Telesummits and Live Stream Events are one of the fastest ways to grow your list, build your brand, expand relationships with other professionals that compliment your business, and, last but not least, get new clients who really resonate with who you are and what you offer. Doing a summit really well, however, is not an easy feat. Even with great training and mentorship, I experienced some challenges when doing my own Summit. I’ve also witnessed my clients and my colleagues navigate their challenges as they launched their first Summit. No matter how many you have done, there are always unexpected challenges. Some of these challenges lead to some major heartaches and meltdowns – others can be handled quickly but take up time, money and energy. The good news is most of them can be avoided with proper planning and strategic, mindful communication. Isn’t that what we love to hear? Here are the Top 7 Challenges I have witnessed and how to overcome them:
1) Not leaving enough time to prepare and plan for the Summit. I started planning my Summit 6 months in advance and was able to get almost every speaker I wanted because their calendars were not booked out yet. This is particularly important if you want popular, well known speakers (see more on speakers below). This extra wiggle room really paid off with my speakers for another reason – they were not always timely in getting back to me with contracts, headshots, bios, and other things I needed to push forward with marketing. Most of the work happened in the last month, but by having all my ducks in a row, it wasn’t a stressful experience. I’ve had many clients and colleagues who tried to put a summit together in two months and it was not a joyful experience – nor did they get the speakers they really wanted, which resulted in less resonance with their audience, fewer attendees, and less profitability
2) Expecting to make money on the Summit itself. I was lucky and I actually made $1000 profit off my first Telesummit (although that did not include the oodles of hours of my time it took to do the event). In talking with colleagues, I have found that most of them do not even break even with their first Summit. I tell my clients that the goal is to be in the black and to do everything you can to make that happen – such as have a low cost/high value bonus package that 10-20% of your attendees will want to buy. You want to bring in enough revenue to offset the expenses because expenses can be high for these events. Expenses include a lot of technology expenses (the teleseminar/live stream technology, adobe acrobat for play backs, shopping cart/email management system/member site plugins, and in most cases, help from a webmaster to put all these pieces together), help from a virtual assistant, and any promotional costs (should you choose to do this). Leveraging the event, however, is where the money making comes into play. I launched a group program with 20 people and also got 8 new 1:1 clients through my Telesummit, plus I quadrupled the size of my list. I also made some key relationships with other professionals who are now promotional partners of mine.
3) Trying to do it all yourself. I often talk about the return on time, money, and energy. Even if you are able to do something, doesn’t mean you should. Getting professional help with some of the complicated pieces of putting on a Summit can make this process MUCH smoother and lead to a more joyous experience for you, which in turn changes the tone & timber of the client experience, too. Recently, I was interviewed on a Summit and when I promoted the event, my list wasn’t able to register. This was extremely stressful for the organizer of the Summit, but it also created stress for me and took a lot of time out of my day doing tech support that I wasn’t anticipating. I am sure that attendance waned because of this issue and ultimately, that effected not only the organizers, but the return on time/money/energy for the speakers that chose to participate. Having a smooth audience and speaker experience is key and hiring experienced Virtual Assistants and Webmasters that have worked on dozens of Telesummits before will have the process run smoothly and effortlessly. Even though it costs more money, it will impact your experience and the results you get. The return of investment on your time, money and energy is much higher when you pay experienced people to help with key parts of the process.
4) Picking the right Speakers. This is the Holy Grail and there is no exact recipe for this but I have some thoughts on this I would like to share. 1) Pick a few well known speakers that people will recognize and try to get them on board right away. This gives your Telesummit credibility – both for other speakers who are considering taking a speaker slot, and for the audience you are wanting to attract. However, don’t expect much support from them in terms of promotion or collaboration. Rock Star speakers often just show up and you have to cater to them and work hard to get all the materials you need from them because you aren’t a huge priority to them. 2) Pick speakers that truly align with your audience and message. If you have a well known speaker on your summit that isn’t aligned with your message, it will take away from the experience and your audience will feel it – and may even be turned off by it 3) Pick speakers that you connect with. If they aren’t willing to have a 15-25 minute talk with you to see if you are aligned, then they probably aren’t as committed to your summit as you would like. I had several speakers tell me this made a huge difference for their personal commitment to my Summit 4) Make sure they are on board for promoting you and excited about supporting your efforts (see below for more details on this one) and, lastly, don’t have speakers that directly compete with you that serve the same ideal client. Choose speakers that serve the same ideal client that compliment what you do.
5) Focusing only on Speakers’ that meet a “list size” criteria. Recently, I have had three people (all mentored by the same person) tell me they were only having speakers on their Telesummit that had lists of 10,000 people or more. I think this is very short sited. ENGAGEMENT level is far more important than list size. You want to ask 1) How often do they mail to their list? 2) What percentage of their mailings are pure promotions? 3) What is their average open rate and click through rate? 4) How often do they speak on Telesummits? I had speakers with less than 1,000 people on their list attract more people to my summit than some speakers with 20,000, 30,000 and 50,000 on their list. (Now, with that said, I got over half my speakers from one source – with a list of 20,000 – who is very engaged with their audience and very selective about who they partner with). List size is a factor but in and of itself, isn’t indicative of how many people you will enroll from their lists.
6) Have clear expectations and conversations about promotion with your Speakers. I did this for my Summit. I talked verbally with every speaker, sent a follow up email confirming our conversation, and had them sign a contract committing to the dates they would promote the event. Only 20% adhered to our agreement. Two speakers told me they wouldn’t promote for me after the promotion day had passed and I called them to inquire why they hadn’t sent their promotions yet. The rest sent out their promotions late and only after I reminded them that they hadn’t promoted when they said they would. Lesson learned? Be really clear in communication; follow up and remind them a week before of the commitment they made. When you are talking with them, trust your gut – you can tell when someone is really excited about promoting you vs. “I’ll do it if I have to”. If people don’t feel committed to promoting, don’t make exceptions for people unless they are your “keynote” speaker. Otherwise, it isn’t fair to the other speakers or to you. Have some back up speakers who really are excited to take part in the event. By the way, the 20% that were “on it” were people who 1) Had done a Telesummit themselves and/or 2) were equally as excited to be on my Summit as I was to have them. They were super organized and commited and saw this as a win/win opportunity.
7) Not getting mentorship and training and trying figure it all out on your own. Don’t try to recreate the wheel. There are mentors/traininers out there that have templates and documents you can leverage to cut your planning and preparation in half. I took Sage Lavine’s amazing Telesummit Training course and it helped connect all the dots for me to make this much more manageable and keep me out of overwhelm. I honestly don’t know if I could have done such a big Telesummit (19 speakers over 5 weeks) without her. She has a FREE TELESUMMIT TRAINING CALL coming up on September 5th at 11 am PST and it is a great opportunity to learn more from someone who is a true master at this. To sign up for this FREE CALL CLICK HERE You will get some good juicy tidbits in the call and it will help you decide if this is really something you want to include in your marketing strategy. I also recommend working with a coach/mentor who can guide you through this process as you have questions and help you avoid challenges and maximize this investment of time/money/energy! As I like to say – what is the cost of training/mentorship and what is the cost of NOT getting training/mentorship.
I hope this helps you avoid some of the frequent challenges that Summit hosts can run into. Please let me know your thoughts! And please post if there are other challenges you’ve run into and I’d be happy to weigh in on ways to avoid those challenges, too!