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Behind the scenes of our very first digital summit

Aug 20, 2020

Listen to this episode of the podcast here or read the transcript below. 

Anna Dower:
Hey everyone, it’s Anna here. Welcome to The Uncool Designer. Today I am talking with my friend, my partner in crime, Emma Kate, and we’re going to be talking about the Designer Boss Summit that we did for the very first time in early July, I think it was? It’s a blur now. But yeah, we’re going to talk about our summit journey and the ins and outs. We’re going to be totally transparent with you guys. So let’s get into it. Hey, Em.

Emma Kate:
Hi. Hi everyone.

Anna Dower:
Emma and I just had a mega powwow brainstorm about what’s happening for us in the next six months or so, and we are both exactly the same. We just keep piling more stuff on our plates.

Emma Kate:
We need to stop.

Anna Dower:
I know, we need to stop, but the thing is, we’re both excited by the same things and I think we’re a really good team when we work together as well. So there’s lots of really exciting stuff coming up in the next six months for us. So let’s dive in, let’s talk about the summit. Why did we do it, Em?

Emma Kate:
Yeah, well, initially you came to me and I had this idea for a summit and it was really, the whole goal was to list build. To build our lists. And at the same time present ourselves as a bit of an authority as well, because obviously that’s a huge part of marketing these days, is having a decent list that you can market to.

Anna Dower:
Yeah. And we both make money from e-courses and list building’s pretty essential to that. We are always focused on list building. And the summit kind of came to us, well, came to me as an idea, and then I spoke to Emma about it. Yeah, it was a way to really boost our list in one hit rather than having to do Facebook ads, funnels, and just seeing numbers slowly tick up. We also wanted to do the summer because, man, 2020 has been a crazy year. And I saw in my Facebook group, Designer Boss Ladies, a lot of women freaking out, which is fair enough, it’s been crazy town. And the summit was an opportunity to create that sense of community and hopefully inspire and motivate designers.

Emma Kate:
That was one thing that I was blown away with and I was so happy that we were able to create something that was so valuable to people and felt really connecting as well. I feel like so many people in isolation and all that, and being able to sort of come together for a few days for the summit, obviously all online, but being able to interact in the Facebook group and get all this information and motivation and resources and stuff. It was really exciting to be out to create that.

Anna Dower:
Yeah, and just having people gushing at us, saying, “This has really inspired me, motivated me. I’m so grateful you did this.” And perhaps it wasn’t something that we set out to do primarily at the beginning, but as the summit unfolded, we were like, “Wow, this is really changing people’s lives.” And yeah, like you said, we were blown away.

Emma Kate:
Absolutely. I think it wasn’t really a goal of ours to begin with, because I honestly didn’t think it was going to be so big, and I didn’t think we were going to have such awesome presentations and the quality of speakers and presentations and resources… I was blown away at how awesome it turned out to be. Obviously this is the first time we’ve ever put together a summit, so we didn’t really have super high expectations of ourselves. And it just really blew me away. Blew you away as well.

Anna Dower:
We kind of went into it blind, and that’s how I do most things in business. I kind of just decide to do it and then figure it out. We had never done a summit before individually or together. I had been a speaker at a summit once before, and that was it basically. I’m sure there’s people out there that want to know how we figured it out. And to be honest, we kind of just winged it.

Emma Kate:
Even my students as designers and stuff, I guess we sort of have these tech skills. We kind of know that there’s apps and software and tools out there that can help us with these things, and we know we can figure it out. There was a bit of tech and there was a bit of, obviously the logistics and coordinating speakers and all that kind of stuff. But sharing the workload obviously really helped and made it so much less overwhelming.

Anna Dower:
How long do you think we were working on it before we actually did the summit? I can’t remember. It’s a blur.

Emma Kate:
I feel like we started about maybe two months out. We probably started… Maybe longer really, by the time we had to organise speakers and stuff, it’s probably three months out.

Anna Dower:
And then it was so surprising when the three days for the summit came up, it was the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. It kind of felt like you were just at a loose end, because everything was done. All we had to do then was watch and make sure everything went okay. It was quite weird.

Emma Kate:
You know, being quite introverted, feeling like I was on for three days, and doing a Facebook live every day for three days and things like that, it just got quite exhausting. But it was awesome. I was on such a high, but it was exhausting.

