076: Behind the Scenes PEEK at Tech for Your Virtual Summit [DEEP DIVE]

We’ve had a couple other episodes on Virtual Summits. So for today, I want to break down the tech you’ll want to get working together to have a fully functioning summit.

**A quick clarification before we get into the tech. There are a few schools of thought on what makes a summit!.  So for the purposes of this conversation, we’re talking about pre-recorded interview or lecture style summits.  Those that are consumed on a website (rather than Facebook or YouTube).  And that are free to attend for a limited time. These summits also always offer an extended access to the summit content through an All-Access Pass or other aptly named purchasable digital entity. And communication with your summit attendees will be done through an EMS and a closed Facebook group.

We’re going to start with the end in mind – all summits need to lead the attendees somewhere.

It is vitally important to know the customer journey. Are you going to send your attendees to a course? A membership? A group program? A done-for-you service? There are so many places that we lead our summit attendees to. It’s super helpful to know what’s next! And as long as what’s next includes some kind of content delivery, it’ll make it way easier to figure out how and where to set up the paid access portal.

Your paid access portal is the first platform you’ll want to nail down. It may be a WordPress site with an LMS or membership plugin. Possibly could be a stand-alone platform like Thinkific or MemberVault. The exact solution is something you and your team (and me!) will want to discuss.  We'll want to make sure that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. It’s important to pick a platform that has the ability to grow with your business vision.

Once that platform has been determined, other decisions will be far easier to make… these decisions include the checkout or cart functionality and affiliate management utility. Other decisions also include whether or not you’ll need or want to use Zapier.  And, of course, updates to your EMS or other tools that are in your tech stack that aren’t quite up for the job of supporting your virtual summit vision.

I strongly recommend using the best, right tool for each given task.

My personal favorite checkout tool is called ThriveCart. I like ThriveCart because it is a stand alone utility that takes care of affiliate details and selling your product. It also has integrations with a number of other tools that can be used to deliver the goods. And it also consolidates all the common payment tools.  As of the time of this recording these are PayPal, Stripe, Apply Pay, G Pay and Authorize.net.  This puts your consumer in the best buying position by lowering the purchase barrier.

The best affiliate management systems put the affiliate as close to the point of sale as possible.  So while there might be an affiliate system close to your content delivery, a better affiliate system is one that is intrinsically tied to the payment.

There is a lot more that ThriveCart can do, but that’s not the purpose of this episode – if you have payment functionality already then it’s likely that will work for your summit as well.

We now know the tools we are going to use to deliver the extended access, get paid for it and where our affiliates will be tracked. So let’s get to the free summit!  This is where your tech needs to be super solid! It’s the first interaction many of your attendees are going to have with you and your brand and your business.

If we were building your business from scratch with this summit, it would be pretty cut and dry what tools to use. And I have those available in a nifty download you can get here by scrolling to the bottom of the page! But since you’ve already got a tech stack to contend with, let’s not add more clutter that is going to need to be cleaned up later.

Hosting a summit might be a great time to clean out some of the tech tools that you are using to streamline your systems...take your EMS for example.

This is one component of your tech stack and virtual summit that needs to be in tip top shape! WHY? So that it can do a lot of heavy lifting. If you’re using a system that doesn’t have tagging capabilities or isn’t well organized it’s time to clean that thing up.

Your EMS is going to be responsible for keeping your summit attendees excited as the summit approaches.  It will also provide links to the summit content during the event. And guide your attendees through whatever you’ve got on the heels of the summit.

One of the reasons I like EMSs that have tagging is because it is a great built in organization structure. And less pre-cleanup is required to add your summit into the fold. It’s just a matter of creating a series of tags that correspond to the different parts of the summit and different ways that your attendees and purchasers interact with your emailed content.

Let me dig in a bit more! The more data you have about a given summit attendee, the better off you will be to help the exact right people find their way to the exact right next step with you.

With ActiveCampaign (and probably other systems, but I’m most familiar with AC) there is site tracking available. With this functionality, you can actually see which attendees have visited which pages on your summit website! This is super powerful, especially if we’re agile in our approach to summit communication. It’s far easier to start a conversation with an attendee when you know what has piqued their interest! Not to mention, that it’s crucial for a great experience to not sell to the already sold!

If someone has purchased the extended access, it is crucial to stop including them in the summit upsell emails. Instead, the communication needs to switch to nurturing the relationship and helping them to use the content that they have purchased.

I’ve worked on summits using ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, AWeber, Mailchimp and Infusionsoft… they all work. So if you’re using one of those tools and using it effectively, your summit can be run with that tool. If you think that you might need to cleanup already, I strongly recommend doing the cleanup before you start adding your summit to this tool. And if you don’t feel confident that your EMS is going to support your summit vision, let’s chat and we’ll figure out the next best EMS step for you to take.

