Attending conferences is a great way to expand your network and enhance your skills while boosting your visibility within your industry. But once you add up the costs of conference travel, hotel reservations and registration fees, participating in these events can seem out of reach for many entrepreneurs.

The solution to this dilemma? Online summits.

Thanks to the advancements made in video conference technology over the past few years, it’s now possible for organizers to put together educational events that occur entirely on the web. Forget the costly travel expenses or the time commitment involved in visiting a real-world event. With today’s online summits, you can get access to the top speakers in your industry -- all from the comfort of your office.

Related: Conferences Are Good for Networking but Great for Marketing

If you’re ready to give one a try, read on to find out how to get the most out of online summits for impressive business results:

Choosing an online summit

As with “real world” conferences, the first step in attending an online summit is to choose the one that’s right for your needs. It’s easy to get swept up in trying to register for everything, so you’ll want to narrow it down to what’s important for your business right now. There are plenty of options out there, from specialized events such as the Business Podcasters Summit to the marketing and sales-focused Growth Summit (my company's event that starts July 28).

Gather a list of the different online summits serving your industry, and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I hoping to get out of this summit? Give the program’s syllabus a careful read-through and make a list of at least three to five specific takeaways you’d like to get from the summit. If you can’t come up with any (or if all you have are general ideas such as “I want to learn more about growth hacking”), your time might be better spent at another event.
  • Can I learn something from the speakers? The caliber of the featured speakers varies wildly from one online summit to another. That’s not to say that you should only attend events with big names such as Neil Patel or Hiten Shah, but you do need to be sure that you can learn something from the people you’ll be listening to. If you don’t think highly of their work or if their areas of expertise don’t seem relevant to your business, look elsewhere.
  • Does the event offer any networking opportunities? One of the biggest perks of attending real-world conferences is the ability to connect with others in your industry, either to share knowledge or to identify new business opportunities. Just because your summit is online, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t still take advantage of these perks. Many online summits offer participants networking opportunities, so look for those you feel would benefit you and take part in them.
  • Is the cost worth it? Some online summits are free to attend, while others come with an upfront ticket fee or additional charges for course material downloads. If there is a price attached, be sure that it’s both affordable to your business and cost-effective based on what you expect to learn. Spending $1,000 to attend a summit from which you take no actionable advice isn’t a good deal, whether the event is held online or offline.

Related: 6 Tips for Making the Most Out of Trade Shows and Conferences

Getting the most out of your online summit

Now that you’ve identified different online conference alternatives and chosen the one that’s likely to have the biggest impact on your business, it’s time for the event to start. So how can you take full advantage of the summit you’re attending?

  • Block time off on your calendar. Too many people “attend” an online summit by playing the conference video in one browser window while working in another. If you split your focus like that, both your work and your ability to retain information will suffer. Instead, set aside time to view the summit materials when you can give them your full attention.
  • Identify (and implement) at least two to three action steps. As you’re watching, try to uncover at least two to three specific recommendations that you can implement immediately after the summit’s conclusion. For example, if you’re attending a conference on growth hacking techniques, make a list of two or three website or business process changes you’ll make once the event is over. Then, of course, you must do them! Don’t let these action steps linger on your to-do list. Put them into action immediately to generate a positive return on investment for the time and money you invested in the event.
  • Connect with speakers and attendees. If your event offers networking opportunities, be sure to take advantage of them -- you never know who you may meet or what you may learn! But even if no official networking is provided, you can still use online summits as a way to connect with the big name speakers. A simple message after the event complimenting the speakers on their presentations can be a foot in the door to powerful new relationships.

No matter what your business is, there’s an online summit that’s right for you. Follow the steps above to get the most out of these events, and watch your business soar.

The Growth Summit is a free conference that includes the top minds in digital marketing and sales (such as Neil Patel and Hiten Shah, Brian Balfour from HubSpot and much more). The conference starts on Tuesday, July 28, and ends on Sunday, Aug. 2. You can lock up a seat here.

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