Anna Dower:
Now I did actually do a post in the summit Facebook group asking people what they wanted to know about the summit, and someone did ask what we offered our speakers in return for them being speakers and being a part of the summit this time round.

Emma Kate:
This time around, the whole point of the exercise to everyone, us and the speakers was list building. So that’s pretty much what we offered the speaker. So it was the opportunity to be out, to get in front of our lists, so be able to present to all the people that signed up for the summit. So obviously a lot of people that are on Anna’s list and my list signed up for the summit, so they were able to be exposed to that audience, which we all have… Pretty much all the speakers in the summit have a similar audience they’re going to be wanting to be exposed to our audience and vice versa. So it was that, and also the opportunity to put something in the boss bundle and potentially get people to go to their website and sign up for their freebie and things like that.

Anna Dower:
And it is all about reach, just like reaching audiences that maybe would have taken ages to reach otherwise. And we did offer them affiliate links for the bundle. So whoever was a speaker and contributed to our boss bundle, and it was jam packed full of super valuable stuff, they were given an affiliate link. And the way that the breakdown went was Emma 35%, I got 35%, and the speaker got 30% kickback. Now it wasn’t a lot of money. And like we said, we didn’t do this summit to make money. It was purely about audience building and list building. So that’s what our speakers got, and that was it. And the way that we chose speakers was we tried to choose people with the same audience as us, and people with aligned values as us as well. And people we liked, basically, and admired. I mean, you kind of rubbed shoulders with people that you’ve admired for a long time, right?

Emma Kate:
Again, another, I guess, side effect or something of having the summit that I wasn’t expecting and being able to talk to these people that I really look up to and I’ve been following for years, and all of a sudden I’m talking to them as peers rather than the fan girl that I am.

Anna Dower:
Like I said at the beginning, we’re happy to be transparent with our audience and tell you guys how many subscribers we gained and how much money we made. On the subscriber front, we both gained about 2000 subscribers and they were of our ideal client. That is so valuable. I think we would have done it for that alone.

Emma Kate:
Me gaining 2000 subscribers. My list before the summit was only like 12 or 1300. So I more than doubled, tripled, my list kind of thing. That’s massive for me, with that. And then money-wise, I think all up, we took about 27,000 Australian dollars that we had to obviously split that and share that with speakers. So Anna and I ended up with about, I think 11 or 12,000 each, and then the rest got paid out to speaker affiliate commission.

Anna Dower:
And that was total bonus money for us. And it kind of whet out appetite. We feel like now we’re ready for the next summit. And like I said, we were talking for over an hour just before about what the next summit’s going to look like. And because this was our first summit, of course we learned a lot of stuff. Do you want to start off with some of the lessons?

Emma Kate:
Well, I think one would be getting the presentations and confirmations from the speakers earlier than what we did. We kind of set the deadlines… I think we set them like probably a week before marketing started. The week before they were supposed to give everything to us. But people like to push deadlines and it made a bit tricky to be like, “We don’t want to be marketing and saying this person’s going to be in this summit, and then they pull out,” and it got a little bit stressful. And lucky we only had that with one speaker.

Anna Dower:
It is hard managing that many people, especially in different times zones as well. That was tricky. So yeah, I do agree that we need a longer lead time with those things. And I think we really need to make speakers commit and say, “Yes, I’m definitely in.” Not, “Yeah, I think I will be in.”

Emma Kate:
It’s lucky that it pretty much all worked out in the end and we were okay, but it does make it… It is hard when you’re coordinating that many people and it’s hard for me when I’m such a fan girl of these people to try… I don’t want to be hard-ass. Please like me. So that did make it a little bit tricky.

Anna Dower:
Another mistake we made was doing it in school holidays in Australia. And I don’t know why I didn’t pick up on that cause I have three children, but it’s just one thing we didn’t think about until we were a couple of weeks out, I think.

Emma Kate:
Yeah. And another thing too, I think, with explaining how it works to people a little bit more. I think quite a few people got confused about the boss bundle being, paying for the summit and all… They got confused between what was what, and having to explain by email…

Anna Dower:
A million times.

