Tips For Hosting Virtual Events With Over 10k Attendees – #HeyPresstoConf20

This post summarizes my opening talk at Hey Pressto! Conference 2020.

It was an honor to be the first speaker of this year’s event and talk about my best tips for hosting virtual events that get over 10k attendees.

Even since I make my living with hosting virtual events, this conference was a new experience for me. It was completely hosted on Twitter, I had to publish one tweet every minute for my 15-minute presentation.

I was quite excited about this format and loved the real-time interactions that were going on.

But this format also implies limitations on how much content you can share in your presentation. That’s why I’ve recorded a video for my slides and dove a little deeper into them.

You can watch the full video here:

And this is the full presentation on Twitter:

You can also read the transcript of the video below:

Hey friends, I’m Jan Koch. I’m the host of the WP Agency Summit. I just opened the Hey Pressto! Conference 2020 that’s happening on Twitter right now, so in case you’ve missed this, this is a conference taking place solely on Twitter. What I wanted to do is, I wanted to elaborate a little bit about the slides that I had in my conference, because essentially, it’s like a 15 minute talk that I’ve given and for one minute there was one tweet going out. Essentially it’s one slide per minute for 15 minute talks throughout the day.

So, what I want to do right now is I want to jump into Twitter, take you with me in Twitter and just go over the presentation I just gave, enjoy! So we are looking at the Hey Pressto! website right now, that is heypresstoconf.org, where you can get more information about what this conference is all about, and let’s dive into Twitter right now. So my talk was about bringing together 10,000 plus registrants using virtual summits and I linked the thread in the show notes right below this video.

So let’s dive right into the thread right here. First, a little bit of background about who I am: so I’m a WordPress developer since 2012 and since 2013 I am self employed. I have started using these summits in 2015 already, so this is not something I jumped on because of COVID, it’s something that I’ve been doing for five plus years by now. I have reached over 10,000 attendees with my events, 125,000 plus page views, and over 110 countries. And I want to give a big thank you to the WordPress community, because with all the support I have received from individuals and from companies alike, I would have not been able to run these events for so long.

So this presentation is about the strategy behind the virtual summit, three ways to monetize the virtual events, and then lastly the executing the event. And I’m going to keep this very brief here because there’s really each slide of these could be its own presentation, but I want to give you an overview of what’s going on. So when you have the idea to run a virtual summit, plan at least, at least three months for your first virtual summit, probably even six months, if you have the time. And the reason being is that you’ll have new ideas once you start working on your summit with Shane, which changed the direction of the summit, very, very likely.

You have to orchestrate speaker sponsors, a design team to create all the promotional graphics, you have to orchestrate live streams during the event, you have to orchestrate prerecorded sessions, which also includes the editing of the sessions. You have to build the website, you have to put a launch campaign, you have to build… Or to write email campaigns, you have to set up automation for email. There are so many things coming together, so that three months, which includes recording the actual presentations on your event is really the minimum of time.

Because when you want to have corporate sponsorships, which we’ll talk about later on, these companies need time to include the promotion of your event into their own marketing mix. That’s just once I know that I wasn’t able to fit into the presentation here on the heypresstoconf. Next, decide on hiring virtual assistants or staff, or doing it on your own. And I would highly recommend not to do it on your own. I’m the first to say that I’ve been close to burnout because of this. And the reason is, as you can see on that slide, let me zoom in a little bit further. There we go.

As you can see on the slide, there are many, many things that you need to be able to juggle around when you’re running a virtual conference, whether that is all the graphic designers I’ve said for individual speaker ads, for website elements, for sales ads, for emails, you name it. Whether that is conducting the interviews, preparing the interviews, doing speaker research in the first place and orchestrating all the scheduling to record the interviews or to do them live even, manage the hosting, the web design, doing live streams during the event moderating and networking lounge if you have that, build up the sales funnel, build up the lead gen funnel. There are so many things that I think by now, it’s clear why I’ve said previously that three months is the absolute minimum in my eyes to execute on your first virtual summit.

