Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Navid Moazzez thought it might be a good idea to start a podcast. He landed some prominent interviews, like authors Robert Green and Chris Brogan, but was frustrated his podcasting success wasn’t translating into cash flow or a bigger email list. That’s when he heard about virtual summits, which he describes as a “podcast on steroids.”
Virtual summits are typically video interviews of 20 or more experts on a given topic, which viewers opt-in to watch. They’re often free for a short period of time, such as 24 to 72 hours, and then subscribers may choose to purchase an "all-access pass" for unlimited viewing later. “I was intrigued by the concept, and the fact that they were able to grow their email list rapidly by putting together this event,” says Moazzez. “It’s creating great free content, and then also making money [through post-facto sales].”
He decided to launch his own, and in 2014, he created the Branding Summit, bringing together an eye-popping 88 expert speakers (of which I was one). When he started planning it, he only had 1,000 email subscribers, but he knew the opportunity to access nearly 100 hours of free content would draw in registrants, as would the promotional push from the speakers themselves. “When you interview experts in your field, you borrow off their credibility,” he says. “You can make money without having to create a product yourself, as long as you’re a great interviewer and can pull out the best content from the experts you’re interviewing. I did the summit because I wanted to build more authority in the space.”
The result? He earned $20,000 from the summit (about 200 sales), increased his email list by 3,000 subscribers, quit his job and moved to Cancun. He also started consulting on virtual summits and advised author Chandler Bolt on the launch of his Self-Publishing Success Summit (for which I was also a speaker), which earned more than $300,000. In a recent interview, Moazzez shared some of his best tips for entrepreneurs who’d like to create their own. (For more information, he also developed a free virtual summit "cheat sheet.")
Develop real relationships.
A lot of your summit’s success will depend on the speakers who agree to participate. So how do you get big names? “What you want to do is focus on building authentic relationships before you need them,” says Moazzez. “If you have to reach out cold, and I did that on a few occasions, in the first line of your email, give them a genuine compliment. Maybe you’ve read their book or their blog post and you can share that you got good results. Who doesn’t like a genuine compliment?” He also recommends asking the speakers you’ve already landed for suggestions or introductions to colleagues. “Think about what you can do to add value to them before you reach out,” he says. “You can leave a thoughtful comment on their blog, share their content, or leave an Amazon review or -- even better -- a video review of their book. One woman I know did a video request to the speakers, telling them why she wanted them to speak on her summit, and that’s a really good way to set yourself apart.”
Don’t be a stickler about the terms.
Of course you hope that the speakers will share information about your summit with their following – perhaps through social media, and ideally with an email blast to their list. But you can’t mandate that, says Moazzez. “Don’t put it in a contract” that they have to mail to their lists. “That can really turn people off, especially if they don’t know who you are.” Indeed, I’ve turned down some summit invitations because of the onerous promotional requirements they set. Rather, he counsels summit organizers to focus on the long-term relationship. “Even if they don’t promote it, continue to build the relationships. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you; maybe they just don’t have time right now, and maybe next time they will promote it.”
Make it easy to share.
What incentivizes speakers (and others) to tell their audiences about the summit? First, says Moazzez, it’s doing a great interview, because if they’re asked thoughtful and unusual questions, they’ll recognize the value of getting the interview out to the public. But a close second is making it easy for them to share. “You should treat the summit as a product launch, and have a promotional calendar, a great affiliate page, a swipe page [of promotional copy] for speakers and affiliates, images, and graphics, so that it’s super easy for them to promote. You should be clear, ‘Here are the best days to promote it.’”
Make it a win-win.
Another reason that speakers might want to join the summit is the possibility of growing their own email list. “You can let the speakers provide a free giveaway,” says Moazzez. “You can link that up below the video, and they can grow their email list by hundreds of people possibly, just by doing an interview for 45 to 60 minutes. That’s powerful.” That was my experience with Bolt’s summit, which drew 25,000 registrants; my email list grew by several hundred when attendees downloaded a free 42-page workbook I had created. You can also encourage the speakers to become affiliates for the summit, earning 50 percent of every sale they drive for the all-access pass. And though Moazzez doesn’t use this approach personally, some virtual summits allow speakers to promote their own courses for sale.
For entrepreneurs who want to connect with leaders in their field, grow their email list and potentially earn serious revenue, virtual summits are a powerful tool to explore.