Do you want host a virtual event to build, grow and scale your online business?
It’s an extremely clever marketing strategy if you want to see big results FAST. There’s no other way to gain so much momentum and engagement in such a short amount of time.
The best virtual events are so successful because a lot of planning and work goes into them behind the scenes.
In this post, we’ll look at tons of examples of online events at every step of the way so that you can see what works – and what doesn’t. Ultimately, I want to give you the tips that you need to learn how to host a virtual event that is wildly successful.
I’ll feature entrepreneurs who serve a diverse range of audiences in various niches, from one of the world’s top harpists to a woman who has a passion for strength training.
But there’s one thing each of them have in common — they all hosted a profitable virtual event (or in some cases even multiple events!) to help them launch, grow or scale their business.
Some of these people started completely from scratch with no audience, no email list and no relationships with the influencers in their industry. Others had an existing business that they wanted to scale by hosting a virtual event.
They have different beginnings but the bottom line is the same: all of these people saw exponential growth in the profits of their business as a direct result of hosting a virtual summit in their industry. Some of them, as you’ll soon see, even made virtual events into a core part of their business model.
Are you ready for the top 21 tips to help you run an online event to launch, grow and scale your business, rapidly grow your email list, get more authority, generate more profit, create lifelong customers, and have stable long term growth?
Now matter what stage of business you are currently in, we’re about to see the inside story on how virtual events can help you to exponentially grow your audience, influence and revenue faster than you ever could imagine.
Let’s do this!
Note: This in-depth guide to hosting virtual events successfully is over 8,000 words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more.
What Is A Virtual Event?
At this point, you might be wondering, exactly what is an online event?
An online or virtual event is an interactive event that occurs entirely online or on the web rather that in a physical location. Similar to live in-person events, they are very engaging and have a high level of energy.
There are several different types of virtual events, depending one what the specific goal of the event is. For example, there could be a virtual trade show, job fair, meeting or conference.
Most virtual events (or as I like to call them, virtual summits) bring together a selection of the top experts on a topic to deliver presentations or sessions that attendees can watch and participate in.
A virtual event can grow your audience while simultaneously generating revenue for your business. An effective model is to offer a limited-time (e.g. 24-48 hours) free viewing period when people register with their email address and they are then presented with an option to upgrade by purchasing the All-Access Pass for lifetime access to the entire event.
What’s the difference between a virtual event and a webinar?
Rather than a single sessions offering value, a virtual summit pools together the best content from many experts in a given field. For most virtual events, there will be several sessions per day for several days in a row (e.g. 3-7 days.)
It gives your audience incredible value, your speakers exposure and a platform to shared their message and you build your audience and authority.
It is truly a WIN-WIN-WIN situation.
With this model for virtual events, you provide your audience with a lot of value upfront. You give them the opportunity to watch all the content and implement the expert advice for free.
However, when they say the quality of the sessions, they will realize that if they truly want to use and implement the advice, the best option is to upgrade to give themselves the time they need to utilize it.
In a nutshell, hosting a virtual event featuring influencers in your niche allows you to leverage their expertise to build your audience and authority.
Why Should You Host Virtual Events?
There are two big trends that you might have noticed lately.
The first trend is live conferences. According to Meetings Professional International, “Meetings and events contribute more to the GDP than air transportations, motion pictures, sound recording, performing arts and spectator sports industries.”
It’s a $115 billion per year industry!
The second trend is the rise of online education.
According to MarketWatch, EdTech spend is expected to reach $252 billion by 2020.
If you’ve been following me for a while you know I’m a massive fan of hosting virtual summits.
What can we learn from these two trends?
- People have a strong desire to learn from experts and connect with like-minded people.
- People are more and more willing to pay online to enhance their learning.
Putting it together, people are increasingly happy to pay to learn and connect with like-minded people online at virtual events.
There are many fantastic reasons why you should host a virtual event.
Firstly, it is a great way to raise your visibility and get notice online, whether you already have an established business or you are brand new to the game.
It’s also a fantastic way to connect with and build authentic relationships with influencers. Reaching out to people in your niche helps to
A nice side effect of connecting with influencer and being seen alongside them at your virtual event is that YOU begin to be seen as an authority by association with them.
