Virtual Summit Case Study: 6-figure event in the educational niche (17K new leads)

Disclaimer: Due to privacy concerns some of the concrete numbers and identifying information about this case study has been removed.


In this case study I’m going to share the whole process of how we ran an entire virtual event for a client on the HeySummit platform, adding over 16,000 new leads to their database, and over 6 figures of front-end revenue from the event alone. 

It will provide an insight into our event management process, but also give you some ideas of how you could be optimising your own future events if you are going with a DIY approach.

This case study began in the beginning of 2021. 

The client, an industry-leading provider of certified training programs within literacy education, had attended one of our previous events, and reached out based on the experience as a participant.

Being a medium-sized company, the client could have decided to in-source the event organisation, but decided not to. 

Here’s why:

  1. They would have taken away employees from their regular duties for months
  2. The employees would have to spend a lot of time learning how to run the event, more specifically:
    1. The technical setup – how to record and present the sessions
    2. The platform – how to set up everything, including the affiliate marketing setup and speaker dashboards
    3. The marketing itself, including writing lenghty email sales funnels for different segments (free ticket, paid ticket)
    4. Integrating the event as an evergreen product or opportunity in their existing marketing setup.
  3. There would be no guarantee, that the version of a virtual event they eventually came up with or conducted would be any good.
  4. They would also be responsible for technical customer support during the event and after. 

This is why this client reached out and contracted us to do everything. 

Naturally, we are happy to provide various degrees of service when managing events, but we really pride ourselves in the complete package – a total hands-off experience for our clients.

Anyway, let’s jump into the various stages of the conference

Phase I – Speaker Coordination and Recording

Normally, one of the most time-consuming tasks for any event organiser is to coordinate with all the speakers and get the recordings done for a pre-recorded virtual event, or confirm a live session time for live-style events.

This is also the biggest reason we recommend scheduling the event about 4-6 months after the first speaker invitation has been sent out.

This way you have a better chance of getting all the recording done in time, and there is a lot less stress and potential risks involved.

This conference had over 50 potential speakers, so we quickly set out to get recording sessions booked. Speakers were sent informational packs that “sold” the event, and the benefits they would receive as a speaker for taking part.

Note: It’s really important to always address the speakers as politely as possible. Our internal training has our team imagine they’re writing to the Queen of England. This may seem over the top, but there is no excuse for not being professional with the speakers.

Besides, who doesn’t like being treated like royalty?

For this event we highlighted the possibility for speakers to add their own lead magnet (i.e a freebie or “gift”) to their presentation page, where the attendees can enter their email address. 

On top of this we also highlighted the affiliate benefits, where we offered 50% of the sales generated as referral commissions. 

Part of the speaker pack also includes their own affiliate link, social media graphics, email templates, and social-media click-to-send pre-written content.

You have to eliminate all barriers for speakers to promote your event, so be super polite and provide everything they need to make it easy.

For this event, over 25% of the attendees came from a referral link. Which is a great percentage and would not have been possible if we didn’t work with the speakers directly like this.

Plus, the client was really well positioned for speakers to accept the invitation. In the end 40 of 43 potential speakers accepted.

Making life easier for the hosts

For this event the client had sourced two volunteer hosts. 

We generally recommend clients to provide their own host(s), as there might be technical knowledge of experience that greatly increases the value of each session.

It’s not a requirement though, as we can provide a host for all sessions.

But, anyway, the first thing we did was provide some very basic training for the hosts on how to get the most out of the sessions.

With the format being a masterclass, 90% of each recording was the speaker presenting by themselves. 

However, the host still has the important job of introducing the speaker, and coming up with any potential follow-up questions following the presentation.

As each speaker booked their recording slot we sent a cheatsheet PDF to the host for that particular guest.

This cheatsheet included a checklist for getting ready to record, the scripted introduction, as well as essential information about the guest – including their social media profiles and website.

This greatly increases the quality of the sessions, and it cuts down on mistakes or anxiety.

Here’s what one of the hosts had to say about this part of the event organisation:

Kris and the team took care of everything behind the scenes – scheduling the sessions with speakers, setting up the meetings, editing the recordings and much more besides. 

This was invaluable as it enabled me to concentrate on my job of hosting – thinking about the speakers and the subject matter – rather than worrying about technology or logistics. 

The comprehensive pre/post-interview checklists and speaker ‘cheat sheets’ were also hugely beneficial in making each recording a success. 

– Event Host

Editing Process

As the recording of the sessions were just about done we shipped them off to our editor, whose job is to do the following:

  1. Cut out any pre- or post-recording chat
  2. Add video bumper + jingle (start and end of each video, can be a call to action as well)
  3. Add name tag and business for the host and speaker
  4. Edit out any mistakes from the hosts
  5. Edit out any technical problems or disconnects

As the presentations are provided as if the attendee was in the room with the speaker at the time of recording we don’t do any minute-by-minute recording like removing “uhms”, “hmms”, and any other highly laborious editing.

This level of full editing can be included in the event package, but we generally don’t recommend it as it breaks the flow and is an expensive extra that provides very limited benefit for the attendee.

Phase II – Pre-Marketing and Platform Setup

With the scheduling, recording, and editing of each session taken care of it’s time to start the early marketing plan and set up the platform(s).

  1. Client’s own internal email list
  2. Prepping speakers for promotion

For the internal email list we started teasing the event about 2 months before. This helped build anticipation and hype from some of the client’s best fans. 