Emma Kate:
Yeah, like what the boss… But lucky I like to copy and paste my… I saved templates after I do it, I’m pretty good like that, which is good. But it was quite a few emails of people getting confused, which obviously we don’t want them to be confused in the first place. I want it to be as seamless an experience as possible.

Anna Dower:
So with all of those lessons in mind, we’ve kind of come up with an idea of what we envisage for the 2021 summit. We went into this first one without money even being on our mind. Although, something interesting though, with our first summit, once we started marketing, we started getting people emailing us saying, “We want to be a sponsor.” And we were kind of like, “We didn’t really know what we’re doing, so you probably shouldn’t be our sponsor.” So we said no to sponsors the first time round. And now with this second summit and we’ve kind of… Money is definitely in the foreground this time. We are definitely thinking about sponsors for the next summit, but not any sponsors. We’re not going to sell our souls. We want sponsors who are aligned with our values and our voice, and of course, people who have the same audience as us. So that’s one of the changes that we’re looking at for the 2021 summit.

Emma Kate:
I feel like we now can set our sights on some even bigger people that we admire. Inviting them to be in the summit would be really cool.

Anna Dower:
Yeah, so if there’s anyone out there that’s in the web design or graphic design sphere that you guys look up to, definitely tell us who they are, who you want to learn from, and we can approach them to be a speaker. We’re definitely going to try to rectify all of those kind of issues with people not knowing where to go, where to view things. Facebook Lives were a bit annoying last time. So we want to try to refine that. But overall, the 2021 summit, we just want it to be bigger and better. And we have some other exciting news if you want to announce it, Em?

Emma Kate:
Yeah, we’re going to… Say the summit’s the Designer Boss Summit and Anna and I have actually decided we’re going to start the Designer Boss podcast and we’re going to… Yay. We need to add sound effects celebrating. So we’re going to be starting a podcast together and we’ll be releasing it later this year, and it’s going to be a combination of graphic design and web design stuff. It’s going to be some episodes where Anna and I will chat together, some where it’ll just be me, some where it’ll just be Anna, and some way we’ll have guests on the show as well. So I’m really excited about it, because I’ve been wanting to start a podcast for a very long time, and Josh Hole, who I connected with in this summit has been like, “Emma, you need to start a podcast. You really need to do it.”

Emma Kate:
So I really I’m excited that I get to do it with Anna again, to share the workload, which is awesome, and keep me accountable because I’m committing to something where are we going to… If we release an episode once a fortnight or once a month or whatever it’s going to be, if it’s just me, it makes it hard to keep yourself accountable, but if both of us then it’ll happen. I know it does, because it always does if we commit to something together. So I’m super excited about it.

Anna Dower:
Yeah, so keep an eye out for that. And like Em said, we’ll be talking to speakers, maybe, some of the past speakers as well from the last summit, and it’s going to be full of knowledge, motivation, inspiration, all that stuff that we’re all about. And I hope that you guys gained something today from our story about our journey in the Designer Boss Summit. I hope that it made you feel like we have the right intentions, and made you feel that you can do anything as well. We had no idea. It started with a Facebook message and then we kind of snowballed from there. Like, “What about this? What about that? Then we could do this, and then…” We just figured it out as we went and it was so fun to collaborate. That’s something I really, really loved from the summit, collaborating with all speakers. It made me remember how much I love that and how much I’ve missed it, just working in my business on my own. So yeah, collaborate too. It’s awesome.

Emma Kate:
But yeah, just connecting with all these people in the industry and just being asked to geek out on design talk and business talk and all that stuff that we love, that was really cool. And I think one awesome lesson… I knew this already, but it really reaffirmed it with me, is having a partner in crime, an accountability partner, someone that you’re collaborating with, like I have found with you, Anna, is just so valuable. It just really motivates you to get stuff done. I could never have imagined that I would have created my own online summit. Not in a million years would I have done that kind of thing. But with you, it doesn’t seem very daunting at all. So thank you for that, Anna.

Anna Dower:
It’s so true. To end on that corny note, I do think we’re all stronger together in this. We could have so easily have been competitors, but I do feel like we’re much stronger together, and that’s a really good lesson.

Emma Kate:
Absolutely.

Anna Dower:
And on that corny note, we will end it. And keep an eye out for our new podcast. It will be coming soon. Thanks everyone.

Emma Kate:
Thank you.

 

 

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