667 WP-Tonic With Special Guest Jan Koch Owner & CEO of Virtual Summit Mastery™
How To Build Community Through Virtual Events in 2022
This Week Show’s Sponsors
Virtual Summit Mastery is an industry-leading training program teaching authors, coaches, entrepreneurs, and community-driven businesses how to run successful events online.
Jan also organize virtual conferences in the WordPress / online marketing space and am a proud Cloudways Maverick, helping their WordPress-based community by sharing knowledge and experiences around building websites
#1 – Jan can you give us the quick background story around the founding of Virtual Summit Mastery™?
#2 – I think one of the great challenges of any type of online entity is building a real sustainable community can virtual summits help with this?
#3 – What are some of the consistent mistakes you see from those that try and run a virtual summit and can you give any advice and tips on how these mistakes can be avoided?
#4 – In general is it getting harder or easier to run a successful virtual summit?
Here’s a Full Transcript of The Great Interview
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS we’ve got a great special guest. We got Jan Koch, the owner, and CEO of virtual summit mastery. I’ve got a replacement for Steven. I’ve got Spencer Forman Steven swam off to Mexico leaving me on my own tribe, damn Steven I got Spencer. I’m sure Spencer will be able to cope and be a great co-host. He’s going to be a great conversation about virtual summits and mastery. I’m going to let Jan quickly introduce himself. So Jan, can you quickly introduce yourself to the tribe.
Jan Koch: Of course, first of all, thanks for having me. I run virtual summit mastery. I have a vast background in WordPress development, started in the WordPress space in 2012, 2013, ran a WordPress freelance business, then hosted the WP summit in 2015 that got me hooked on this train of virtual events. That summit pivoted my business from freelancing to having to build an agency because it was overloaded with work. Ran WP agency summits, twice in 2019, 2020. And since 2021, I have then taken over virtual summit mastery which was founded by my friend Navid because I’m just full-on virtual events these days. I mean with the pandemic and everything happening, they won’t go anywhere so long story short, WordPress developer turned educator and summit host.
Jonathan Denwood: There we go. And I’ve got my co-host, Spencer Forman. Spencer, would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?
Spencer Foreman: Sure. Spencer Foreman from WP-Launchify and otherwise. And, I don’t know. You guys can Google me. You’ve seen me on the show a hundred times.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And before we go into this great conversation, I’ve got a message from one of our major sponsors to be back in a few moments, folks.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. Just wanted to say, Castos is just fantastic. And also they’ve got a special offer for the tribe. If you go to WP-Tonic/recommendations, you find that offer plus a host of other special offers and recommendations of the best WordPress plugins, solutions that you can find. all recommendations have been used by me or members of the panel on the Friday show. So let’s go straight into it. And in your introduction, you kind of answered question one, but let’s delve into a bit more detail. So you took over virtual Summit mastery. What do you really see as the purpose of the main business? And why did you decide that you wanted to buy the company and, become its CEO Jan?
Jan Koch: Brilliant question. First of all, I know the founder since 2012, we started our own, well, our entrepreneurial journeys in the same mastermind groups. So there was this really solid base of trust, which is very, very important when you talk about acquisitions. And I knew that the program he has built is amazing and it delivers results. So when I saw the WP agency summit work really, really well, I saw the people come together and foster connections with events in real life being shut down at the time. I saw people come together online, and now everybody’s talking about summit fatigue and zoom fatigue and blah, blah. But back then that wasn’t the situation. And I had been approached by maybe 10 clients within 2 weeks or 10 potential clients to host summits for them, never, ever considered it before.
I thought, well, maybe this is the right move for me to pivot a little bit out of WordPress, out of the WordPress ecosystem, and more into digital marketing in general. And then Navid approached me out of nowhere telling me that he wanted to change directions in his business, that he was a little bit getting tired about Virtual summit mastery and doing the same thing for six years and he wanted to do something else. And we set up a good agreement that I could take over VSM he’s now doing something else. He’s enjoying a lifestyle of more travel and being around the world and stuff like that. And I run the business. And my mission right now for VSM is I want to build it into a seven-figure business. I want to enroll at least 300 new people in the course this year. And I want to have, involvement in multiple virtual events myself as a consultant.