This will be very important later, as they are the group most likely to share the event on social, but also to buy the upgraded ticket.

As the event neared we sent more emails, sharing more and more information about the event and what to expect.

You can see the results of our pre-event hype and marketing in the below graph. 

The big spike at the start of the event is normal, but notice the huge spike as soon as we announced the event. The screenshot is from HeySummit.

Not only did the biggest fans and best contacts register right away, they also diligently shared the event on social leading to over 100+ social shares on this day alone.

We accomplished this by setting up the platform to prompt people to share the event on social. As the ticket is free, a lot of participants are trying to “share the love” with their network which greatly increases the share rate.

As the client only had an email list of around 3000 people, getting this kind of social traction was crucial for the huge success the event turned out to be.

Preparing the speakers

For the speakers we simply reiterated the benefits of promoting. 

We sent them the speaker pack again, making sure to answer any questions they might have at this stage.

Note: Be sure to tell the speaker the exact time and date their presentation goes live, so they can be available in the chat and comments (if possible) and they can also share it on social at the right time.

We also sent their personal affiliate link once more.

It is possible to recruit external affiliates as well for many niches, but generally speaking the presenters are going to be the most engaged and committed affiliates you can ever have.

But, like the first section – treat them really well. 

As a result of our affiliate management for the event we had over 27% of the revenue coming from affiliates.

So, as an example if the revenue was $100,000, a staggering $27.000 would have come from our affiliate efforts.

Platform Setup

For the main platform we use a specialised tool called “HeySummit” which is easy to use and automatically restricts sessions for free ticket holders after a certain time has passed.

Due to the many different time zones involved in this event, we decided to give people 36 hours for free. 

Normally we stick to 24 to encourage people to upgrade to the lifetime access, but 36 and even 48 hours can work fine too.

We also made sure to incorporate the bonuses on the platform. Anyone upgrading before or during the event would get a 50% discount on the ticket price, and all upgraded tickets would include the ability to download all sessions in video, audio, and text formats.

So, we set up every talk according to the schedule, add the bonuses that speakers are invited to giveaway on their talk page (serving as a lead magnet for them specifically) and of course adding nice descriptions and images provided by the speakers themselves.

The sales page on the front page is also completed with a simple, but effective message to encourage people to register for the free ticket.

Once people register for the free ticket they enter the email sequence, which periodically remind them of the upgrade.

As soon as they upgrade they are transferred from the free sequence to the paid sequence, which includes technical instructions on how to redeem the benefits.

Finally, we also provided a separate app (iOS/Android) for people to stay connected with the event on the go. It is perfectly possible to use HeySummit for this, but we really like another tool called “Eventee” as it just looks great out of the box and provides a great experience.

Videos were hosted on Vimeo, and had seen almost two years of viewing at the time of writing this case study.

This doesn’t include downloaded videos, as we simply used Google Drive for this purpose.

We were also really pleased to see an average viewing duration of over 20 minutes. With most of the presentations coming in at 30 minutes, this is an extremely high level of engagement and retention.

Phase III – Event Launch Time

As the event approached, our email funnel was in full swing. 

The client wanted us to use a conservative marketing approach, so we reduced the daily emails from our usual 2 to 1.

This email, sent in the morning, simply informs attendees of what sessions will be made available today, and at what time. 

For emails sent to the free segment, they all contained a very soft pitch to upgrade to the paid ticket.

These emails were extremely popular. Check out these statistics:

(AAP = All Access Pass, the name we used for the upgraded ticket.)

Considering that paid ticket holders (marked AAP) above could watch the sessions forever with their purchase it really speaks to the power and engagement of the marketing strategy we employed from 2 months out.

Normally it’s quite good to get 20% of people to read emails, here we consistently had 40+!

Phase IV – Post-Event

With everything taken care of, the client was free to enjoy the event throughout the week. 

We managed the support inbox for any technical queries, and replied to people’s requests for certificates and/or receipts.

As we neared the end of the event we ran a last push for people to upgrade to the All-Access Pass, as the price was going to double the following day.

This worked fantastically well, with the final 48 hours more than doubling the result of the previous days combined.

This means that if we hadn’t run this extra push with the price increase, our overall revenue would have been approximately 20% less!

ENCORE

After the videos had been locked to free ticket holders (36 hours after the last session had premiered on Friday afternoon) there was a 2 day break, before we launched a 24-hour encore.

This allowed anyone to watch ANY presentation for another 24 hours.

We do this for a variety of reasons.

  • It’s unexpected, and builds a lot of goodwill and hype for the attendees
  • A lot of people are busy and might have forgotten to watch one or more sessions last week when they were available.
  • It’s a generous way to allow people who registered for the free ticket late in the event to see some of the sessions from the first few days
  • It gives people more opportunities to upgrade to the All Access Pass
  • If anyone had technical issues during the week itself, they get a second chance now to catch up

Phase V –  Evergreen

With the encore out of the way it was time to make the final modifications to the event website (HeySummit) and marketing funnels to indicate that the event was over, but that access was still possible with the paid ticket.

Because the client added a hosting and support package, the event is now in a permanent evergreen setup with our customer support team included, so they can simply lean back and sell the event 24/7/365 from now on.


I hope you enjoyed this case study so far. This case study is a work in progress, as I’m still collecting data, reviews, and testimonials from everyone involved in the event. I just wanted to initially get the case study out there as we are extremely happy with how it went.