Updated: Oct 30, 2019
2019: Year of the Summit. This supercharged, marketing leviathan has captured the attention of start up’s and enterprises alike and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
Part exhibition, part conference, part marketing, part sales. It’s everything to everyone and a chance to flex those ‘thought-leadership’ muscles in the eyes of customers, colleagues and prospects alike.
But could your well-intentioned Summit harness the potential to harm your businesses reputation? We think so.
A poorly executed Summit will leave attendees feeling short-changed and flocking to the exit quicker than you can say ‘complimentary canapes’.
On the other hand, a perfectly executed event can turn prospects into customers, neutrals into brand champions and propel your business into the heady stratosphere of thought leadership.
Well. Here it is. Alexander & Neighbours 2019 Summit Hosting Guide.
1) Consider the fundamentals: Why are you doing it, who is it for and how will you measure success?
“A Summit is only as successful as the action it sparks.”
Seriously, what is the point of hosting a Summit if you aren’t trying to instigate attendees to take action? Every Summit planning session should start with these 3 fundamental questions:
1) What action are you aiming to initiate?
2) Who’s going to initiate that action?
3) How will you measure that action?
Once you’ve nailed these three questions, the content, themes, speakers, venue, marketing plan, heck, the whole shooting match will begin to fall into place. You’ve established your aim. A common Summit mistake is getting this back-to-front: starting with a theme or idea for content and shoehorning a reason in afterwards.
2) Plan your Summit well in advance. Think 6 months minimum.
Don’t underestimate the complexity of hosting a Summit. Ticketing, marketing, logistics, bookings, rehearsals… Underestimate the complexity of hosting a successful Summit at your peril. Planning a full day event? Over 200 attendees? 6 months should be your minimum.
3) Ticket in advance. Incentivise early birds and group discounts.
Unless you've spent years building credibility and awareness of your incredible Summit, prepare for a hard dose of ticketing reality.
Getting your audience to fork out is harder than you might think; people just aren’t as pumped for your Summit as you are!
Secure roughly 25% of your audience through marketing early-bird incentives. Offer discounts for group purchases, but remember, make the incentives timebound.
4) Create compelling digital content to market your summit.
You know why your Summit is amazing. You know why people should attend. You know it’ll be the unmissable marquee event of the year.
They don’t – and don’t assume that simply telling them is enough.
Create high quality, digital content to support your event. For want of a more original phrase: A picture tells a thousand words, and engaging graphic content will go a long way to getting people through the door.
Video’s are the best form of social proof. There’s a reason every successful festival has a 3-minute promo of the previous year’s event. It’s all the proof you need. The smiling faces, pumping soundtrack, general state of euphoria; a competent Videographer can turn even the dullest corporate get-together into the next Y2K celebration.
Our No.1 piece of advice? Build a Micro site: A dedicated, temporary website for your Summit.
That way, you can control the event narrative in its entirety, get a little creative with your digital media and funnel attendees through the buying journey without distraction. The most successful Expo's and Summits have immersive, interactive micro-sites. Yours should be no different.
Need an example? Here's 4:
5) Leverage your speaker, sponsor and exhibitor network to promote the Summit.
Marketing will make/break your Summit and it’s not all on you to get the message out there.
Your speakers, sponsors and exhibitors all have a vested interest to see your Summit succeed. Work on a collaborative marketing plan and watch the reach of your Summit skyrocket.
Which leads us nicely on to…
6) Produce a Summit marketing pack for your 'Influencers'.
Don’t risk tarnishing your Summit image by sloppy 3rd party marketing efforts. This happens more than you might think.
Producing a slick, multi-channel marketing pack is a sure-fire way to secure the continuity of your Summit message. The best packs will leave a little wiggle room for customisation, say, for inserting custom Logo’s, text inputs and photos.
A clear set of written content marketing instructions will help the less tech savvy contributors build awareness of your Summit whilst keeping those uber creatives in check.
7) ‘Dry run’ your speaker content
Essential. Handing a 10-minute slot to your speaker and keeping your fingers crossed the message hits home is a sure-fire way to commit one of the worst Summit sins.
Have your speakers send any slides in advance and discuss their allotted slot. This is a win/win scenario.
Your speakers can tailor their message/script to resonate with the audience you’ve procured, and you can steer the delivery towards your Summit aim.
This is where you’ll catch any doozies – like the 3 slides of technical gibberish that sends audience’s flocking to the doors.
Are your speakers relying on slides/graphic supporting content? In that case…
8) Consolidate and format slides and graphic content in advance
How many times have we seen this tip ignored?! Every contributor to your Summit is a reflection of your own business. Remember that.
A poorly formatted slide deck doesn’t just look bad on the speaker; it looks bad on you. This one’s easy – take ownership over the slides. Format speaker content in advance (collaboratively of course) to ensure the consistency of your visual support.
So, you’ve vetted the content. You’ve consolidated and cleaned up the graphic support. Now, to the most obvious piece of Summit advice on this list…
9) Timing is everything
If you’ve had the pleasure of being a project manager, you’ll know how important timing is in the ultimate success/failure of your event. A couple of points to ensure you beat the clock:
1) You have 100 minutes. Use 90 of them. This is what we call contingency. You’ll need it. Surrender approximately 10% of your total Summit time to speaker overruns, audiences dragging their feet and over zealous CEO’s running riot with the microphone.