The overall goal is helping people bring communities together, which I think is now needed more than ever like this real human connection when we still can’t travel as much as we wanted to. And I think if you do a summit the right way, and you focus on the attendee experience, not so much about your own monetary goal, then you can achieve that. And that’s what I want to help with, with VSM.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, that’s great. And Jan is, helping me with the WP-Tonic summit, which will be at the end of June. And I’ll be telling you tribe more about this in the coming weeks and months over to you, Spencer.
Spencer Foreman: Yeah. I mean, I’m really, I can see on your website, you’ve got a lot of social proof and some other faces and people that I know from around the industry. help our audience understand a little bit. Is this a product like the form of self, a course that you take yourself, or is a combination of sort of concierge service with a product or give us a run-through, like, what does it look like to engage with VSM?
Jan Koch: Yeah. So the entry point is a cheat sheet. It’s like the general lead magnet that you would have with any online business. It’s a PDF outlining the process. We have five pillars that the process, focuses on. It leads into a book and then into a course for a self-study program, that’s a six-month program where you take the course, you execute the summit yourself. You get into the VSM community to get support from other summit hosts who have done some of them do six-figure events. Some of them do four-figure events. It’s all across the board and you run the summit six months is more than enough for the first time. Even if you have never done something like that before, you don’t have an audience it’s still possible. After that, it becomes a monthly retainer because I want to make sure people take action on this course I don’t want to have any lurkers who just buy and then never act on anything. I’ve done that myself more than once. And I know it doesn’t feel great.
There is another level to VSM, which is one-to-one mentoring, which is, what Jonathan mentioned that is more on a, I want to say, per-project basis. So that’s something that I would discuss on the call to see what, type of level of involvement does that person or that business really needs. And then for done for you or the concierge service. I’ve done that last year, but I’m venturing out of it. I want to focus fully on the education part of the course and on mentoring and consulting. So the done for you is outsourced to a friend of mine who’s been through the program, he’s a certified VSM implementer. And then I drive everybody who wants to be done for you to him. And they’re in the best hands there.
Spencer Foreman: Is there a particular stack of technology that you use that you teach? Is that part of it as well? I mean the tactics and so forth, but one of my points of understanding is like figuring out which tools to use in the WordPress space. Can you share a little bit about, is there something, or is that proprietary as part of what people that–Jan Koch: No that’s all good. That is one of the most common questions. And I think it is a little bit backward. Because the tools really don’t matter in the end. If you want to run a virtual summit, it is rather simple in the approach that I teach in VSM you need a website where you embed prerecorded sessions, you do some stuff, live, some stuff, prerecorded. We all know how to embed a YouTube video in a website can do that with any page builder it’s rather simple. You can embed a live chat very, very easily from chat roll or something like that so that people can engage live. You can have in the simplest way if you want to have live networking embed a zoom link and put people together on zoom, the very simplest form. What I focus on with VSM is more the strategic part like how do you make it a good event?
You can have the best tech stack in the world, but if the content isn’t engaging and if you position it in a way that nobody cares about it, why are you spending 10 grand on tech if the summit fails? So the tech stack in the simplest form is WordPress. Put some page builder on it in VSM we have templates for Elementor for thrive themes for Divvy and for Gutenberg. So some of the most common page builders are covered. Then you need some form of payment gateway, which usually I recommend Thrive Cart. You could go with WooCommerce and card flows I’ve been playing around with that. That works rather well, too. You need some form when you go with WooCommerce, you need an affiliate plugin on top of that to thrive cart has that integrated.
With thrive cart, you can use the learning platform that they’ve just recently launched to then host the membership area. When you sell the replays, for example, on the summit put the membership area, there on thrive cart. You can also do this. I’m playing around with Wishlist’s latest, course that they’ve launched that’s fun to play with.
Spencer Foreman: [Inaudible11:05]
Jan Koch: You can talk about alternatives too. There are so many elements.
Spencer Foreman: [Inaudible] Machine or something.
Jonathan Denwood: Let’s get back on the subject I knew this was going to be–
Spencer Foreman: We had a good laugh. Come on.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Let’s get onto, so I think, after the pandemic and what we’ve suffered over the last couple of years. The keyword I think about 2022 is community. But how do you sustain community online? How do you have community face to face? I think that’s the word of the 2022 community. can running a virtual summit help If you are looking to build community, either around a product, a service, whatever your business plans are Jan?