Hosting a quality virtual event also delivers incredible value to your audience. This will create raving fans of your business and lifelong customers.
Additionally, you can also generate significant revenue from All-Access Pass sales when you host virtual events. In fact, virtual events can be so profitable that they can form the base of your entire business model.
Build A Large And Engaged Audience FAST
Hosting a virtual event is the fastest way that I know of to build an engaged audience and get your first 1,000 true fans.
Let’s look at how it compares to some of the more traditional methods of growing an audience and email list.
#1 Blogging To Build An Audience
Blogging can work really well to build an audience but – and this is a big but – it requires you to consistently create high quality content.
And the kicker? It takes time for people to notice your effort. In fact, most SEO experts say that it takes 2-3 years of consistent quality content for you to see real results from search traffic. That means it could take you years to build an audience big enough for a profitable business!
There’s no denying that blogging can be very effective to build an audience when done right, but it is undeniably slow growth when you compare it to what you can do with a well-executed virtual event in 2-3 months.
#2 Podcasting To Build An Audience
Similarly to blogging, podcasting can be a good way to grow an audience for your business but it’s undeniably SLOW.
It’s actually very difficult for a new podcast to get listeners and you can’t directly monetize a podcast until you have a few thousand listeners per episode, which can take a while to build up to.
In all honesty, in today’s market I think that podcasting is more effective for connecting and engaging with your existing audience, rather than building one from scratch.
On the other hand, virtual events can help to both build a new audience and connect with your existing audience at the same time (often while making a tidy profit.)
#3 Social Media To Build An Audience
Social media is a another popular way to grow an audience. Why? It’s fun and it works.
But there’s a big problem with this method. There is a huge amount of competition and the only that you you are going to get noticed is if you are damn good at it. And even if you’re good, it’s incredibly time consuming.
Like podcasting, social media is often more useful to connect with your existing audience, rather than try to compete for attention to build a new audience.
Once again, you can both build and engage in one step by hosting a virtual event instead.
#4 Publicity To Build An Audience
Getting your work featured on a larger website or major publication is often hailed as a great way to build an audience but, from my experience, I can’t say that I see the truth in this one.
I’ve been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many more. And while it’s been great for credibility, none of those features did much to grow my audience.
With a virtual event you naturally create publicity because people want to share it. And if you position your event right, you’ll be attracting the perfect audience for what you want to do with your business after the event too.
#5 Paid Advertising To Build An Audience
Finally, you can pay to build an audience with ads on Google or Facebook.
If you have a solid strategy, this can work. But you need to have a decent budget upfront to get started, and it can be very costly because cold traffic is hard to convert. Realistically, it can cost you several thousand dollars just to get your first 1000 email subscribers.
In general, paid ads are more efficient with a solid base and foundation to build from so that you can retarget your existing audience for a much lower cost per conversion.
As you’ll soon see, virtual events are much better to actually BUILD your audience.
Virtual Events To Build An Audience Fast
Unlike the traditional methods to build an audience and email list, virtual events pack a punch with big results a lot more quickly.
I hosted a virtual event to grow an email list of over 26,000 subscribers and generate multiple 6-figures in revenue in just 30 days. And since then, I’ve brought in over $1 million in sales on the backend.
Granted, it took me another two months to plan and execute the event. But what other method would even come close to those results in less than 90 days?
Virtual events can help you to:
- Build your business around a topic you love
- Position yourself as a leading expert in your industry
- Leverage the credibility and expertise of top experts in your field
- Grow your audience rapidly while generating revenue at the same time
- Create an incredible product without having to create all the content yourself
- Find ideal clients who will pay a premium to work with you one-on-one
- Turn your audience into raving fans who will become lifelong customers
- Build authentic relationships with influencers in your industry
- And much, much more!
Who Is Hosting Virtual Events For Their Business?
One of my VSM Graduates, Diana Rowan, created an amazing online event called the Virtual Harp Summit for her community of harpists.
There was nothing else like this out there but the audience was hungry for it.
The result? She absolutely killed it.
In a really niche market, Diana Rowan brought in 2,100 new email subscribers and made 460 All-Access Pass sales. This then allowed her to create a membership site for the community she grew, which in turn provided her with a recurring revenue stream after her virtual event.