Next don’t skip the research phase, and that’s something I’ve learned from my good friend, Navid Moazzez, who runs virtualsummitmastery.com, a program I have taken before running my first virtual summit. And I highly recommend Virtual Summit Mastery. If you are serious about virtual summits. It’s an investment, but Navid over-delivers, and it has paid for itself, for me, at least 20 times over. So this is a good program to take if you’re serious about running a virtual summit. And I do have an affiliate link in the video description below that obviously gives me a slight commission without adding any extra cost for you.

And what I mean by doing research on competition and the target market, especially in Corona times, is that there are virtual summits popping up everywhere, literally everywhere. All the physical conferences that cannot happen these days are turned into virtual events. All the speakers… The entrepreneurs who are struggling to reach their offline audiences of trying to find new ways to reach them online, which often results in virtual events. All the marketers are jumping on the bandwagon of running virtual conferences because physical conferences cannot happen. So that is why you definitely need to do your research so that you can ensure your summit stands out amongst the others.

So what, after you’ve done the research, you then define your virtual summit hook and the marketing outline. And again, this is something I’ve taken from virtual summit mastery and have it basically structure this around the attendee experience. And I think that is a brilliant way to think about the summit because what separates the events you remember from the events, you don’t? It is that those events stood out amongst the others and that is why you should think about what your attendees remember when they’ve gone through your virtual summit, what will they have learned? How do you want to structure the event so that they get the best experience out of attending.

Then you are ready to think about the speakers. So you need to build a list of A, B, and C list speakers. And I don’t mean that is to put some speakers on a pedestal and others not, but essentially what you need is you need to have a good mix of speakers who have such a big name that they spark the interest of people actually wanting to come to your event, but also, those speakers with the really big and popular brands, they will likely not share your summit as much because they don’t need to. They have their own marketing campaigns coming on and you can consider yourself lucky if those speakers get onto your summit to be honest, but that’s where B and C list speakers come in.

So those are people who are not as well known in your space, but also have a lot of value to add to your summit. And what you want to do is you want to mix the big names with the names that have lesser known brands, because those will then share your event because they are sharing the stage with the really big speakers. That is why it’s really important to have a good mix on the speakers. And obviously you want to have a diversified lineup. So don’t just put only males on the speaker lineup. Don’t just put only white people on the speaker lineup, for example, get diversified. Something I have certainly received a lot of backlash for in 2019 for a reason because my speaker lineup was 28 males and four females, I think, which was not based on intention, but on my existing network at the time. But for this WP Agency Summit coming up in October, on October 12th, I do have a much more diverse lineup.

Then when you start on actually recording the sessions and getting into the organization, use automation as much as you can leverage software as much as you can. So for scheduling, I use Calendly. So I’m currently exploring zoom AI as an alternative because Calendly sometimes fails to send invites to the inboxes of my speakers or of the people that I want to interview. I have Active Campaign for highly automated email campaigns, which is a game-changer for me personally, and all the data that comes together with the virtual summit, whether that is information about the speakers, about sponsors, about bonuses, or about marketing channels, go into Airtable. Airtable then connects to Zapier and just leverages automation further. This is something that I cannot recommend highly enough, are you want to make sure that you have automation in place for session transcriptions. For example, you can use otter.ai, which is an AI-based transcription service that you just need to review, just as another example.

Now onto the monetization part. There are three ways, as I’ve mentioned, on how you can make money from your summit and the first one is what the fantastic WP Buffs are doing with a WPMRR Virtual Summit. They keep it free to attend forever and then use it to build their list, build their authority in the market, and build their audience. And obviously with a bigger audience, given that it is relevant to what you’re doing, you can then promote services and products later on after the event. And that is something that is a really, really smart approach, but it also creates.. It also requires a lot of investment upfront. So it is not cheap to run these summits as you’ve probably guessed by now, even if you’re not spending money, you are certainly spending time on these. So it is a decision that you need to make and for the buffs, it was the best decision to keep it free and then just deliver value to the audience and build their audience, grow their email list using a summit.

What I like to do is I’d like to sell lifetime access passes on my events after the event has ended. So if you don’t want to keep your summit for free, what you can do is you can sell lifetime access passes after the event has ended. And that is what I like to do. So I like to keep my WP Agency Summit free to attend while it’s live, so that is October 12th to 16th. You can join all the sessions for free, you can get all the contents, you can see the transcriptions, you can join the networking area, you can play around in the sponsorship booths and win prices worth over $3,500. So this is all free, but then when the summit has ended, you would have to pay for a lifetime access pass. And those are in the prelaunch really cheap. I’m selling them for $47 right now.