Jan Koch: I think that’s the main purpose of a virtual summit, really, to bring people together. And you do that in the summit with four different ways to drive people to the website. The speakers are the obvious ones. Everybody who speaks should be incentivized to promote the summit, either as an affiliate or just because they want to look good because they are on a panel with 20 other speakers that are also relevant for their audience. And you give every speaker a free resource with the summit that adds value to the audience of the relevant speaker. So even if you as a summit host, don’t have your own audience. You’re just starting, or maybe you are a freelancer, you have some freelance clients and you want to level up that client base. You want to get more people and you have 500 people on your list. You can still get like 2000 people to your summit.
My first summit took my own list from 600 to 3,500, 3,600 subscribers, something like that. So it works, even if you don’t have an audience. As I said, you give the speakers a good resource they can share with their audience for free. Then the second way to bring people to the summit is by having sponsors onboard and having those companies promote to their audiences. The third one is having affiliates, which especially works well, and for the WP agency summit, I had a lot of success by tapping into Facebook groups around certain plugins around digital agencies, you name it, and then recruiting those moderators as affiliates that work rather well. The fourth one is having media partners so you try to get yourself on podcasts. You try to get yourself on blogs before the summit, and then they promote the event as well. And then on the fifth one, if you have the budget, throw some paid traffic on it as well, that works.
Then once you have people on the summit website, the question is, what do you do with them? Like, how do you make them feel involved in this summit? Is it not just a series of webinars that nobody watches? And the way I found works best is you have, dedicated times for live networking and you make it fun. You have some live polls going on, you have some quizzes going on. You give away surprise stuff from sponsors during those networking hours. And we had, when Vito and I ran in the WP feedback summit, we had Bob Dune record a podcast episode in our networking area. And that was really fun. And those things happen if you pay attention to the attendee experience, as I said earlier. Like it’s not enough to bring 20 people together and interview them and slap them onto a website, but what can you do that is relevant for your audience that gets them engaged.
For example, I’m working with somebody in the neuroscience and yoga space, and he has, Yogi Teachers who give live workshops that attendees can follow along. It’s actually structured as a science experiment. So they do a test before the workshop. I don’t know what touches their left ear with their elbow or something like that. I have no idea. And then they do a–
Jonathan Denwood: I think I would pass the test on Jan.
Jan Koch: So they, they have something they can, they can value.
Jonathan Denwood: I’m sure Spencer would pass
Spencer Foreman: By the way, are you working with Vito for this year’s auto [inaudible] summit.
Jan Koch: No Vito and I passed ways, relatively shortly after the WP feedback summit, wasn’t the best fit for working together. But, essentially when it comes to involving your attendees, the good example is to have them do something, have them watch a workshop, have them do the same thing over and over again, and see how much easier that thing has become. So when you’re talking about, anything with physical is obviously easy to do when you do some stretches or something like that, and you want to teach something like that, but it can also be applied to coding workshops, like do a one-hour coding workshop live and solve a specific problem on caching a database request. I don’t know what, but this heavily depends on the strategy and the target audience that you want to have.
Spencer Foreman: What are some of the consistent mistakes you’ve seen from the people you’ve worked with, who try to run a virtual summit? And I don’t know, maybe you can give some advice or tips on how you can avoid those mistakes for other people.
Jonathan Denwood: Excellent question. But I think we have to go for our break and then Jan can answer that incisive question. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. And if you want to get the WP-Tonic weekly newsletter, which is a summary of our Friday show and has all the links to the panel recommendations, plus an editorial was written by me, which is normally quite outrageous. just go over to the WP tonic website and sign up for the WP tonic newsletter. And you can do that by going to WP to slash the newsletter back over to Spencer. And that insightful question, Spencer.
Spencer Foreman: I can ask the question again. While you’re on the stand would the witness, like the– no, I’m just saying, so what are some kinds of, mistakes that you’ve seen people make from running a virtual summit? And do you have any tips or advice on how you can avoid those mistakes if somebody’s interested?
Jan Koch: Yeah. So, one of the most common ones is not being clear about who exactly the target audience is. And then that has all sorts of consequences as it has with any business. Like if you do not know how to sell to or who you are selling to, how are you even going to survive? And it’s the same thing with a virtual summit. If you don’t know what pain points you want to fix for whom, what transformations your target audience is looking for, then you don’t know what are the right speakers to invite. You don’t know what are the right sponsors to approach. You don’t know how to structure the content. I’ve made this mistake, myself that the summit had whopping 300 attendees, which is still 300 human beings. So it’s nothing to look down at, but obviously, it wasn’t monetarily successful.