As my Virtual Summit Mastery students have shown over and over again, virtual events can work in any niche you can imagine. Whether the topic is calligraphy, gardening, health & fitness, marketing or music, virtual events can be extremely
If there is an audience for it, it’s possible to host a successful virtual event on the topic!
21 Powerful Tips For Hosting Successful Virtual Events In 2019
Alright, now let’s dive into the 21 powerful tips to create your own wildly successful virtual event in your industry.
1. Define a strong WHY behind your virtual event
One thing that I’m sure that we can both agree on it that there is a lot of noise in the online space.
Fortunately, virtual events naturally stand out more than blog posts or podcast episodes because they are more unique.
But even so, it is essential to define a strong WHY behind your virtual event so that it stands out and attracts your target audience.
You might have a few different virtual event ideas but before you jump into action mode, it’s so important to choose a topic that you are passionate about so that you will see the project through to the finish line. It’s the only way that you will see the results that you deserve.
2. Leverage Virtual Events as an Entire Business Model
Virtual events are the most underrated marketing tactic available to businesses today, according to one of the biggest content marketing websites in the world, ConvinceandConvert.com.
Virtual events are more than a tactic or strategy… they can be an entire business model!
There are millions of blogs on the Internet… over a quarter of a million podcasts awaiting you on iTunes… and you probably get at least a few webinar invitations per day sent to your inbox!
But how many people are actually leveraging virtual events?
Not too many at all are doing it well… which is why it’s such an underrated strategy that you must pay closer attention to. If you want to get your business and brand off the ground, or to grow your business faster, summits are the answer.
Think about a virtual summit as a webinar on steroids. You can leverage multiple experts in your industry who will promote your summit to their audience, instead of just one at a time. It’s like influencer marketing at scale!
VSM Graduate Liam Austin from EntrepreneursHQ hosts of several successful virtual summits on different topics EVERY year!
Moving his business over to a model centered on hosting virtual events transformed his entire business for the better. The continual influx of new attendees from hosting multiple events gives him an ongoing supply of leads to join his membership site (which also includes all the summits he hosts) and a stable source of recurring revenue.
“Just commit to doing it and you’ll see a great ROI. My email list has grown from a tiny, not so engaged list to a community of over 70,000 highly engaged subscribers in little over 12 months. My business has grown to multiple 6-figures in revenue because of my virtual summits and it’s only getting better. I am very grateful for everything I learned from Navid’s Virtual Summit Mastery.”Liam Austin
3. Pick a specific virtual event topic
Even in a crowded market, it’s still possible for your event to be successful.
You may have heard that the “riches are in the niches”, and it’s very true when it comes to virtual events.
One of my students, Steph Gaudreau, was skeptical about creating a virtual event in the very crowded health and fitness space, as you can see by this conversation I had with her.
But she decided to go for it anyway since she knew she could create something better and more unique for her target audience around something I’m very passionate about.
What really set her event apart from everything else out there was her topic.
Instead of going broad and general with a “Fitness Summit”, or just a “Strength Summit” which could appeal to both men and women, she narrowed down her niche even more to focus on strength training for women by women… The Women Strength Summit was born!
That really contributed to Steph’s massive success with her first summit… she was able to grow her email list almost 20,000 highly engaged subscribers, got over 600 all access pass sales and many pre-sales for her coaching program.
Several summit attendees even asked her when the next virtual summit will be, or if she will host an in-person event.
Niching down allows you to target the needs and desires of your audience more specifically. You will also be able to get more opt-ins and sales, and it helps you to position yourself as the go-to expert in your industry much faster than if you go for a broader topic.
Your marketing efforts will be more effective and you’ll be able to communicate more clearly once you have defined your niche.
A virtual event for everyone is really for nobody. Narrow down your niche until it really hurts.
4. Craft a unique hook for your virtual event
Even in a crowded market, it’s still possible for your event to be successful.
Crafting a unique hook for your summit is often overlooked, but it’s crucial if you’d like to experience the same success as the VSM students featured in this post.
Here are a few ideas to help you create a unique spin or hook will help to make your summit stand out:
- Do something that hasn’t been done before (e.g. largest conference, most speakers, first online event etc.)
