Lessons from Hosting a Summit - The Content Experiment
hosting a summit

Lessons from Hosting a Summit

In case you weren’t paying attention, The Content Experiment recently hosted a summit. It both was wildly successful AND gave us the framework for doing a lot of things differently next time. (Yes, there will be a next time.) 

If you’ve been curious about what was going on behind the scenes before, during, and after the summit, this is the episode where I’m dishing it out. 

In today’s episode, I’m sharing what worked, what didn’t work, and what we’re changing for The Content Experiment Summit 2.0. Listen in now! 

Mentioned in This Episode

Summit in a Box

The Content Mastery Lab


Welcome to episode 111 of The Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast that supports the idea that content and marketing are ever-moving targets in any business and it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re doing it ALL right, ALL of the time. You have permission to experiment with little tweaks and changes in your content to find what works for you, what increases value for your audience and what grows your business. And most importantly, what feels good for you.

I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and coach for online business owners who are ready to make a bigger impact online. I firmly believe that success isn’t about what big marketing brands and so-called gurus think is the right thing; it’s about you and your business. Your lifestyle and, frankly, your values and belief systems.

You get to do business in a way that works for you.

If you’re new to the podcast, I’m so glad you’re here! I work really hard to bring you informative and to-the-point content because, let’s face it, no one has time for fluff these days. If you like what you hear, hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss another episode.

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Today’s episode is brought to you by Content Mastery Lab, a membership community that supports business owners by helping you through identifying the right content to create for your audience–from market research to ideation to creation, interation and publication. It offers support, feedback, community, accountability and more.

Because you can’t just sit down and decide you’re going to create content for your business. You need a plan and you need to space to tweak and adjust that plan when needed.

Sometimes it takes some time to get there. You have to try out a few things…experiment with different types of content, in different places. You need to share about it in different ways. Or maybe you try out a new type of content and discover that that’s not really what your audience wants at all.

But luckily, you were experimenting, rather than creating an entire overhaul of your content strategy. Right?

That’s what we do inside Content Mastery Lab, my membership community.

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Join us monthly or quarterly. Or commit to a whole year for extra 1:1 time with me and quarterly planning parties where we work through your content together in an intimate group.

Head to thecontentexperiment.com/lab for more information and to sign up. Use the code Podcast to get your first month for $1.

In case you missed it, I hosted a virtual summit a few weeks ago. It was so much fun, and so much work, and a great boost for my business and visibility, plus I was able to get to know some amazing people–speakers and attendees alike.

I learned a ton through the process of putting together the summit and pulling it off and I wanted to take the time to share with you some of the things that worked really well, what didn’t work, and what we’ll be doing differently next time. Because, yes, there WILL be a next time.

Bear with me here!

What Worked:

  • Buying Summit in a Box + VIP. Krista Miller’s SIAB program is amazing, and the VIP access to her–reviews of copy and registration page setup were HUGE in giving me exactly what I needed to not go crazy during summit prep and implementation. If you don’t already SIAB, I highly recommend it.
  • Invited every speaker onto the podcast. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the speakers a little more, helped to promote the summit, gave speakers more visibility, and allowed me to talk more openly about the speaker and their expertise. At the same time, I’m not sure I’ll do this again because it was a LOT of coordination and scheduling–and we really stuffed in a lot of episodes over Q1. We were publishing two and three episodes every week and it got expensive from an editing standpoint and from a time perspective–from show notes to graphics creation to loading and formatting. I can say with certainty that my entire team is breathing a sigh of relief now that we’re done with that push.
  • Limited presentations to 20 minutes. Though some speakers went over (including myself!), all the talks were less than 30 minutes. This made so many things more manageable, from my end: scheduling the talks, reviewing the talks, captioning and transcripts; from the attendee end: they loved having the shorter presentations because they were really to the point; great feedback on that
  • Facebook Group. Not as much interaction as I’d like but lots of great feedback and lots of excitement from a good group of attendees
  • Hiring help. Originally I wanted my then-assistant Maddy to learn how to build the website. She resisted by not really doing it. She and I spent a few weeks looking at the task in ClickUp, neither of us taking action on it. It was a lot. The thought of taking this on was overwhelming. Eventually, I decided I needed to make a bigger change in my business than hosting the summit–the name of the summit, The Content Experiment, really embodied everything my business is about and everything I teach in my membership, Content Mastery Lab. Off a recommendation, I hired Anchen la Roux to help build my summit website as well as an entirely new website for my business. Both turned out beautifully.
  • Speaker promotions. This is a two-part bullet point because there’s also part of this that didn’t work. But I wanted to say that the speakers who promoted–who sent out dedicated emails to their lists or PS’s in their regular emails ROCKED it. I could see where they had loads of clicks and affiliate sales. I’m doing affiliate payouts in the next few days and I’m really excited to do that. After a note to speakers about slow sign-ups, several of them asked me to be on IG Lives and FB lives with them and I even recorded a few IG Stories takeovers for a few. It all made a huge difference.
  • Accessibility. I knew that I wanted to make sure that the summit was accessible to as many people as possible. I knew I wanted to do captions and transcripts but I didn’t know what else needed to be done for accessibility. I hired Erin Perkins to help me with this–both for the summit and for my business in general. I learned SO much–and learned even more as the summit went on. Someone emailed me on Day 2 that they were not able to process information auditorily and asked for the ability to fastforward and rewind the speaker presentations. I had this ability turned off because I wanted to make sure that everyone was “on the same page” during the live portion of the presentations. I also had an AAP holder reach out to me and tell me she wanted to be able to go back to presentations later and didn’t want to have to watch the whole thing–she wanted to be able to skip ahead to the part she needed. I SO AGREE. It would be really annoying to have to rewatch an entire presentation when you only need one small part. So I guess this falls under different sections–because this is definitely something that worked for me, the accessibility, and also something I’m going to tweak to do differently next time