The second one that I would say is being overly pushy with the monetization aspect, and what I mean by that is when you run a virtual summit, following the VSM process, you keep the attending for free. And then you sell the replay. You monetize via sponsors and you monetize afterward when you’ve built at this when you’ve nurtured the relationships that is when you can throw in your high ticket offer for service or something like that. Or when you, when you team up with speakers as joint venture launches, that’s when you make the real money, not during the summit, not from the attendees.
The common way in virtual summit mastery is for somebody to sign up for the free ticket. They get presented with a one-time offer for the all-access pass fancy name for the replays and some bonuses. within 10 minutes, that offer is gone we use a deadline funnel for that usually. that is the lowest price you can get that all-access pass for, and then you push it through the emails. You try to promote it again, you promote it subtly on the website, but you are not overly pushy with this. And I see some platforms that focus a lot on trying to make the host the most money sacrificing the attendee experience in return. So when you are on a virtual summit, as an attendee, you want to see the sessions. You want to see additional information about the host. You want to see some form of session notes so that if you don’t have the time to watch a 30-minute interview, you download a PDF and get the gist straight away. You want to have the transcripts there. You want to have a live chat there. You don’t want to see constant pictures of the all-access pass buy the replay, buy the replay that’s when you tune out. And that’s when people say they’re fatigued by summits.
So be mindful about that and be respectful of the experience of the summit attendees is what I would say in that regard and sacrifice your monetary rewards in the short term if needed to make sure that you build a strong fan base with the summit. you win the trust and know the like factors of the attendees. Then you nurture via email and later that’s how you build sustainable businesses. And then the third one I would say is only focusing on A-list speakers. And that might sound a bit counterintuitive.
Spencer Foreman: You’re saying that one should only focus on A-list.
Jan Koch: No, don’t focus, but I see some people who only go after the big names, they only try to get the biggest names in the industry to promote the summit. The point of that is when you only have the biggest names they don’t promote, why would they have an audience of multiple hundred thousand followers. They are not interested in promoting your summit. They don’t need that one video of theirs to be overly promoted. They push it once they maybe share it on social media. They probably won’t send an email about it. They won’t speak about it on YouTube or something like that. They won’t mention it in other interviews and say, Hey, I was just interviewed on Jan’s summit. And it was the best thing ever.
For example this week. I had a recording with the best-selling author who opened Adobe’s keynote, the global Adobe keynote. He opened this year for 4,000 people. And he’s not going to promote the summit more than once or twice. I can’t expect him to. I’m glad that he didn’t charge me to be at the summit that I’m organizing. So to balance that you need to have super enthusiastic speakers with smaller audiences who obviously need to know what they’re talking about, and they need to have a good message and they need to be good at presenting and all that stuff. But those are the people who tell everybody who wants to hear and who don’t want to hear from the summit about that they are sharing the stage with these big names. And that is when enough people of that do that at the same time. That is how you make that wave in the industry. That is why suddenly everybody is talking about your summit.
Spencer Foreman: I mean, it seems like I’ve seen your model, obviously, because I’m familiar with the [Inaudible24:07] summit and the other ones like it. And the thing that struck me as interesting, which you’ve outlined here. seems like the model involves having sponsors as the first line of monetization. And that the people who are attendees are basically being, given a chance to see the content they want life if they show up like the old-fashioned TVs that Jonathan and I grew up with. then they have a chance. Well, remember, when I grew up in the seventies there wasn’t on-demand. Netflix and Hulu.
Jonathan Denwood: No, when I grew up, it was just radios.
Spencer Foreman: With a hand crank, but the point is that you’re sort of saying to the attendees, you get have to see it for free, if you can be there, but then you have a low-key approach to upselling it. But really the key to your approach sounds like you really need to gather these sponsors and I think from your model because I’ve seen it in action. You’re trying to say to the sponsors, you can also be a presenter if you wish to do that.
Jan Koch: It depends on the type of package. Yeah. So usually you have multiple tiers of sponsorship packages and the cheapest one usually doesn’t include a sponsored speaker slot. And then the more expensive the packages become, the more value you have to give to the sponsor in return and they usually ask for being a speaker, doing a live webinar. you can do a round table, bring all the sponsors together, have a one-hour conversation, and have them tear themselves apart, essentially. You can do all sorts of stuff.
