What I Learned Using Teachable to Host a Virtual Summit

Recently, I hosted a virtual summit. I chose to do it on Teachable because frankly, I took a course about how to run a summit and the information was too much- it was too technical and looked like a huge investment of time that wouldn’t ultimately pay off. While all those details might be perfect for others, it didn’t suit me, so I made my own way. I decided to use Teachable to host my virtual summit because it was a platform I was familiar with. There were some kinks in this process, but ultimately, I found it was much easier than taking some other approach and using ClickFunnels or SamCart (and paying through the nose to do so.)

I put together this post to recap some of my biggest lessons from this experience and to provide some guidance about using Teachable as a platform to host a virtual summit.


 

Why My Virtual Summit Unfolded Less Professionally than I Expected

I have to approach this subject first with some more information about how this summit unfolded and why I ran it the way I did. I first had the idea back in December. This presented challenges with scheduling and recording interviews, meaning that some were not completed until shortly before the summit happened. More on that below. I finished up the recording, the transcripts, basic graphics, the landing page, etc all in early February. My intention was, two weeks before the summit, to wrap up the final details for all presentations, go through the summit as a test student, and to ensure all affiliate info was ready to roll.

Then life happened. We got the word that a military move was impending for us- immediately. I logged 3,000 miles in the car in three weeks looking for a house, meeting with realtors, and trying to figure out how we’d pull off this move in such a short period. I attended one conference and presented at another as planned, in between all this driving and househunting. Then I got sick. Really, really sick.

Two weeks before my summit, and I had to let any vision of perfectionism go immediately. Life had crowded into my illustrious business plans. It reminded me of my days teaching in Baltimore City- I’d have the perfect lesson plans laid out for students to rotate between stations and then one of my students lost his entire family in a house fire and another one picked a huge fight with someone in another class in the hallway. Suddenly, there were more important things to talk about.

Life and business are about adapting when challenges are thrown your way, and I’ve always tried to be very candid about that with my own students.

Life has a way of happening when you’ve got something big on tap. Anyone else ever noticed that? A few years ago, I spent six weeks studying 10+ hours a day for my PhD qualifying exams. Two weeks before I took three 8-hour long written exams (to be followed by an oral defense of what I wrote), my advisor informed me the school didn’t have my paperwork on file. I wouldn’t be able to take the exams and I’d have to start all over with new topics.

In that situation, I could have panicked, given up, and withdrawn from the exams. Instead, I chose to fight it because there was too much on the line. In a similar fashion, with 220+ people signed up for the summit, I chose to forge ahead in the best way possible (Note- not in the perfect way, but in the best way possible for this situation.) What I didn’t have was organization or all the details in place. What I did have were eager students and some pretty amazing people who delivered with content. So I chose to focus on that rather than all my shortcomings.

I realized pretty quickly that the summit being perfect was a goal I would not achieve either way. So I could beat myself up about it, or I could acknowledge that the mistakes (and the inevitable people who would point them out) were a learning opportunity. We decided to track every comment made by someone about issues so I could recognize where I went wrong and where, in an ideal world, I would have fixed it.

 

Pros and Cons of Doing My Virtual Summit

Pros

  • Great, great presenters. They knew their stuff. I found most of them by posting in Facebook groups and asking who would like to participate. Then, I had them fill out a Google form and decided who was a fit.
  • Teachable was relatively easy to use because I knew the platform. It was also easy to track affiliate info.

 

Cons/Problems

  • I tell people hiring teams of writers that 30-40% of the writers you want to work with will just ghost- straight up disappear. The same thing happened with people who originally expressed interest but decided not to participate. At least 15 people who filled out the Google form never booked a time to record despite multiple reach-outs. Have a system in place to manage this.
  • I had no system for keeping track of when people mentioned handouts. Then, when the recordings said “handouts will be below” and they weren’t, that was confusing. In the future, I’d ask my OBM to manage this part for me.
  • I did not use two recordings as the presenter just wasn’t prepared. I’d reviewed their slides but the people came off very uncomfortable on camera and presented other irrelevant info. Use your discretion as to whether a presentation will actually help your audience. I chose to cut those two.

 

Tips and Tricks for Scheduling Your First Virtual Summit

  • Do not schedule recording times over the holidays. Just don’t. People are traveling and there will be a lot of cancellations and reschedules. There were nights when fifteen minutes before a recording session, it was canceled. Send multiple reminders to your presenters about cancellation procedures.
  • Thank your affiliates as best as possible. Being organized is one way to do this (and this is most definitely a way I fell short.) Make things easy for them, provide them with the links to show up and the materials they need to promote the summit. (Again, this is one where I fell short by a lot due to “life”, but in the future, I am much more aware of the importance of this.) Teachable has a great affiliate system within their back end, so once again, this makes your life easy.

