Hosting an effective virtual summit is a lot of work, but it’s a cakewalk compared to putting on a live event. “I’ve organized live events, and there are a lot of moving parts that have to come together at just the right time,” Josh Steimle, who organized Influence Summit 2017, the virtual summit I recently spoke at, said.
“I hosted an event in China with 600 attendees. It required months of planning and a team that included 30 volunteers, and I’ve never been so stressed in my life as in the two weeks before the day of the event. The virtual summit, on the other hand, was mostly just me and my partner, Bailey Richert — who’s an expert-for-hire at putting these on — and we spread the work out over a two-month period. When the event went live, we already knew it would be a success.”
Steimle still organizes live events but told me he plans to do more virtual summits in the future. Here are five reasons he says virtual summits are something every company should consider hosting:
1. Brand Exposure
It’s typical for a live event to attract a few hundred attendees the first time it’s held. A first-time organizer of a virtual summit can reach thousands, even tens of thousands, if he already has an audience and executes some strategic promotion and content distribution leading up to it. The real benefit in building a brand through a virtual summit, though, tends to come from speakers and attendees spreading the word.
“I launched the Influence Summit to bring attention to my company,” Steimle, who is the founder of Influencer Inc, which is a publishing, training, and events company for individuals who want to become thought leaders, said. “Not only am I now on the radar of more than 60 experts, including over a dozen bestselling authors I interviewed for the summit, but many of those experts have substantial lists they’ve marketed the event to.”
Event attendees are a clear audience for fresh insights and information, but remember that you, as a host, can also have some behind-the-scenes time with speakers to chat, share ideas, discuss problems and solutions, and more.
“I sat down with 60 of my heroes in the marketing industry and picked their brains for an hour,” Steimle said. “These are people who might charge thousands of dollars for a single hour of consulting, and I got it all for free.” All other benefits aside, this outcome of hosting your own virtual event can make all the work worth it.
Steimle mentioned he had the opportunity to interview bestselling authors like Adam Grant, Jonah Berger, Dorie Clark, Chris Ducker, and Chris Brogan. So not only do hosts typically get the chance to talk with speakers and pick their brains, but they also get the chance to start building or strengthening relationships — and those relationships are incredibly valuable.
4. Email List-Building
Virtual summits typically offer a free option that registrants can upgrade for a modest fee (generally $100 to $200) for lifetime access to all the content from the event. Even if most attendees never upgrade, you still get their email addresses. If you attract 10,000 attendees to your event, that’s quite a boost to your list and your content distribution efforts.
Yes, virtual summits can even be profitable. Influence Summit 2017 just wrapped up, and while it was underway, Steimle could only tell that it was on track to generate “tens of thousands” in revenue — not bad for two months of part-time work by two people, especially when you consider that the direct financial benefits probably pale in comparison to these other benefits.
Could a virtual summit be a good investment for your business or personal brand? Steimle seems to think so. “I don’t want to make it sound too easy; it was a lot of work,” he said. “But the ROI is incredible. I think putting one of these on makes you the leader in your industry and at such a low cost. For me, it was a no-brainer.”