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Virtual Summits | Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting One Successfully

Want to learn how to host an effective, impactful virtual summit? Here’s your comprehensive Riverside guide on how to create a successful virtual summit.
Abel Grunfeld
Head of Marketing
Last Updated:
January 22, 2024
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Experts predict that virtual events could reach a whopping $400 billion market value by as soon as 2027. They’re popular too. Citing accessibility as a key factor, 77.2% prefer virtual events over in-person alternatives.

By hosting effective, impactful virtual summits, you can find new opportunities to build meaningful relationships. You can create a forum for conversation and engagement while sharing insights and articulating the value you and your brand can deliver for consumers and industry colleagues alike.

When it comes to setting up for your first virtual summit, you might be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t panic. We’ve put together a simple, easy-to-follow step-by-guide to help you on your way to success.

What is a virtual summit?

A virtual summit is a digital event that brings together industry experts and business leaders to discuss the latest developments.

Most often, a virtual summit focuses on a specific niche or topic. It is an online environment where people can discuss current issues and share innovation as they work together to achieve better professional outcomes.

Frequently, virtual summits are much bigger than a single presentation or speech. Instead, a virtual summit allows time for multiple speakers to reach a large, engaged audience and to present a variety of materials.

In short, a virtual summit offers everything you would expect from an in-person summit with the exception that it occurs entirely online and allows guests to connect remotely.

Virtual summit vs virtual conference

Many people confuse virtual summits with virtual conferences. While these two concepts share some similarities, they also have a few key differences.

A virtual summit tends to target an exclusive audience, usually with highly specific interests or perspectives. For instance, a summit may target senior marketing professionals, delivering data insights and industry trends that would only interest those at a certain level within the field.

Typically, a virtual conference is more generalized. This format communicates ideas at a lower level so that information is more easily comprehensible, even for more junior-level attendees. Ideas articulated in a conference tend to be broader with less detail and specificity.

Why should you host a virtual summit?

Virtual summits offer incredible scope for building your community and growing your impact! There are many reasons why you should get started with virtual summits now and stay ahead of the digitizing curve.

Benefits of hosting a virtual summit

Wondering what benefits you can expect when you start hosting virtual summits? Here are just a few!

Reach more people

Virtual events aren’t limited by geography, which means that you can easily reach more people than ever more. This is a great way to grow your community!

By using a virtual environment to make your summit accessible, you can invite attendees from anywhere in the world and diversify your marketing scope. You’ll get to share insights with more people and begin to serve a global market. This can also help you maximize return on investment.

Tailor for engagement

Many virtual summit software tools include great audience engagement features and functionalities. These allow you to drive better engagement outcomes for your event.

Through a combination of polls, quizzes, breakout sessions, and Q&A forums, you can communicate directly with attendees. This can help you build a more personalized experience and ensure that everyone gets something out of your summit. It can also be a critical first step in building important professional relationships.

Provide accessibility

Virtual summits and events are a strong option in terms of accessibility. This allows you to make your event as inclusive as possible for more people.

With a virtual summit, you’ll have access to tools that allow you to broadcast content around the world. Some platforms, like Riverside, even include automatic captioning software to help make your content accessible for all, including people who are hard of hearing or those who are listening in a second language. This helps you stand by your brand’s mission and reach as many people as you can.

Feature esteemed guests

Want to feature guests as part of your summit event? Going virtual means that the sky's the limit! Attending a virtual event is much quicker and easier, which makes it more likely that you’ll convince valued guests to join your event.

While an in-person event often requires in-person speakers, there are no such limitations when you’re working online. You can invite esteemed presenters to connect remotely and provide insights you might miss out on if your summit was restricted to a single geographical location.

Network with impact

When it comes to professional development, effective networking is critical. This can help you find new opportunities and pursue career growth.

In a virtual summit environment, you can build a network that goes global. This can help guests learn from the world’s best. It also allows you to build connections that might lead to ongoing professional opportunities far beyond where you currently live.

Record valuable content

Have you ever hosted a great event and wish you’d caught some of the action on camera? A virtual summit allows you to record seamlessly throughout!

Using the right virtual recording software, you can easily capture video and audio content from your virtual event for later use. You’ll be able to refer back to important ideas and even reuse materials for future learning sessions. You can even provide the recording to engage people who weren’t able to attend the summit live.

Reduce summit costs

On a practical level, hosting a virtual summit can also have great cost-saving benefits that allow you to invest wisely.

Instead of paying for a venue, food, and accommodation, you can use your money to fund your summit itself. This can help you reduce spending where needed and give you extra budget for better speakers. Reducing costs will also leave you with more scope to host additional summits in the future!

