Dear Summit Organizer;

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest expert in your summit. My short answer is: No, thanks.

I’m sure you have every intention of making this a wonderful experience for your guest speakers and those that attend; but if you’re open to another perspective, here’s mine.

I’ve been a solo-entrepreneur for almost 10 years and I’ve witnessed a lot of marketing approaches during my time, including countless interactions with the ‘online summit experience’.

And here’s where I’m at: I am wholeheartedly not a fan of the virtual summit – neither as a speaker nor as a participant.

Online summits have become a predictable tactic for those focused on list building and quick sales. There is no shortage of ‘gurus’ who will take money in exchange for their system towards epic, 6-figure results. I suspect you’ve already paid good money to learn these techniques, and now you’re eager to test what you’ve been taught by running your first summit.

The systems for online summits tend to use manipulative social triggers (like false scarcity and self-imposed authority) to entice or pressure people to sign up and buy whatever they’re selling. I find the approach egocentric, and at the very least inconsiderate, to both guest ‘experts’ and participants.

I’ve been on both sides of an online summit and what I’ve experienced has always felt transactional rather than transformational.

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Here’s what I’ve noticed in my past experiences with online summits:

1. Diversity is absent. Inclusion is ignored.

Most guest expert line-ups tend to be young, white, able-bodied and physically attractive. I’m a big believer that all voices need to be heard, not just the idealized versions of a patriarchal society. We need to DO BETTER by intentionally inviting people of colour, gender diversity, and different abilities to be both guest experts and participants.

2.  We know the real reason you’re doing this is to build YOUR list.

When you ask me to volunteer my time to put together and deliver an expert interview for you, please don’t think you’re sliding anything past me. I know that the main agenda for the summit is to build your own list. This is not hidden, or subtle, or a casual side benefit; it’s the main agenda. So please stop pretending that this event will help me grow my list or inspire my people — the only thing I can be sure of is that I’ll get more practice at public speaking, and you’ll reap the rewards.

3. Our relationship will feel transactional.

Typically, the person running the summit does not have a pre-existing relationship with those she invites to speak, and won’t take the time to get to know them before she issues the invitation. The invitation email isn’t even personalized! The impact feels transactional rather than relational. It feels like your VA did a Google search with keywords and somehow found my website. Instead, please take the time to do your research, find out about me, and craft a thoughtful, considerate and personalized Ask. Attention to detail will go a long way in building a genuine relationship.

4. And then I have to qualify in order to speak.

Even though you’ve asked me to be a guest speaker, I have a hunch that once I get on an intro call with you I’ll have to meet a few conditions. The most likely condition you’ll place on my participation is a minimum list size of 5000 people. My list size is 1) none of your business and 2) completely irrelevant to whether I can contribute quality insights as a guest speaker. You’ve just taken an opportunity for connection, and set selfish conditions on my participation. You’ve essentially retracted your invitation unless I can meet your conditions. Wait. What? It’s not my job to grow your list. Instead, why don’t you ask ME how I would like to market this event? Ask what would work for my schedule and community, rather than telling me exactly what to say and how to sell it. It’s cool if you’d like to make recommendations, but please don’t put conditions on my participation that are only there so you can grow your list.

5. Your marketing jargon is insulting.

Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZ; The Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door. I’m all for life-long learning, and there are skills I’m working on mastering. You have a unique combination of skill and experience, but no secret formula. I’m already successful, thank you. And I want what I want, and that isn’t “It All”.

6. Your listeners will get bombarded.

We get that it’s best for your list growth if you have a ton of guest speakers, because you hope all the people on our lists will sign up for your list. But for those who sign up (remember those people you say you’re trying to help?), well, they end up being overwhelmed when you flood their inbox with upsells and time-sensitive, pressure-to-buy emails for weeks and months after the summit. My community doesn’t believe bigger is always better. Overwhelm and high-pressure sales don’t leave us with a feel-good afterglow. I don’t want to open up my cherished community to aggressive sales, and since I don’t have any control over how you will speak to them, I’m just going with ‘no’.

7. Your content is high level, and of no deep value.

There’s nothing more frustrating or disappointing than giving up time to watch 3 hours of ‘guest expert’ slides, only to realize you just got the most basic, common-sense advice you’ve ever heard. I beg you, offer some truly valuable content. Compile an authentic panel, connect on a real level, and put in a solid effort to ensure your listeners get quality content, without the fluff and jargon. A summit is meant to build a community. It may build your list too, but only if you’re offering value to your speakers and your listeners.

Thank you, Summit Organizer, for reading this through. You may be feeling some of this already, and maybe you’re determined to help change the common model. If you love online summits, the community they build, and know how to make them deep, valuable AND good for business then, good luck to you.

However, I will not be a guest expert at your 7 Steps to Having It All Online Summit. Because my people see through that, know no-one has that, don’t aspire to be that, nor want it in their inbox. We’ll just wait for the thoughtful, inclusive, diverse, powerful experiences that truly help us grow.