- Invite different speakers than you see on other summits in your niche
- Create a cool and unique “theme” around your summit
- Have a different focus or format of your summit
- Become the go-to online event in your industry
- Look more professional with a better site design
Your hook should flaunt the unique difference of your summit that will help to draw your target audience in. I’d even argue that your hook is even more important than your summit name!
5. Create an irresistible offer for your virtual event
An irresistible offer hones in on exactly what your audience wants and needs so that it is simply too good NOT to purchase and they can’t refuse.
There are a few ways to put together a no-brainer offer, but one of my favorites is to include relevant bonuses in your All Access Pass that help people to implement the content from the event
You could include:
- Audio files of sessions
- Transcripts of sessions
- PDF Action Guides of sessions
- Private community or mastermind
- Live Q&A sessions with you and speakers.
- Special offers from sponsors or partners.
- Other bonuses (e.g templates, swipe copy, checklists, cheatsheets, guides)
One of my students, Eric Yang, did this really well with his event for Airbnb hosts.
In addition to the session recordings from the event, he also included several unique bonuses in the All-Access Pass that helped people to take action and get even more value from the event.
Here’s what his bonus package looked like:
Notice the landlord email templates, property cleaning checklist and investment analyzer?
These are very specific bonuses that would help to save event attendees a lot of time and stress, which is what makes them so valuable.
The bonuses you include should help your buyers apply the content shared on your summit in some way so they can get even better results faster.
DON’T just include bonuses for the sake of including more bonuses if they are not related to content on the summit itself. You don’t have to go overboard and include everything you possibly can think of.
6. Plan your virtual event the right way
It’s incredibly important to create a plan for your virtual event and decide on the details how it will run before you jump into action mode.
You don’t need to have a virtual event planner, but you should have a clear outline of what needs to be done and work out a rough timeline for completing everything according to the dates of your event.
When making your plan, you should:
- Choose your summit dates (and how many days it will be)
- Work out when your promotion will start
- Decide how many sessions you’ll have and how many each day
- Decide on the format of your summit sessions (e.g. interviews or slide presentations, session length)
- Decide whether your sessions will be live or pre-recorded (I recommend pre-recorded if it’s your first summit to keep things simple)
- Work out if you’ll need a team to help you (e.g. you might want to hire a virtual assistant, designer or video editor)
- Work out your production and marketing budget
- Work out what tools you’ll need
- Start thinking about how you will promote the summit (e.g. affiliates, blogs, websites, podcasts, paid advertising, contests, email marketing)
- Clarify your goal for the summit and set “good”, “better” and “best” results to aim for
My students typically take 3-4 months to go from idea to virtual event launch, although this depends a lot on how big you’d like your event to be, whether you’ll be working on it alone or in a team, and how much time you have to dedicate to the project.
Once you are clear about what you need to do, it’s much easier to get started and make your summit become a reality.
It’s also a good idea to create an organized system for everything during this step, before you start creating things and wasting time when you can’t find things again!
I’d recommend setting up a separate folder for your virtual event and creating an ideas document to keep track of your thoughts as you go throughout the planning process.
7. Build authentic, powerful relationships before you need them
Something that I stress over and over again is the importance of building authentic, powerful relationships with influencers before you actually need them.
This is something you can start doing today, even if you’re just starting out without any connections with influencers in your industry.
If you want to host your virtual event in 3-6 months from now, then start by adding value to influencers where you can.
You can begin by making a list of the top influencers in your industry of whom you would like to invite on as guest speakers for your virtual event (most online events tend to have anywhere from 20-30 speakers, so make a list of around 50-100 potential speakers in your industry).
Then, start adding value to them by leaving thoughtful comments on their blogs, sharing their content, interacting with them on social media, leaving a book review, signing up to their email list and replying to their questions, or even being a case study for them (implementing what they teach and sharing the results with them).
Just look for opportunities to help them without expecting anything in return.
Doing this will not only make it easier for the influencers to say to YES to be a speaker on your virtual event, but they will also go out of their way to promote it to their email list and on social media to help you out.
A big ninja trick for getting speakers on board to speak at your virtual event is to send personalized video invitations to them.
Very few people take the time to really do this, besides my Virtual Summit Mastery students of course, but it has a big impact to make your invitation to stand out in their inbox.
