How to Host a Virtual Summit in 2023 (Without Boring Your Audience)

Virtual summits are a fantastic way to host professional events online. Yet so many of these e-events fall flat. 

There’s an art to hosting a successful virtual summit, one which won’t bore your attendees to death. From audience research to monetization strategies, here’s how to host a successful and fun online summit in 2023. 

What is a virtual summit?

A virtual summit is a type of online conference. You might also hear these kinds of events referred to as virtual conferences or online conferences. They are essentially all the same thing. 

These online events are a way of bringing people in different locations together, providing a platform for industry-related talks and discussions. A typical virtual summit takes place over a few days and involves somewhere up to 30 people. Often, though not always, the aim of these events is to solve a specific industry problem. 

Virtual conferences can take a range of different formats. Here are four common types of online summits to consider.


Live conferences are summits that are hosted online in real-time. These events can be a great option as they feel more like an in-person conference and facilitate interactive sessions such as Q&As. Live events may require less preparation than pre-recorded conferences. That said, there’s significantly less control of overall content quality. 


As the name suggests, pre-recorded virtual events are put together ahead of time. This means all speakers and discussions are recorded before the event is streamed out to audiences. 

Hosting a pre-recorded event means mistakes can be edited out and organizers have the opportunity to optimize video and audio quality. However, all of this prior preparation can be time and resource heavy. Furthermore, pre-recorded events lack that ‘real-time’ feel and interactivity. 


Some virtual conferences charge attendees a fee. This is a way for organizers to fund the event and (hopefully) make money. Some organizers prefer this method because it gives registrants an incentive to attend the event, leading to fewer cancellations. That said, the fee may also dissuade some people from registering in the first place.  


Free summits typically attract high numbers during the event registration stage. However, since registrants have not ‘bought in’ to the event, the number of cancellations is likely to be high. Similarly, free events offer less scope for monetization. 

Benefits of hosting a virtual summit

Hosting an online event such as a virtual summit is a great way to increase business exposure and tap into new and exciting leads. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits in more detail below. 

Build company reputation and brand awareness

Hosting a summit is a fantastic way to build your company’s reputation and boost brand awareness in your industry. 

If you can get some noteworthy speakers on board, even better. Including industry experts will make your brand appear established to attendees and is one of the best ways to build trust in your business. 

What’s more, summits that encourage open dialogue and discussion are a fantastic opportunity for brand promotion. Just think of all those social media posts, shares, and hashtags!

Broaden your network

As well as broadening your brand’s reputation, online events are fantastic networking opportunities both for individuals and organizations at large. 

For example, by inviting other companies in your industry to participate you’ll be able to build stronger brand relationships and spark up opportunities for collaboration. 

Generate marketing and sales leads

Virtual conferences aren’t just about networking; they’re also about generating leads. By hosting virtual conferences, brands have the opportunity to grow their email lists. 

This is especially true for free events that attract larger numbers of registrants. Even if the registrant never attends your event, you’ll have their contact details on record for future marketing and promotion. 

Make money and maximize your ROI

Not all online events are for-profit, but it is possible to monetize your online summit should you want to. There are various ways to achieve this including sponsorship, charging exhibitors, and of course paid admission. 

If you don’t want to charge an admission fee for your conference, you can also monetize in other ways such as adding paid-for add ons to the event by way of VIP workshops or talks. 

How to organize and host a virtual summit

Ready to host your own summit? The key to success lies in the preparation. These steps will guide you through the entire process of hosting a virtual event from the planning stage all the way through to final execution. 

Step 1: The planning stage

Whether you stream live or run a pre-recorded summit, hosting an online event takes a lot of prior planning. Before you do anything else, it’s important to set your goals. 

Define your motivation for hosting the virtual summit. This may be monetization, networking or building brand reputability. This dictates your summit format and the types of speakers you invite to attend. 

This is also the time to identify who your summit is for. The best summits are targeted towards a particular problem so it’s essential that you, as a host, start by defining your target audience and their pain points. This is how you’re going to engage (and not bore) your audience when event day comes around.  

Other things to consider during the planning stage include:

  • When to host your event (give ample notice and avoid busy seasons)
  • A timeline for preparing your event (at least 90 days is recommended)

Step 2: Get to know your audience

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to get to know them better. The best online events are those that are highly personalized to the attendees’ needs, interests, and pain-points. Create detailed audience profiles and tailor all of your events and content to them. 

Step 3: Choose a platform for your event

Next, finalize what technology you will need to run your event. The most important tool you’ll need is a reliable hosting platform that can support your expected audience volume. You’ll also need a website platform for your event and an online checkout for attendees to book tickets. 

Other tools to consider include:

  • Email marketing software 
  • Affiliate management software 
  • Captioning/transcription tool    
  • Document management 

Organizing a virtual event will often require hosts to generate proposals, quotes, and take payments so it can help to invest in a document management tool. For a more streamlined experience, it’s worth looking for a tool that offers a range of integrations with other software, such as HubSpot integrations

Step 4: Reach out to and manage speakers

It’s time to populate your event with the best speakers in town. Prepare a pitch and start reaching out to speakers for your event. A great way to do this is to use a proposal template like a PandaDoc digital marketing proposal example template. Reach out to speakers who are able and willing to talk about topics that align with your target audience’s interests and needs. 

As a general rule it’s best to reach out to more speakers than you need, as some could fall through. Once you’ve found a few good matches, confirm their attendance with a freelance agreement and collect all their basic information and presentation materials. 

It’s also worth discussing any extras you’d like from your speakers. For example, you can ask your speakers to share the event with their own audiences online. Remember to keep your speakers up to date regularly in the run-up to the event. 

Step 5: Engage, promote, monetize  

You’re almost ready. Now all that’s left is to promote and monetize your event. You’ll likely want to encourage as many sign-ups as possible. One of the best places to promote the event is on your own website as well as across social media channels. You should also create a registration email sequence for new sign-ups. 

Creative ways to boost engagement include:

  • Online countdowns
  • Games and prizes 
  • Speaker promotion
  • Early-bird offers
  • Launching an event mobile app 

When it comes to monetizing your event, you’ll first need to decide whether your summit is a free or paid-for event. If you do decide to charge attendees then set a price point that matches your target audience’s budget whilst still covering your costs. 

Step 6: Launch your event

You’re ready to go! It’s summit day. Once your event is in motion it’s important to keep on top of events as they play out. 

Make sure you’re monitoring your technology. This is particularly important when you’re running a live event as you want to ensure that speakers and participants can be seen and heard without interruption. 

It can also be useful to populate your event with some designated engagement aids to help facilitate conversations and support both speakers and attendees. 

You’re ready to host! 

Hosting a virtual summit is a fantastic way to build brand awareness, network with industry partners, and solve problems. A lot goes into planning and organizing a successful summit. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to prepare, get to know your audience’s pain points, and reach out to key speakers.

Article Written By

Yauhen Zaremba - Director of Demand Generation

Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, all-in-one document management tool for almost all types of document including this Illinois bill of sale template. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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