2) Establish your time police. These are the individuals who will keep speakers in check, herd your audience as necessary and ensure the Summit starts and ends as promised. The more time police you can appoint, the better.
3) Stick to the script. The agenda is your Summit bible.
4) Test drive your Summit. Have your team walk the venue, script speaker transitions, introductions and instructions and act out major events.
10) Consider hiring a Compere. This is not an internal job.
A great compere will draw your audience in with their charm and charisma. A bad compere will do the opposite.
It’s all well and good having one of your team prepare in the safety of your office, but when the lights are on and hundreds of eyes are expectantly fixed on you, it’s a whole different ball game.
Professional compere’s love this kind of pressure. They’ll turn the stage into just that, a stage, somewhere to perform and demand the audience’s attention.
11) Establish a reason to keep attendees to the end of the day. Then repeat. Then repeat. Then rep…
We call this: setting the scene. For every minute your event progresses, the likelihood of your attendees leaving increases. It’s your job to incentivise them to do the opposite.
Listen carefully: Offering a buffet and a few free glasses of plonk is not enough!
This is where your compere earns their keep and your strategic agenda scheduling pays off.
It’s vital to communicate the benefits of staying until the end. FOMO (or ‘fear of missing out’ for those adverse to an acronym) is a powerful tool to keep your audience in situ.
If they leave, what will they miss? How could that affect them? What do they stand to gain by staying put? Assume they don’t know the value of your speakers or exhibitors. You’ve got to sell it; give them an inarguable reason to stay.
12) Create your post Summit marketing plan BEFORE the Summit. Photos? Videos? Digital feedback? Press coverage?
A well-executed summit will continue to pay dividends long after the last glass of prosecco has been drunk.
Capitalise on your Summit by planning the post-event marketing ahead of the big day (s). Here’s a few things to consider:
Photographers/videographers This is for that proof we were talking about earlier. Camera phone snaps won’t cut it. You’ll be leaning on this content to market next year’s event, as well as to draw attendees to your social media post-summit.
Digital feedback surveys It’s vital to gather feedback from attendees as soon as possible. This will help you hone future events and establish areas of improvement. Have your automated mailing campaign button primed to release your digital feedback form to your contact database within 48 hours of the Summit.
Endorsements/quotes There’ll no doubt be plenty of invaluable insight shared throughout your summit. Who’s capturing the words? How can you turn those nuggets into soundbites and educational social media content?
External Press Have you considered getting the press onboard? How about any relevant digital publications? A glowing write-up will work wonders for your business and future events.
13) Venue Selection
Location, Location, Location...And AC.
Its tempting to bank on that iconic period venue, or super trendy warehouse in that oh so hip derelict industrial estate. But pause for thought before signing any contracts and consider these Summit venue essentials:
1) It must be accessible by public transport. Taking a 20-minute taxi from the nearest station won’t cut it.
2) It must be fit for purpose. A 1000 capacity venue will feel cold and vacuous if you’ve only invited a couple hundred people. Equally, pushing your venue capacity to its limits will be an unpleasant experience for everyone.
3) Always, always, always ensure the AC system can cope with the headcount. This is a super boring conversation with the venue manager, but if they can’t guarantee a comfortable temperature window - look elsewhere.
4) Don’t forget the tech. No-doubt Wi-Fi and tech will play a major role in your Summit. When choosing a venue, remember ‘LOW’:
L - Lighting: Stage lighting? Stand lighting? Speaker spotlights? What’s the plan?
O - Outlets: How many electrical outlets do you need? Have you got an idea of the venue’s load capacity? What about your exhibitor requirements?
W - Wi-Fi: A strong wired and wireless connection (100mps) is the minimum you should look for.
5) Consider negotiating preferred rates with hotels in the surrounding area to accommodate attendees travelling long distances. It’s a super nice touch and will encourage a few more ticket sales if you can minimise any logistical friction.
Imagine this. 500 people attending your Summit. The average LinkedIn user has 930 connections. Twitter? 700+ followers. Facebook: 155 friends. Other social platforms; Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat etc…Let’s do the math.
Actually, let’s not. The point we’re making is fairly obvious. The viral potential/coefficient/NPS – whatever you want to call it is pretty hefty (circa 1m). Encouraging social media engagement during your Summit can extend your company reach light years beyond that of the individuals in the room.
Your first stop is creating your summit hashtag. Your aim? Get as many people to utilise your hashtag throughout the day in their social posts. The easiest way to do it? Competition and incentivisation.
People aren’t stupid. If you want to turn them into brand influencers, you better give them a good reason to do it. Incentivise the use of your hashtag e.g. the highest performing event tweet gets a trip to Rome. Or something. It's is a good place to start.
We’ll leave it there for now. That’s plenty to keep you busy.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 coming soon – where we’ll delve even deeper into Summit do’s, don’ts and everything in between.
Simply follow Alexander & Neighbour on Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook to be the first to access Part 2 when it drops and for plenty more tips, tricks, interviews and insights in all things B2B growth.
Planning a Summit?
We’ve got the tools to make your Summit a sure-fire success. Digital content creation, project management, consultancy expertise and more, we’re meticulous in our approach to helping you market your big event.
Getting in touch couldn’t be easier. Explore the A&N website for more information or chat with one of our team now to discuss how we can support the success of your Summit.
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