• Katie Earl

How I ran my first online summit

Updated: Feb 25

A year ago, I worked with a business coach who taught me about momentum builders - doing something huge that would connect you with lots of other business owners quickly and meaningfully. The kind of thing that’s terrifying and exciting and rewarding in equal measure.

I immediately thought of running some kind of event that would bring together loads of experts who specialise in other kinds of content for an audience who wanted to learn how to create better content for their business.

After all, I know a lot about blogs, but there’s so much you can create to market your business!

At the time, this idea was so scary that I didn’t even tell anyone about it. I saw other business owners doing similar things and wondered how they had managed it. I assumed they had more followers than I did, more courage, more skill, and more…oomph!

But even though I didn’t tell anyone, the seed had been firmly planted. Over the year it grew, I began thinking about who I might invite to speak, what I might call it…until one day, I decided:

“Sod it - I’m doing this!”

How I did it

Honestly, the first thing I did was write it down. That was genuinely the first step to getting it done, because it was the first time I’d acknowledged that I could do it.

I popped it on my to-do list for the week, writing a very non-committal “brainstorm event” - I didn’t even have a name for it at that point!

I opened a Google Doc and just started writing.

I wrote out name ideas, listed out the topics I wanted to be covered by speakers, wrote out the FB posts I’d use to request speaker applications, I even mapped out the email sequence I’d need to write to take people from registering for the event through to the goodie bag at the end to encourage them to connect with the speakers.

The final step was to set myself some deadlines.

I had dates in mind when I wanted the event to run, and from there I worked backwards to figure out my deadlines for getting attendees signed up, finalising the line-up, and starting with telling the world that it was happening!

Enrolling the speakers

Originally I had planned on simply inviting people I admired to speak on the topics I wanted to cover at the summit. But I realised that this would really limit the number of people who would be able to contribute to the summit, and I wanted it to be as helpful and high quality as possible.

Instead, I chose to open applications so that anyone could apply to be a speaker. I posted in a few select groups where I knew the kinds of people I wanted to hear from would be hanging out, and directed them towards an application form.

The form was there to allow me to collect all of the information I needed to decide whether or not the applicant was suitable for the summit and that they could contribute a topic that would fit with my vision for the summit.

In the end, I received more applications than I had spaces for speakers - I was in the enviable position of having a choice over who spoke at the summit! Not to mention the compliment that so many people believed in me enough to want to be part of my vision.

After whittling down the applications (with great difficulty!) I sent out the emails to confirm my speakers and collect the last few details that would allow me to finalise the line-up and start marketing.

Marketing to attendees

I ran All About Content entirely by myself, with no help from a VA, marketing manager, or business strategist. So, when it came to marketing, I used some of my old tried and tested methods.

I created a landing page with all the details of the schedule, I spent hoouuuuurs in Canva creating graphics and banners and all sorts.

And then I started shouting about it.

I posted on LI and Facebook, I emailed my list and I did guest lives to promote the summit.

But the biggest thing that helped me generate interest and sign ups was asking my speakers to share the details alongside me.

So I tagged them all in posts that shouted about them and their talk. I provided them with graphics they could share, and I reminded them at regular intervals what the key details were.

Marketing the summit reinforced one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt since I started my business: that collaboration and conversation is the best way to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself.

By the time I closed the summit, I had 60 people signed up - 60% of the target I had set myself at the start of it all!

The show

I used a few systems to help me run the summit that I would’ve been lost without:

  • Mailerlite allowed me to create a basic landing page quickly and easily, as well as keeping all the attendees in a designated group so that they would only receive emails about the summit. I made it very clear on sign-up that they would receive emails about the summit and that they’d be added to my list afterwards unless they decided to unsubscribe.

  • Canva meant I could create branded graphics to make the summit look professional and recognisable.

  • I used a Google Drive folder to share all of the graphics with the speakers as well as to store all the information I needed, such as email templates I’d written, the details for what each speaker would cover, and what time I needed to go live each day. This is also where I created the application form and speaker registration form so that I had all of the info in one place.

  • For the live videos, I used Streamyard broadcasting directly into my Facebook group. I chose it for a few reasons, but mainly so that the speaker and myself could go live side by side as well as allowing the speakers to easily share slides if they wanted to.

On the days of the summit, I was pleasantly surprised that virtually everything went to plan - in fact, better than planned!

The only little hiccup was that the streamyard links I had sent the speakers ahead of time had expired, so I needed to create a link for each speaker on the day of their talk. No biggie!

My favourite part

My favourite part of the summit was interacting with everyone who joined in, both speakers and attendees. I’ve never viewed myself as a ‘people person’, but this experience makes me wonder if that was simply a limiting belief.

It was my goal to establish great relationships, as well as to provide a hub of really high quality learning and advice for small business owners who wanted to learn to write effective content for their business.

When I look back over what I eventually delivered, and the feedback I’ve received during and since the summit, I am proud to say that I achieved my goal.

What I didn’t enjoy

Even though I loved running the summit, there were a few bits of the process that I didn’t love.

The most difficult part was saying no to the applicants that I decided wouldn’t be included in the final line-up. This was so hard to do, because all of them presented ideas for talks that I knew would be really valuable and interesting to listen to.

The reason for turning down these talks was either because they overlapped too much with other talks that I had decided I wanted to include, or because the topic, while valuable, wasn’t 100% in line with the purpose of the summit, which was to teach business owners how to create effective content with ease.

Another challenge was the difficulty in getting the content I created to promote the summit seen by the right people. I noticed that my LinkedIn posts were reaching a much smaller number of people than usual after I began promoting the summit, and as a result I was receiving much less engagement from the people who were seeing it.

If it hadn’t been for the other speakers helping me out, this could have become a major stumbling block. It’s also another reminder that social media, while powerful and helpful, is not to be relied upon as your sole channel for marketing!

Advice for budding summit holders

Running All About Content was a learning curve like nothing else. Doing everything by myself was tiring but exhilarating. Here’s the bits of advice I’d give to anyone considering doing something similar:

  1. Have a clear vision for your summit before you begin speaking to other people. This really helped me to make those difficult decisions about who to include in the line up and who wasn’t quite right.

  2. Schedule in time for planning and implementation. I had to have designated slots on my weekly schedule for making the summit happen, and everything took longer than I expected it to! By having a weekly slot I didn’t panic when I wasn’t making the progress I’d anticipated, because I knew I’d have more time to finish up the following week.

  3. Set deadlines for each stage of the process. Working backwards from the date I wanted the summit to take place worked really well for me, and it meant I was never chasing my tail (too much!)

Want to catch up on the summit talks?

All About Content may be over, but the talks are still available to watch on replay if you’d like to see what you missed!

You just need to join my Facebook group Blog Magic and head over to the Guides section.

In there, you’ll also see lots of training and posts from me to help you write effective blogs that grow your audience and nurture readers from strangers into clients.

Click here to join today!

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