Place sponsorships

Better yet, virtual summits can offer unique opportunities for raising revenue, all while causing minimal disruption to the summit experience.

When you host a summit virtually, you can place ads and sponsorships on the screen in exchange for a small fee. This will help you make back some of the money you spend on hosting the event. It might even help you start conversations with relevant brands and vendors to your industry!

Access authentic data

Finally, virtual events allow you to track your performance and generate a true understanding of success.

Instead of basing your evaluations on anecdotal evidence, you can rely on data metrics that help you examine reach, engagement, watch time, and more. These insights will help you understand your audience and plan to achieve better results with every summit you host.

How to create a successful virtual summit: 5 steps

Wondering how to create a successful virtual summit? Follow these 5 simple steps to begin!

Step 1: Choose your software

The first step is to consider where you will host your virtual summit. This decision is important, as it will influence the tools and features you have access to.

Think carefully about the kind of people who will attend your summit and which digital tools will work best for them. Are there any specific functionalities your speakers will need, like screen-sharing or automatic captioning?

hosting a virtual summit on Riverside

We recommend trying Riverside, which offers advanced AI controls, studio-quality recording, and separate video and audio tracks, alongside other great features.

Step 2: Plan your virtual summit

Next, it’s time to start thinking about what your virtual summit will cover. Your event’s structure will have a significant impact on the experience you deliver.

Who is your summit for, and what value can you offer for this audience? Which specific ideas or concepts do you want to cover during the event, and how will you fit them in?

Wherever possible, it’s best to curate your event so that it follows a natural flow of information. This can help people stay on track and maintain engagement.

Step 3: Schedule your speakers

When you know what you want your summit to include, you’re ready to start recruiting people to speak at the event.

Get in touch with industry experts who you know your audience will be interested in hearing from. Ask potential speakers what they’d like to present for your summit.

Ideally, connect with a strong pool of speakers with plenty of time to spare. Don’t forget to have a backup plan if someone’s availability changes at the last minute!

Step 4: Invite your guests

You’re also ready to begin! Once you’ve got a robust plan in place, you can start inviting guests to attend your virtual summit event live.

Use your existing networks, including email newsletters and social media platforms, to promote your summit. Invite people you think will benefit from what you have to say.

Don’t be afraid to send reminders! You need to give people time to register for your event and keep the buzz going so that they show up online on the day.

Step 5: Begin your virtual summit

Finally, it’s time to begin your virtual summit! Set up your technology with time to spare, and get ready to start welcoming speakers and guests to the event.

Throughout your summit, provide opportunities for attendees to get involved. This could include hosting small group discussions in breakout rooms or running a digital poll.

As you move through your summit, look for ways to improve the experience next time you host an event. This can help you continue to grow and enhance your skills.

Bonus: Record and repurpose

Sharing your virtual summit content doesn’t have to end when your event is over! By capturing a high-quality recording of your event, you can share information with more people.

A clear, comprehensive virtual summit recording can easily be repurposed across social media and email marketing channels. This can help you target those who couldn’t attend your live event and even drive more interest in future virtual summits!

A tool like Riverside can help you craft impactful long- and short-form content in just a few minutes.

Best practices to conducting an engaging virtual summit

If you want to host an engaging virtual summit, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind.

Be punctual

Make a good first impression by getting your summit up and running when you say you will! By making sure you’re on time, you can start your event off the right way and avoid losing participants’ interest before you’ve even begun.

Use imagery

Long speeches can be boring, so it’s a good idea to use visual materials to keep them engaging! Take advantage of screen-sharing and presentation tools to display images and diagrams that provide extra clarity to your message.

Ask questions

Throughout your virtual summit, it’s important that you get your audience involved. Ask questions, and provide people with opportunities to talk back to you. Remember, your summit should be a two-way conversation where everyone can learn from each other.

FAQs on virtual summits

Still unsure about virtual summits? Here are our answers to a few frequently asked questions!

What makes a meeting a summit?

A summit is not the same thing as a meeting! While a meeting might involve people from one organization coming together to discuss, summits are broader learning opportunities. Instead of focusing on planning or practicalities, summits center educational materials and professional development. They involve representatives from the broader industry you are a part of.

How do you meet people at a summit?

Summits are great for networking! The best way to meet people at a summit is by striking a conversation. Ask questions, and let others share their insights and experiences. Share your own ideas, and request feedback from your peers. These strategies could be the start of a positive working relationship going forward.

Final thoughts

Are you ready to host your first virtual summit event? Get started with Riverside!

Our intuitive, studio-quality platform allows you to connect meaningfully with remote participants while capturing excellent event content and benefitting from AI-powered transcription and editing controls.

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