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How to Create an Online Summit Legally

how to create an online summit legally, speaker agreement, sam vander wielen

So, you’ve decided to host a virtual summit. First, congrats!

Online summits are really picking up steam right now with so many in person events moving online recently, and for very good reason. They’re a powerful way to create connection, generate traffic and meaningful business leads, and spark buzz, all without investing as much money as a big conference hosted in hotels or performing arts venues. Now that it’s been more than a year since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic (insane, right?) we’re all becoming experts at nurturing our business relationships online.

If you’re planning to host — or you’re daydreaming about hosting! — a virtual summit in the next 1-2 years, you do need to understand how to set up the foundation of the event on solid legal footing. That way if anything goes sideways or a collaborator doesn’t follow through on some of your expectations, you have a (legal!) leg to stand on as you create alternate plans.

That’s why I pulled together this complete guide on how to create an online summit legally, because I know you don’t have time for any extra worries. 😉

How to Create an Online Summit Legally

Making the Most of your Online Event

Whether you have a serious budget and a full staff or you’re a one woman show, a virtual summit follows the same basic premise. Unlike webinars that have a single session or presentation, a virtual summit has multiple talks, interviews, panels, and live events.

(Helpful hint: if you haven’t hosted a live webinar, workshop, or online challenge yet, that’s a great place to start and warm yourself up for hosting something as large as a summit. Think of those as the building blocks of a summit!)

Typically, you’ll be promoting your event not only to your current audience, but also to audiences that have never heard of your business before via paid advertising, promoting the event on yoru guest’s marketing channels, and various forms of PR (podcast guest interviews, Instagram takeovers, etc).

So with a little research and hard work, your summit can make MUCH bigger waves than you can with just your standard fare marketing efforts to the audience you already have. The whole point is to grow your audience of loyal followers by creating a one-of-a-kind valuable online event that stands out from the rest!

What your online virtual event can help you accomplish:

  • Build relationships with industry players, potential partners, influencers, and new customers
  • Establish your expertise and reputation in your industry by positioning yourself as an authority
  • Boost your email marketing by getting new leads for your email list
  • Serve your speakers, audience, and community with genuinely awesome summit content &…
  • Maybe make some money while you’re at it.

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, your summit can look any way you like. It can be a one-day jam or a week-long extravaganza. You can charge whatever you like for tickets or keep it free and use it as a way to build your email list. Events can be pre-recorded videos, live conversations, panels, workshops, or a combination.

Your summit can be as unique as your own business. Make it what you want.

What to love about virtual summits:

  • They are super accessible; all you need is an internet connection. Forget flying around the world and spending loads of time in over air-conditioned conference rooms eating questionable hotel food…
  • Virtual summits are more affordable, and often even free
  • You can be as creative as you like. There are infinite possibilities. The sky’s the limit here
  • Measurable, effective ways to build your brand and your business

Sounds awesome, right? Let’s create your online summit legally!

How to Create an Online Summit Legally

1. Set Up Your Summit Online

Because a virtual summit naturally attracts people who are interested in your topic or niche, it’s a brilliant way to grow a targeted email list and audience aligned with you.

You’ll need to set up a summit registration page, which is really just a landing page or sales page which can capture email addresses. This will serve as the “point of entry” for someone to join in your virtual summit and get all the info they need.

Add this to your to-do list right now: make sure you’ll legally protect the way your email lists are built and shared. When someone signs up for your summit, it should be crystal clear whose emails they’re going to receive moving forward.

2. Get the Perfect Presenters, And Get Clear on your Expectations

Your summit will take shape—and really shine—based on your lineup of presenters. If you have butterflies (aka major anxiety) about asking people to participate in your summit, remember this is a win-win-win. Your speakers win by reaching a brand-new audience, and you win because you helped your speakers and your people discover each other…and everyone wins by learning exciting, life-changing or business-altering things.

In order for a summit to be an effective email list-building strategy, you may want to enlist your speakers as partners in promoting the summit. Spell out exactly what they’re required to do as part of their participation—maybe they’ll need to send 3 emails to their list, or post on social media 4 times, etc. Hammer out the nitty-gritty details ahead of time and make sure everyone is on the same page so you don’t run into any confrontations or legal trouble down the road.

This is where communication and clarity are key.

It’s important that presenters know that they’re not getting paid, or if they are, exactly how much. Make sure to establish what happens to the material the presenter gives for the summit, from video interviews to presentations.

Can they use it elsewhere online, or will it belong exclusively to the event? Can they present it at another summit?

Another important thing to keep in mind is whether each presenter is offering a disclaimer in their presentation or materials about how their information should best be used. Here’s an example: if someone was presenting about taxes for small businesses, it would be crucial to advise everyone watching that taxes are highly individualized and unique to you and your personal financial situation. Everyone should consult with their own tax professional and not rely on the advice in the presentation as universal. Better to err on the side of caution here.