 

Yours sincerely,

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Comments

(25)
  1. Thank you Jac for your boldness and conviction of truth. You spelled out so much of what bothers my soul with some of these summits and “have it all” blogs. I want organic growth, a true tribe, people that stand for what I stand for and together we make the world a better place. Thank you for encouraging me to take back my 3 hours of expecting “someone else needs to tell me what to do, because I can’t figure it out myself”. I will give myself the time to grow with my list, because there is no point of having it grow faster than me! lol
    Much love to you <3
    #truth.

    1. Thank you Brenda! Organic growth and a true tribe are beautiful things – and we can totally build our business by staying true to our values. xo

  2. Agree, so sick of needing to hit unsubscribe! Sounds bad but sometimes I put these on and if they bore me I just take a little snooze lol. I have found one monthly free online “retreat” that I think you would like. Its heartfelt, a sense of tribe and they are not money grabbers. Check out TreeSisters.

  3. Wow! This is so validating for me. I have been feeling like this too but I thought maybe I was being too sensitive. Thank you for putting it out there!

  4. I love this because I’ve been on the ‘invitee’ side of things with similar frustration. Judging me by my list size (which happened) is a big mistake!

    I just wrapped up my Hot Seminar Series in which I broke every Virtual Summit rule.

    I chose speakers who had something to say with zero regard for their list size. I made no request that they promote. I did it to SERVE my community and yes, hopefully to grow it – but because the content offered was compelling, not because my speakers hustled for me. Most of my speakers made no offer, the offers that were made were mild, on target with the content and without scarcity hype.

    My event would fail by just about any ‘summit pro’s’ standards, yet I feel like a winner. I’ve spent time with 13 brilliant people of all ranges of experience and success. And bonus: I have a body of valuable content to sell/leverage.

    About #1: I was highly intentional on this front. Both at my recent live event and the virtual series. I’m not patting myself on the back – working to create a diverse panel of speakers is in service of my community AND me. It widens my circle of reach and helps me discover new communities.

    TY for your post – I hope it has a HUGE impact!

    1. Hi Kelly! Thank you so much for being thoughtful & intentional about your marketing approach. This is really inspiring and great role modelling for others. I really appreciate you sharing your experience here!

  5. I want to give you a big hug and a high five Jac! You have echoed everything I have been thinking about telesummits over this past year. They have turned into list building sales pitches, with surface level common sense advice most of us already understand. I think I will save this and forward it to the next person that sends me a canned invitation to participate in their telesummit. Thank you for expressing what so many of us are feeling:-)

    1. Hi Kemya! I’d love a hug & a high five! Thanks so much for reading and letting me know this post really resonated. Feel free to use any of it in future emails!

  6. Hey there! I really enjoyed reading your perspective. I’d love to offer another perspective…and I’ll admit up front that I’m a bit biased bec I produce telesummits for a living. It’s true there are a lot of bad summits out there. And there are a number of coaches who teach this method in such a way that it’s become very one-sided and “churn and burn.” There are also a lot of amazing people who are doing great work in the world and using this platform as a way to build there list and thus their businesses. They see this as a long-term way to build relationships with speakers and experts and they treat their experts very, very well. Yes, there’s a big benefit to the host and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The host invests A LOT of time, money and energy into the event. A great host will also make sure their speakers receive a great benefit – both during the event and after. I know many speakers who have built their list and gained personal clients just by speaking on summits. In short, it seems to me that the summit in and of itself is not what’s wrong…having a bad/careless/selfish host is the real issue.

    1. Hi LeeAnn,

      Thank you! I appreciate your perspective too. I agree that there are *definitely more thoughtful ways to run online events and telesummits. My hope is that the people who are already running them will be inspired to make some important adaptations in their approach and that those people who have been frustrated with the “churn and burn” experiences will feel affirmation as to why it’s always felt so off putting to them.

  7. Yes! Jac, I think you’re articulating what a lot of us feel. Why do summit organisers act as if they’re doing us a favour, or worse… they’re doing us a big favour. I have a website that has tremendous traffic. I’m often told that I’ll get great exposure. I’m not adverse to working for exposure, but don’t offer it to me when I have 100 times more exposure than you do. And then I feel mean for pointing this out.

  8. @JMCNEIL, I TRULY APPRECIATE YOUR BOLD TRUTH!!!!

    I absolutely enjoyed this and agree with many things. At one point I also thought about doing a summit just because the ones I saw never seem to include people that looked like me. But it was never a ‘HELL YEAH’ for me and therefore I chose not to because my experience being on the other side as a participant in many online summit’s is that my inbox became overcrowded with sales pitches and I wind up unsubscribing from most of them because I had no real connection or transformation. I was just gathering more info is all.

    Thanks again for standing in full embodied honesty and sharing your view with us.

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