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
- 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.
- 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!