Virtual summits are part of an expanding roster of virtual and hybrid events that are part of our business landscape. “What’s the difference between a virtual summit, a virtual conference, and any number of other events?” you may ask. Or, “How would you go about putting on a virtual summit?” We’re happy you asked, check out the sections below for more details.
- What is a virtual summit?
- Pros & cons of face-to-face vs virtual summits
- How to plan & host a virtual summit
- Top 3 virtual summit software solutions
- Virtual summits as a marketing tool
- Can money be made hosting virtual summits?
- Virtual summit FAQ
- Kaltura virtual events platform
- Final thoughts
What is a virtual summit?
A virtual summit is an event bringing together business leaders, industry experts, and speakers to discuss a particular topic. As you might also guess, the virtual nature means that the summit happens online. Holding your summit in an online forum creates an opportunity to bring people together from across the world.
Additionally, attendees register online to attend the event. A virtual auditorium or other virtual event space is made available for summit attendees. As virtual events and e-commerce are still markedly on the rise, virtual summits can be a great tool in a marketing strategy, and attendees benefit from an easily-booked summit on a topic that’s relevant to them, sometimes completely free of charge.
Pros & cons of face to face vs. Virtual summits
There are certainly reasons to recommend an in-person summit and other face-to-face events.
A few definitive “pros” of a face-to-face summit include:
- Making connections: Physical events are conducive to networking success. Handshakes and eye contact as well as in-person interaction and hangouts are difficult to beat.
- Merchandise: Likewise, it’s hard to top the positive associations and brand-promotional potential of swag and branded merchandise, both during and after an event.
- Long-Term Association: Physical events create strong associations and memories tied to a brand, and also tend to build the authority of a brand over time.
However, there are some counterpoints, “cons” if you will, where a virtual event can more than compensate, such as these:
- While virtual events lack the same physical types of contact and interaction, they are rich in data including content engagement and analytics.
- Virtual events can surpass merchandise by both showcasing your brand as well as increasing traffic, and include product demonstrations and one on one meetings.
- Unique “pros” to virtual events also include
- Decreasing overall per-attendee cost
- Can increase their ROI by remaining live year-round or available on-demand after the fact
How to plan & host a virtual summit
If you want to plan and host a virtual summit, the first step is to identify and define your goals. How does the summit benefit you, and how will you know you have achieved your goals? Always try to be as clear as possible about your goals, and if possible find a way that they can be quantified and measured.
Possible goals could include building industry reputation or increasing brand awareness. For more abstract goals like these, it’s best to find a metric that you can measure against or work towards. Other goals might be:
Generating sales leads or growing your email list (Have an idea how many leads/subscribers make a success!)
Building relationships with industry colleagues (Set goals for experts, potential partners prospects you would like to attract)
Building a community (Understand what constitutes your community, what it should do, and how large you want to grow it.)
As far as hosting a virtual summit: you’ll want to look for a top-quality platform to ensure high engagement. Your hosting platform should be able to pull off a virtual event that looks and feels close to “the real thing.” We’ll run down beneficial features in the next section.
Top 3 virtual summit software solutions
We like to give credit where credit is due, but we’ll nonetheless maintain our platform is the best choice for your virtual summit needs. We’re built on a foundation of high-quality live, real-time, and on-demand video streaming. If you’re planning virtual events, your best option is always a company that specializes exclusively in the area. At scale, we’ve got one of the best all-around virtual event platforms available, more details below. But don’t just take it from us, feel free to try a demo and find out for yourself.
Bizzabo bills itself as an “event success platform”—an all-in-one equally effective with in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. This means every step of an event lifecycle: ticketing, setup, registration, custom event websites, and built-in capabilities for integrating with CRM and custom reporting. It’s more than adequate for a virtual summit. However, it’s geared towards enterprise-level, B2B marketing events planning for an organization with a lot of events on the slate, bringing an equivalent price tag. Bizzabo gets high marks for being a simple and intuitive platform.