So let’s talk about what didn’t work:

  • Networking and implementation time. I am not a natural networker. I don’t enjoy networking events–in person or virtual. But I do recognize their value, especially when it’s with a group of like-minded people. I scheduled implementation time for the first four days of the summit plus networking time twice–specifically for the AAP holders. Very few, if any, people attended these sessions. A few times I was actually there alone. For one of them, one of our speakers joined (making it just the two of us) and we brainstormed about improving processes and systems in our own businesses. It was great. I know that a lot of people bought the AAP because they couldn’t attend the event during summit week and they wanted to have access later. But it was still really disappointing to have almost no one attend those times. I would like to still try to offer these next time, but I will need to rethink how they’re structured and promoted.
  • Making changes after registration started. I think there will always be people who ask questions and draw your attention to things that aren’t entirely clear. I really do appreciate that–and knowing where I need to clarify. But I tried to make changes to some parts of the registration process after we’d gone live. And since I wasn’t the one who built the website, I failed miserably and broke the website temporarily. Registration was already slower than I’d like and I completely panicked. Not a good place to be in.
  • Our hosting. This was totally my fault and a little embarrassing. I buy all my domains from GoDaddy. Always have. Well, when I bought TCE domain, somehow there was a domain transfer hold put on the purchase. I couldn’t move the domain to an actual host that could handle the summit traffic–and the needs of the summit overall. So we built the websites–both of them–with GoDaddy hosting. BIG mistake. We found out immediately after opening registration that GoDaddy was not going to be able to handle the summit. Plus, you can’t schedule pages with GoDaddy hosting–which means not only could we not schedule the podcast pages to go live, we weren’t going to be able to host the summit presentations. Thankfully, Anchen, my website developer, was able to transfer everything to SiteGround overnight one night. And I had another website developer I’ve worked with, David Johnstone, on backup. He helped me talk to GoDaddy to find out why the website kept crashing. (I know I’m not the first person you’ve heard say that GoDaddy is not a good hosting option.)

Next Time:

Even though SO much went well, and I’ll even share with you that multiple people said that The Content Experiment Summit was the best summit they’ve attended, there are still a lot of things that I want to change for next time (which is in fall 2021).

  • Plan earlier. I feel like we had a really good planning calendar, but as we were planning for the summit, our 1:1 client work really exploded–in a good way. In the fall, we’ll have a longer planning runway, and we’ll require summit presentations be turned in earlier too.
  • Extend the promotion period to three weeks. We only had two weeks of promotion because our deadline for summit presentations was too late. Everything kind of ran together; it was a little crazy. So with the change in presentation deadlines, we’ll be able to extend the promotion period. Now I’m not sure that extending the promotional period will help with registration numbers since the majority of registrations came in the weekend before the summit started, but it will sure help me feel better.
  • Require some sort of promotion from speakers. I hate being required to send dedicated emails about summits I’m part of–and I often say no to those requests. But I really do think that speaker promotion makes or breaks a summit’s registration numbers. We want to get all the speakers in front of as many attendees as possible–and that means a team effort when it comes to promotion. I have some ideas of how I’ll require promotion in a way that feels good and not overkill to the speakers. I’m not totally sure how I’ll do this yet, but it will be part of the next summit.
  • Better communication with speakers. I really don’t feel like I communicated very well with speakers. We had a speaker-only Facebook page but I know I wasn’t active enough in there and I wasn’t clear enough about expectations or when and where speakers should show up.
  • Allow interview-style presentations. A few speakers asked about this, but it wasn’t something I wanted to offer this go-around because of time constraints. I definitely think this is something that I’ll add next time–or possibly the option to be part of a panel vs. doing a solo presentation. More to come on this!
  • Pitch to be on speakers’ podcasts. Many of this round’s speakers have their own podcasts and I’d have loved to have been a guest to help promote their own talks and their own affiliate links. This is definitely something I’m going to be proactive about in the next summit, and it’s something I’m implementing myself. I’m in three summits in the next few months and I’ll be having all three summit hosts on the podcast in the coming weeks.
  • Last, and this is a big one for me, creating a clearer path for attendees to take during and after the summit, really connecting the dots between the presentations. The goal of this summit was giving attendees little, actionable steps they could take to get a better ROI on the time and money they’re spending on their content and marketing. And I know that it delivered. But what I’d really like to do is to give attendees clear, written action steps that tie together–maybe a roadmap, if you will, on what to do first, next, etc. based on where they are in business. I’m actually in the process of creating this as a downloadable for my own business. Stay tuned for this!

There’s the lowdown. What do you think? Is hosting a summit on your business to-do list? While this first summit wasn’t profitable in a monetary sense, it’s definitely worth doing for the experience, visibility and connection opportunities. So like I said before, I will be doing it again, in the fall of 2021.

And as a reminder, if you’re ready to start experimenting with content and marketing in your own business–without having to do all the guesswork yourself, remember that you can join us inside Content Mastery Lab at thecontentexperiment.com/lab and use the coupon code “podcast” to get your first month for $1. Pricing starts at just $97 a month after that.

If you found value in what you learned here today, be sure to share it on social media. Take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. Tag me at thecontentexperiment. The more you share, the more we can get the podcast into the hands of more business owners, just like you, who need to hear the message that they are not alone.

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