Before we go too much further, my biggest frustration with some of the EMSs out there is that the automations aren’t as flexible as summit hosts’ visions.

It’s a give and take. For example, ActiveCampaign may take 15 minutes to get your emails out to your entire list. It’s super helpful to know that and not plan on sending emails “at the time the summit launches” but send them “we’re live within the hour.” The rest of the system on ActiveCampaign is so good, that I’m willing to compromise on this little annoyance. All the EMSs have something that is going to go in the negative column on a pro-con list, but in general, if you have a system that is working – stick with it!

OK… I’ve probably exhausted your listening desires around the EMS, so let’s move on.

My friend and past podcast guest Mark Wade has a great software tool called Virtual Summits Software. It’s a robust tool that puts your summit content at the forefront and takes care of a lot of the tech so that you don’t need to hire a team. It’s certainly a viable option, but it’s not the tool that I use with my clients. Mostly because my clients are wanting more customization than what is available in Mark’s software.

Instead, my go to is to build out your summit on a WordPress website using the Beaver Builder page builder. A stand alone WordPress website is the strong recommendation here… let me explain.

Whether your main business website is on WordPress or not, the flexibility of WordPress makes hosting a summit so much easier than any of the hosted platforms. And stand alone means that your summit is the only thing that lives within that WordPress installation – no blog, no services page, no nothing. So it’s completely “clean” and poised to present your summit content without distraction.

And a page builder – that’s mostly because it’s so much easier to use the page builder to create the summit pages exactly how you want. Other than Beaver Builder, you might be considering Thrive Architect or Divi. I strongly prefer Architect over Divi but again, if you are used to a certain page builder, use it. These are suggestions and my preferences not a mandate!

The next most important tool you’re going to need is your video host.

For this, there is basically one feasible option – that is Vimeo Pro. At the Pro level you can use their platform for business. And at the free and plus levels it’s against the terms of service to use videos in that way.

The question I often get at this suggestion is whether or not YouTube is a viable option. Viable, yes, recommended no. And that’s because the playback experience is better with Vimeo. There are always new services coming up and a quick search of “Video Hosting Providers” will give you some idea of other options that are out there. But for the price and value, I believe you’re not going to do wrong with Vimeo Pro!

And with that – we have covered all you need to host a virtual summit – WordPress for the summit website and session pages, Vimeo Pro for your video hosting, an EMS, a checkout mechanism and a paid content portal.

Of course, there are far more things that go into hosting a virtual summit than just the right tech tools. And that brings us right back up to the top of the episode where we dove into what’s coming after the summit and positioning everything within that light.

I see so many mentors and coaches and gurus tout summits as a great list building tool. And they are!  But none of us are building a list for a vanity metric. We are building our lists to grow our businesses! And that’s the exact reason why positioning and summit topic matter so much.

I’m floating around a virtual summit idea for Tech of Business to host in early 2020. While I have so many ideas as to what I could do with the summit...none of them matter if I don’t know what I want to provide to attendees after the summit wraps up. And for that, I have work to do! I know exactly what the offer is, but I haven’t created it yet. I’ve proven it with one-on-one services! Before I can invest everything I need to into the summit, I need to first invest in translating the one-on-one service into the new form that makes sense to come on the heels of the summit.

Because I know what I’m going to be offering, I am at the start of the cycle. I can pick a platform to house the new offer and that lays the foundation for how I’m going to implement the summit.

My new offer is going to be housed on MemberVault and sold directly through ThriveCart. I want to be able to leverage the robustness of ThriveCart for affiliates and upsells and downsells and bumps and all that jazz (but that is totally for another podcast episode!)

With that piece of the puzzle in place, I know that I’m going to be selling the summit extended access through ThriveCart and housing the content inside MemberVault. It feels so good to be 6+ months away from the summit launch and already have an understanding of how it’s going to come together.

Another piece that I can feel confident about is that I’ll continue to use ActiveCampaign for the summit – and looking at my ActiveCampaign account, there is some cleanup I’d like to do before we get to summit promotion. I’ll put that on the calendar so that it is complete long before the number of hours I need to dedicate to the summit increases.

And I could go on and on about the tech foundation for the summit that I’m gearing up to hosting – I’ll be sharing this process as I move through it, including all the tech and systems and processes that I use along the way.

I love virtual summits and what they can do for businesses. And I sincerely hope this episode is something that you’ve also enjoyed. I hope you will come back to when you start to get an inkling that it’s time to host your own virtual summit.

I’m here for you – getting the exact right tech in place for your business goals!

Next week, we’ve got a super fun conversation coming onto the podcast and as always connect with me on Instagram (I’m @techofbusiness) and book your http://callwithjaime.com to let me know what else you’d like to hear on the podcast!

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