 

Teachable Specific Notes for Hosting a Virtual Summit

  • Test out your affiliate program first. I was sure Teachable was paying out my affiliates on other courses automatically, but we discovered that with payment gateways, you have to pay them out on your end. This happened after an affiliate of mine sold four courses separately. Perhaps include info on when affiliates will be paid out in their enrollment details.
  • We created two versions of the same course- the live summit and the all access pass. The videos were always live on the 'all access pass' side, but I had to publish and unpublish each day on the live summit side.
  • I had my business manager go through the summit as a student to take notes and identify issues. This helped us red flag things early on. It also created some last minute “OMG this isn’t working” moments, so I recommend doing this a week ahead of time by making your VA an admin in your school so they can see all the unpublished videos.
  • One student noticed that the emails I sent each day were going to his “updates” or “promotions” tab. Make sure you tell your students to drag these into their primary tab. 
  • When you send out daily emails, include the link to the course itself. I forgot that Teachable does not do this, which made it harder for students to log in. Duh. I loved the fact that Teachable allowed me to send emails to the students- I did not have to build a separate list inside my email software.

 

When putting together a summit, remember that it’s a lot of hard work. While you certainly benefit from the information shared by other presenters, especially those who are well-prepared, you’re still going to do a lot of work on the back end. Financially, my summit was in no way a success. I can’t even bring myself to calculate the hourly rate I made bringing all this stuff together vs. what was sold in All Access passes.

However, since my underlying goal was to try this out and give people some valuable information about starting their first online course, it was a moderate success. Students liked the material. It was not perfect, but then, I had to let go of perfectionism very early on in this process. Could things have been more organized? Of course!

The bottom line is that you can use Teachable to host a virtual summit and it can take the pressure off of investing in and having to learn new software programs if you’re already familiar with Teachable.

Have you ever thought about hosting a virtual summit? Share in the comments!

Checking in With Your Digital Team

Digital teams are often made up of people with varying backgrounds and skill sets, which in turn makes it difficult to keep everyone engaged, productive and guided toward your biz goals. This week's video goes into the value of regularly checking in with your team as a means to this end. 

There is a multitude of formats for these check-ins; be it over the phone, video conferencing or even via email, but they all present the perfect opportunity to catch up on business updates while also getting a sense of what is going on in your team’s personal lives. 

Checking in regularly is also an exercise in self-awareness as it is important that you find out what you can do better. Potential questions should be based on themes such as the quality of your instructions, the workload distribution amongst your team, clarity of your priorities going forward etc. 

Check-ins are also essential for understanding where your people are in relation to their existing portfolio of responsibilities. By understanding what you can specifically do for them, the easier it will be to nurture strong working relationships.

Of all the reasons to run regular check-ins though, the most important are probably the fact that they encourage feedback, facilitate loyalty and ultimately improve productivity. 

Transcript:

Today, let's chat about the value of regularly checking in with your digital team. Whether it’s done over the phone, a videoconference or even via email, it’s a good idea to touch base with your digital team members on a regular basis.

The Importance of Checking In

First of all, you don’t have the benefit of the office water cooler where you can check in with everyone and see how things are going; not just with the business, but in their own lives as well. You have to make an effort to ensure that that happens in your digital company.

Routinely checking in with people also gives you insight into what you could be doing better. Perhaps you have been giving really bad instructions or overloaded a VA, or they’re just not sure what exactly you need from them. Or maybe you’ve been assigning them tasks that are no longer interesting and they want a new challenge. These are just a few of the many reasons why you should consider regularly checking in with your digital team.

I like to do this by simply sending a quick email or during a weekly or monthly phone call with the person. Ask them how they’re enjoying the position and if there’s anything you could be doing differently to make things easier for them. This regular check-in encourages them, especially when you ask for their feedback.

And you need their feedback. Even though you are the one outsourcing and delegating tasks, you need to know what your employees think and what you could be doing better. When you make an effort to listen to the people you have hired as contractors, they are much more likely to be loyal to you, interested in you, and willing to help you grow the business. Additionally, they can also give you feedback that has the potential to boost the morale and productivity of the team as a whole.

So please – check in with those people. It's been a while since you talked to them about something other than work related stuff. Ask them how their life is going. Send them a personal note, and ask what things you, as the business owner and the master delegator, could be doing better.  

Do I Need A Freelance Writing Niche?

A common consideration for freelancers (and a question I get asked all the time) is the value of identifying and serving a niche. My advice, as outlined in the accompanying video, is always to niche down as quickly as possible because it offers an opportunity for you to get really good at what you do, and in turn, helps you deliver a great experience for your clients.

By ‘niching down’, you would be choosing to focus on a specific client type, industry or project. For a freelance writer, this could involve narrowing your focus to only blog writing or writing for law firms. For a virtual assistant, it might be email or social media marketing.

One of the first steps in establishing your niche is to think about the skills and expertise you already possess and to consider the types of tasks or projects you are passionate about.

To help you through the process of identifying your niche, I have designed a comprehensive FREE course about becoming a freelance writer and determining your freelance writing niche.

To access 'How to Find Your Freelance Writing Niche', click here.


Transcript

Hello everybody!