Intrado is a cloud-based virtual event platform with a wide range of solutions focused on driving engagement, creating community, and monetizing content. It’s said to scale to 200K or more users and can offer support for a series of live, semi-live (hybrid), and on-demand presentations organized for users or emulation of a physical summit or conference featuring virtual spaces and programmed sessions. While Intrado offers a significant number of options, we do find that this combined with frequent expansion and rebranding of services can prove a bit overwhelming.
Virtual summits as a marketing tool
Virtual summits as part of an overall marketing strategy can be a powerful engagement tool for creating communities and attracting more potential clients.
Entrepreneurs, established brands, and players new to their field alike can benefit from this style of collaborative marketing that brings together an audience looking to you for expertise.
Can money be made hosting virtual summits?
We won’t guarantee an automatic and immediate profit from any virtual summit event, even if you’re charging a registration fee. HOWEVER, if well executed, you will definitely get ROI over time. A popular, paid-entry virtual summit could become something of a revenue stream, but even a free event (when done well!) can generate tremendous ROI in terms of brand awareness, authority, audience data, traffic and lead generation. It’s also important to think in terms of money SAVED–the virtual format eliminates some of the expenses of a traditional event!
Virtual summit FAQ
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about virtual summits:
How long should a virtual summit last?
Virtual summits, like in-person summits, are usually intended to be a multi-day affair. A typical duration might be 3-10 days, however, you can adjust this in relation to your number of speakers and attendees. A small-scale, intimate event could run 1-3 days, whereas an in-depth and high attendance event might take a full 7-to-10 sessions.
Are there any free virtual summit platforms
While some free virtual events platforms could be suitable for virtual summits, keep in mind that having high-quality video, flexible branding, and analytics that give you the best results in a virtual event format will likely come at a price point.
Will all summits convert to digital in the future?
It seems unlikely. Both virtual and in-person events have their merits and disadvantages. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of both formats and assess which format better serves the summit you’re trying to organize. Here at Kaltura, we’re convinced that virtual and in-person events will coexist, but that the latter is currently evolving to contain virtual elements. In other words, we believe the future lies in hybrid events, delivering the best of both worlds.
Kaltura virtual events platform
When planning a virtual summit, we’ll recommend Kaltura Virtual Events, our own advanced virtual event solution, as the platform of choice. Kaltura Events ensures any event will feel like a full experience even when meeting in person is not an option. It’s our mission to make sure all your virtual events can be on-brand and simple to create and execute. We provide high-quality video streaming, best-in-class engagement, and interaction features, and a reliable platform from which to launch content and live interactions.
Kaltura Virtual Events is fully featured to assist and simplify through the planning stages into execution and follow-ups. During the planning and setup stages of your virtual summit, you can take advantage of our agenda-building capabilities as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. We offer 5 main templates, which can either be implemented as-is as well as reused or reworked: Interactive Webinar, Town Hall, and Large Broadcast, Single Track, Multi-Day Multi-Track, and Flagship Event. For a virtual summit, the Interactive Webinar format can be a great option for an intimate industry gathering. However for a “full 110% effort” style event, our Flagship Events template is geared to“Once-a-year and one-of-a-kind” events, and comes with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support from our teams. Our templates have robust features for individualized modification and are intended to keep you 100% on-brand.
Kaltura Virtual Events also features out-of-the-box integrations as a modular framework for your SaaS tools including conferencing clients, marketing automation platforms, and data analytics. On a larger scale, our automation features empower you to use your event to create personalized, customized, and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns. We also enable hyper-personalization for all attendees, including personalized agendas, customizable layouts, personal media collections, and other options to significantly individualize any virtual summit experience.
While as we mentioned, it seems unlikely that events will go all virtual, all the time in the short-term future, there are many advantages to a virtual summit format. Brands that are well prepared to switch to a virtual event format using a top-tier platform will have a definite advantage.