3. Spread the Word

Plug into your social media and email list to make sure your customers are as excited as you are. Now’s the time to take advantage of every promotional outlet that can help get people excited, from podcast interviews and guest blog posts, to Facebook Groups and giveaways.

Craft a virtual summit email sequence, or work with a copywriter to hone a message that will keep (potential) customers engaged and excited about attending. Your sales funnel is basically an automated email sequence that is triggered when someone opts-in on your registration page.

A (good) email sequence not only helps you promote your summit, it also helps to keep subscribers engaged afterwards. The summit is part of a bigger picture of growing brand awareness and ultimately, sales. Hooray!

4. Make It Shine

You’ll need a buttoned-up plan for catchy, substantive content and technology that helps everything run smoothly. Other than the basics (your laptop and a seriously strong internet connection), think about investing in a good web camera, microphone, landing page software, payment system, and affiliate system.

As for the meat of matter, make sure your summit delivers on a topic that your customers find pressing and valuable. Brainstorm names for the event and choose something that really makes its central theme clear.

5. Keep the Momentum Going

You’ve done the thing! One of the best things about hosting a virtual summit is the value that you provide. A great summit means you’ve left people informed and inspired. Don’t just drop them there. Use your email list and social media to continue the conversation and keep building your community. Since your customers have just learned a ton, they are naturally inclined to respond to any other offers to help them that you send their way. (What are you dreaming up next?)

The Breakdown: Follow these Steps

Here’s what to do for a legally legit virtual summit. (Bonus: peace of mind!)

1. Get clear on what YOU expect and want out of your presenters

This is your summit, so you want to set the tone and be as clear as possible in your copy about what your expectations are. Consider what you’ll ask them to do to help promote the summit.

Will you make each speaker an affiliate? (That means they’ll get a percentage of each sale they refer, maybe 30% or 50%). Will you pay them a flat fee, or a percentage of your sales?

2. Choose your speakers wisely

Your presenters are also speaking for you—after all, your name is part of the summit—so you want to respect and trust them. Pick speakers that are professional and that have legally legit businesses and copy already. That’s a pretty good sign that you don’t have to worry quite so much about them saying something dangerous in their presentations.

Choose speakers that have lots to offer your customers. Consider expanding on your summit’s main offer (access to the videos, recordings, and summit interviews) by including bonuses contributed by your presenters. You can ask your speakers to share blog posts, e-books, or courses and bundle them as part of an “all access pass.”

It’s a great marketing strategy to pool your resources and offer even more valuable content for attendees. Again, make sure your speakers are clear about their contributions and compensation.

3. Reach out

Take the plunge! When you reach out to presenters, be as clear as possible about what’s required and what you’re offering. You don’t want them to have any surprises about what they’re signing up for.

I highly recommend you schedule a phone call or Zoom meeting so you can clearly talk through any questions they have. (Some things just get lost in email, right?) If they’re on board, hop to step four.

4. Get your speaker contracts ready

Get a speaker contract that memorializes everything you agreed on in your conversation. You can ask speakers to sign a speaker agreement to keep them and you legally covered should anything change. Here’s my primer on how to properly send and sign contracts, too!

YAY! You and your speaker both signed on the dotted line. Now it’s official.

5. Stay in touch and have a way to help

Keep the dialogue going and the excitement brewing. Keep reminding presenters along the way about the expectations and what they agreed to. Make sure you’re available (or somebody else is) to answer any questions that pop up.

Set aside time before the summit to check over their presentation. Make sure you’re comfortable with it legally speaking, and double check that they have the right disclaimers.

6. Build in a disclaimer box on the presenters’ page/webinar

Make sure each speaker page includes an appropriate disclaimer. You could definitely use my mini-disclaimer template for that!

7. Sell your tickets (legally, of course)

Summit organizers should have their attendees agree to a Terms of Use agreement when they buy their summit tickets. We’ve got you covered: I have a Terms of Use template for you right here.

This document should clearly spell out what your tickets include, what an “all access pass” entails, and what type of access they’ll have to summit content (and for how long).

During your summit, you can release a few sessions each day for people to watch for free within a set period of time, usually 24-48 hours. After that, you might choose to lock them away for the “all access pass” holders only—another perk.

Phew that was a lot! Got questions about how to legally run an online event? I’m ready to help.

Drop your question in the comments below! 👇

I’ll be cheering you on at your next summit! Let me know so I can pop in and learn something.

Watch my free legal workshop!

Whether you’re hosting a summit next week or you’re just bookmarking this blog post for reference a few years from now, I guarantee you definitely need your legal bases covered for the website and services or products your’e currently selling. If you want to hear the simplest and most affordable way to get started protecting the business you’re working so hard to build, snag your spot at my free legal workshop, and make sure your business is legally protected as it grows.

Note: Remember, this isn’t legal advice. Although I’m a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer — under any circumstances. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to supplement or replace seeking advice from your own attorney. Do not take health coach scope of practice advice or tips from anyone other than a licensed attorney. I see a lot of bad / false information circulating online and social media, and it’s very dangerous to blindly accept non-lawyer advice.

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