It’s time for me to answer a popular freelance writing question. This week, I am addressing the question: do I need a freelance writing niche? I get asked this one a lot, especially by people who are just starting out in their virtual assistant or freelance writing career, and aren’t really sure whether or not they need to have a particular niche to focus on.

I recommend niching down as soon as possible; it really helps your business, and it also helps you deliver a better experience for your clients.

Niching by project

So, what do I mean by niching down? It’s simple – it means choosing to focus on a particular type of client, industry or even project. Project niching is extremely common with writers and virtual assistants. For example, a writer might choose to only do white papers, blogs or e-books. A virtual assistant might choose to do email newsletters or social media.

Niching by industry

You can also niche by industry. For instance, my freelance writing niche is law firms; I focus exclusively on working with law firms and insurance agencies. A virtual assistant might also choose to work solely with bloggers, online entrepreneurs, or Etsy shop owners. There are so many different ways you can niche.

Do you need a freelance writing niche? I recommend specifying one as soon as possible. You might start out and have no idea what you want to focus on, and that's okay, because you're going to get practice in the process and determine the things you do and don't like writing about.

How to establish your writing niche

One of the best steps you can take when starting your new freelance writing business is to think about the background you already have and the things you’re passionate about. I have a free comprehensive course about becoming a freelance writer and determining your freelance writing niche, so I've pulled that freelance writing niche part out of the paid course and you can access it by clicking on the link below. This will help you identify your freelance writing niche; there's a workbook that goes with it as well to assist you in that process.

Identifying a niche allows you to become the go-to expert in a particular field, demand higher rates, and ultimately deliver a better experience for the clients that you work with, simply because you really know what you're talking about.

It might take you a while to find your freelance writing niche – and that's okay. What we're going for is practice and an experience that will guide you in the right direction.

Click on the link below to learn all about how to identify your freelance writing niche.

How to Find Your Freelance Writing Niche

Where Are the Best Places to Hire Virtual Assistants Today?

This is one of the most common questions that I receive from people who understand that I help connect them to quality virtual assistants.

I have had the opportunity to refer out many excellent virtual assistants to other people and the truth is it really hinges on casting a wide net and then doing all of the work possible to determine whether or not the candidate is right for you. However, there are several tips that I can recommend when you are hiring your first virtual assistant or even expanding your team.

Of course, you have to find a system that works for you. Recognize that my tips and tools below may not necessarily align with what you hope to accomplish but it can be very beneficial to explore all of these options and see who is out there for you. Remember that the first step of any outsourcing project should be to identify the actual tasks that you need to be done by taking a look at what you don't like doing, what you're not good at doing and what can be outsourced to someone less expensive than you.

All of these steps can help you clarify the type of virtual assistant you need to hire and may even provide some direction and the type of tool that you intend to use. These are my top places to identify virtual assistants.

 

Personal Referral

Of all of the methods of hiring a new virtual assistant, personal referral comes at the top. This is because you will always get an honest recommendation when asking a friend or a colleague. They are not going to arbitrarily pump up someone who isn't the real deal.

Furthermore, a positive experience with someone else increases the chances that your new virtual assistant will work out well with you as well. This is one of the leading reasons why I recommend reaching out to people who have interacted with other virtual assistants or people who train virtual assistants as they are likely to have a network of qualified candidates already prepared.

 

Upwork

I still find Upwork to be an excellent source of virtual assistants but you're going to have to do more legwork. Whereas with the personal referral, the other individual is already going to be telling you about the benefits of this person, you will need to do your own individual research to figure out whether or not the VA has the appropriate skills.

You may need to review their resume, their profile, and have a Skype conversation with them which is recommended anyway. Two of the three virtual assistants currently on my team have come directly from Upwork and both of them were mostly beginners or new to the world of working online when I got started with them. Be willing to recognize talent and see how you can shape it by teaching somebody else or allowing them to grow alongside your business.

Make sure that you clarify any expectations in the original Upwork job posting as this can help eliminate candidates easily. I recommend giving it 3 to 5 days for people to reply to an Upwork job posting and then to begin crafting a list of top candidates that you want to talk with. There's a good chance that some people will begin to stand out much more than others in this process.

 

Facebook Groups

These days, you'll find a lot of virtual assistants networking in Facebook groups because this has proven to be a very profitable avenue for them.

However, with the rising number of virtual assistants participating in Facebook groups, to begin with, you'll also find a growing number of them who are attempting to market their services.

If you post, for example, in a Facebook group that you're looking for someone to help you with an email marketing campaign, you may get 10 to 12 responses immediately from people who are offering their services.

This does not necessarily mean that they would be the right fit for you. However, a Facebook group can be a great place to ask for a personal referral or to begin your research process. You should always follow up with your individualized research process by asking questions over a Skype interview where possible.

I recommend having a quick conversation with your virtual assistants or using a trial or test period in order to understand whether or not it is appropriate to work with them. This can give you a clear indication of whether or not a long-term engagement makes sense.