And the link to the landing page, if you want to learn more is on all the slides and it’s also below this video with just register.wpagencysummit.com, where you can see the funnel in action too. So I’m using deadline funnel on my website, as well as you will notice when you sign up. So you don’t have to break the banks of your attendees. And I think that is a really valid point because what might the goal is for the summit is I want to make the information as accessible as possible and to turn it into the resource I wanted when I was starting my agency, which in that time I was certainly pressed for cash. So that is why I’m keeping the pre-launch price. So cheap and the price will go up as the summit starts. But again, for the pre-launch price, $47, I think you can’t argue with that.

You can also do corporate sponsorships for your events, which is also what I am doing to cover the costs upfront. So it takes me a couple of months to run these events. And I have over 30 speakers by now, and I use corporate sponsorship to pay for these months in advance. So obviously I have to pay for my own time. I have to pay my own bills. I have to pay the services that I use to build these summits. I have to have a budget for ads so that I can promote the summits properly. And then I think these expenses justify corporate sponsorship. And if you can find a way to give value to companies so that the sponsorship packages are appealing to them, then it’s definitely a fantastic way to pay for your expenses. And to also put a little bit of buffer in your bank account for when the summit is not so well received, that you are not breaking your own bank with all the work that has gone into the event. Talking about the execution.

And you can probably tell by now that I’m pro that I’m likely raising more questions for you than answering, but it’s an overview presentation, so please keep that in mind. Execution of the virtual summit obviously involves building the website. So as I’ve mentioned here in the tweet, you will need tools like video embeds, live chat, shopping cart, quizzes or spinning wheels, group video calls, and so on depending on how you want to structure your event. And on the side, you can see a very simple example structure that involves a landing page, where people sign up and upset page for the lifetime access, the content pages, where the individual sessions will live, speaker pages that speakers can use to promote individual sponsorship booths and the networking laundries. And again, I’ve got this for the first time in Virtual Summit Mastery and then refined it myself.

So again, another shout out Navid and his program here, give credit where credit is due. What you also want. So do, when you’re executing on the vendors, you want to talk to affiliates and sponsors constantly keep the communication going. This is super, super important. Create swipe copy that people can use to promote your event, build sponsorship booths, provide promotional graphics, publish the session schedule on your event and explain how affiliates and sponsors and attendees obviously can attend the event now to engage during the event, how to network, for example, with other attendees, and just make sure that you are leaving no questions open because you will cause confusion when you’re running your virtual summit. People will not know what to expect when they are coming to their own first virtual summit as attendees. So you need to make sure that you’re very clear on communication.

And lastly, speaking of engagement, you have to, to be present during the event yourself, you have to engage with your target audience, whether that means that you are in a Facebook group where you are networking with attendees, whether that means that you are doing live streams regularly, you are answering questions that come at you on various channels, inevitably. So you will see questions on Facebook messenger on Twitter, on email, in the networking lounge. If you have it, there will be tons and tons of questions be prepared for that. But also, yeah, you can use those to spark conversations. So take some of these questions into the public and ask them for everybody, not just for the person asking them and just be present, be approachable, during the summit because you are the one in authority, not so much us, because you are putting the event together, which then again is the branding. Benefit that you are striving for when you’re hosting a virtual summit.

So this is my presentation on the Hey Pressto! conference. And again, if you want to learn more about that conference, go to heypresstoconf.org. And if you want to learn more about my virtual summit, which is coming up on October 12th, let me zoom in a little bit again. I’m on a 4K display by the way, so that’s why I have to zoom in. If you want to bring back the fun into scaling your WordPress agency and learn what 25 plus WordPress world-class agency owners do differently with their agencies than the other agencies who are struggling. And if you want to meet new friends in the virtual networking lounge that I’m having on WP Agency Summit, then check out register.wpagencysummit.com, and sign up for your free tickets. And who knows, maybe you are to working with companies like Starbucks, National Geographics, Viacom, Astra, LA Phil, or Microsoft. Thank you so much for watching the presentation and for spending the time with me. And I hope to see you on the WP Agency Summit soon. Cheers.

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