Jonathan Denwood: We definitely have to have done that, but Jan has been quite impressed with my selling ability haven’t you Jan.
Jan Koch: Yeah.
Spencer Foreman: let me ask you, sorry do you find that it’s a good strategy to, with the low-end speakers, the ones that are really able to hustle. Do you have any strategy, advice about, do you ask them to be sponsors? Does that precipitate more or less involvement? Or you’re just saying like, I want you to come and bring your audience. That’s your pay?
Jonathan Denwood: I make speakers affiliates for the all-access pass. So the more they promote, the more money they make. And that’s again less interesting for the speakers who are already successful, who have a big audience. They have bigger income streams than promoting a $100 all-access pass. But if somebody is just starting out and they drive like a thousand dollars in affiliate commission, they’re really happy about it.
Spencer Foreman: Okay. That’s interesting. I mean, that makes a lot of sense when you say it that way because you get more action from people with their own audience that is trying to climb the hill. So you don’t charge them money and they bring their information. And then the people that are, let’s say interested in getting attention will pay for sponsorship. If the audience of the other, speakers is relevant to them or is relevant to the product.
Jan Koch: Yeah. And there is this, sponsors and speakers are completely different. So speakers usually don’t get paid. I mean, some summits will say, okay I want to compensate you for your time. So here’s like, even if it’s a symbolic, a hundred dollars or something like that. some summits simply don’t have the budget for that. So they don’t pay the speakers and they just make them affiliates. The point about that is to be upfront about it. And don’t assume the speaker doesn’t want to get paid, but just be transparent about it. And then not every sponsor is becoming a speaker automatically. So it has to be a good fit. And I’ve had actually, I’ve seen sponsors turn down the speaker slott because they didn’t want to.
Spencer Foreman: They don’t like–
Jan Koch: For whatever reason. Yeah. Maybe they just don’t have the manpower to properly produce an interview or something like that. And that’s always a case-by-case decision really. The key thing I learned with sponsors is you cannot communicate enough because usually, misunderstandings happen somewhere around the process. You cannot assume anything. You always have to spell every little detail out and you have to be flexible in terms of what perks and what packages they get because every company has its own take on marketing have its own strategies. And you want to accommodate that?
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. I think, on myself, I think also having a track record, I think it’s helped, as Spencer says, my smooching has, benefited me because I am the king smoocher aren’t I Jan?
Jan Koch: Definitely most definitely. I’ve been impressed with the level of confidence.
Spencer Foreman: I think you mean Schmoozer.
Jonathan Denwood: Schmoozer. I think that’s how you pronounce it, it’s a schmoozer.
Spencer Foreman: I think a smoocher does something else, but not necessarily.
Jonathan Denwood: We won’t go there, this is terribly friendly, please Spencer. I think it’s time to wrap up the podcast part of the show, but I’m sure Jan is up for staying with us for another 10, 15 minutes. You can watch the whole interview plus the bonus content on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel. Plus we’ve got a load of other content on there. Plus if you are really brave, you can join the WP-Tonic tribe on Facebook, the WordPress mastermind group it’s got the longest title of any Facebook group in the world. I can’t even pronounce it myself, which Spencer constantly criticizes me for and ticks delight it. But there we go. I’m used to that. So let’s wrap up the podcast part of the show. So Jan, what’s the best way to find out more about you and your fabulous virtual summit mastery course and other services Jan?
Jan Koch: Has to be virtualsummitmastery.com. And if you want to search for Jan Koch on Facebook, you’ll find some dude that looks like me. And that has a weird background with the VSM logo on it, in the cover profile.
Jonathan Denwood: I look forward to that. Spencer, how can people find more about you and your wisdom, Spencer?
Spencer Foreman: At WPlaunchify.com. That’s the easiest way.
Jonathan Denwood: And I just wanted to say, the audience I’m really delighted that the audience figures have expanded enormously recently and we are becoming one of the top podcasts in the WordPress and SaaS space. I hope to grow even more this year with your help. I just wanted to say thank you so much audience and being part of the tribe. Like I say, join us on the bonus content. We’ll be back next week with another fabulous guest. We’ll be back soon. See you soon folks bye.
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