One of my non-native English speaking VSM students, Sami Vesamo, hosted a virtual event for the Finnish market in the Finnish language called “Natural Wellness Summit”, and he was actually producer of the online event, but didn’t do the interviews himself (which I thought was very interesting).
He shared shared this with me:
“The biggest benefit of hosting my first virtual event was the network that we built. In addition to the amazing network we built from the virtual event, we were able to get over 5,000 new email subscribers, over 400 all access pass sales and about $6,000 from sponsors. We now have a new very active Facebook group with over 2,500 people and I had a few new coaching clients as well. Following Navid’s Virtual Summit Mastery Method made everything so much easier and faster.”Sami Vesamo
8. Invite the RIGHT influencers to speak at your virtual event
Work through all the influencers on your list and spend some time to read or listen to their content and get a feel for their work. Are they interesting, entertaining and engaging? Does their message align well with yours?
This is the time to trim down your list by removing anyone who doesn’t feel like is a good fit so that you focus on the quality of speakers.
Decide who will be most valuable for your summit and THEN focus on building a real and genuine relationship with them.
To do this, you can:
- Research their work
- Follow them on social media
- Subscribe to their email list
- Check out their website
- See who else they interact with
Also make sure that you think about how their message aligns with your brand. If they are the right fit for YOU, each influencer should complement what you offer.
It’s not about getting the biggest influencer or partner to be part of your virtual event.
It’s all about finding the perfect fit for your virtual event and audience you’d like to attract.
One of the things I teach in my Virtual Summit Mastery Implementation Program is the importance of inviting the RIGHT speakers and partners for your virtual event.
There has to be an alignment between your audience (or the audience you’d like to attract, if you’re still building your list) and the influencer’s audience and message.
Ask yourself if each speaker really is a good fit for your audience?
Only invite speakers who are very aligned with your message and can provide epic content that will benefit your target audience massively.
Yes, it can be great to get big influencers on board, but only if they are a perfect fit for YOUR summit.
By selecting the right influencers partner with, you’ll be able to get far better results with your virtual event (and other promotions moving forward.)
My VSM student Lisa Edwards, host of the Get Booked Solid Summit (teaching photographers how to get bookings in the slow season) shared:
“Quality over quantity! I’m still THRILLED with the 2,000 registrants from this partner, so I would have still done the same thing, BUT next time perhaps I can find a “big fish” to partner with in the business/marketing side of photography that will be a better fit.”
Now, Lisa still did extremely well with her first virtual summit and was able to get 4,500 new email subscribers and $30,239 in total sales… so you definitely don’t have to get ‘everything’ perfect… she said, “so all-in-all it was a BIG success!”
So the key takeaway here is… Always focus on quality over quantity!
9. Make it a win-win-win for your audience, your speakers… and YOU!
Sometimes it’s not as easy as simply inviting influencers to speak. At this point, you might be wondering:
HOW they can get them to say YES, especially if you don’t know anybody and you’re unknown?
Spend some time researching speakers so that you can present your offer in a meaningful way. Focus on how you can make it a win-win for you and them. Perhaps you could:
- Give them more exposure
- Keep promoting them after your summit is over
- Association with your other speakers/partners
- Give them a bonus commission
There’s no need to pay influencers a big “speaking fee” to speak on your summit. If you position you invitation in the right way, they’ll want to be involved.
The most important thing is to do what you can to make it a huge WIN for your speakers as well.
VSM Graduate, Caitlin Pyle, is a great example of this. She set out with a goal to help her speakers increase their email lists and she surpassed their expectations…
Here’s what just a few of her event speakers had to say about the event shortly after their sessions went live:
It’s safe to say that her Work At Home School event was a massive success.
She brought in 60K new email subscribers and generated multiple six figures in revenue in just a couple of weeks!
Check out this video with Caitlin to hear the whole story (it’s pretty incredible!)
10. Have a professional design for your virtual event funnel and website
If you want influencers to be part of your virtual event, let alone share your online event with their audience, then you have to make your virtual event look as good as possible.
This includes everything from the summit registration page, sales page, inner pages, promotional graphics to the all-access pass membership area.
You could hire a great designer for thousands of dollars, or do what many of my smart and very successful VSM students do: streamline your efforts by using the professionally designed VSM Website Templates to avoid overwhelm and stress as you’re creating your summit.
Here’s a peek at what you get: