Hosting a virtual summit

Behind the Scenes of a Virtual Summit

An online summit is a unique kind of event – a compression of many different topics into a multi-session (often multi-day) event. This is the 4th online summit I’ve helped organize – this time for a network of leaders working to protect their communities from the harms of the oil & gas industry. It’s called Halt the Harm Network Summit – November 15-18th.

Our goal is to connect people, share resources, and introduce new members to our online network in Circle so they are able to discover its value beyond the specific event.

This post shares some of the key elements of our design framework – and acknowledges some of the teachers that have helped inspired me and shaped my ability to host this event.

There is much more than just layout and graphic design involved in a summit. Maple Creative has grown a lot over the last few years to approach website design in a more holistic way, and our team’s ability pull this together is an example of that.

Skills Involved for Community Design

This project is just as much about Community Design as it is website design. Instead of me interviewing each guest, we’re matchmaking members of the community to different conversations. Instead of just offering content, I’m working with a team to host interactive, facilitated events throughout. Big thanks to Breakthrough Facilitation for giving me a framework to host a nation wide strategy call for the network.

Many of the 16 skills I focus on in the BYWE program also apply. Here’s an overview of some of the skills and how they apply to running a summit.

📐 Layout: Any online effort relies on layout to help people orient themselves and navigate. A summit, cohort based course, or event series is a perfect way to help members of an online community get acquainted with a platform. We’re using Circle, and designed each page to have a simple layouts with clear headings to prioritize items.

💻 Tech Stack: A summit requires a lot of interconnected tools. We used Miro as a team to understand the interactions and keep track of any loose ends. I’m using ConvertKit to manage the guest list and send emails, and Circle to give guests access to individual sessions. 

❤️ Operations: Traffic flows to the event registration page in, which collects email addresses and triggers a welcome email with event details. This is a pretty standard workflow for event registration and I use it all the time. I’m using Zapier to pass an email address and name from Luma to ConvertKit where we can send a welcome message.

📢 Outreach: This is something I wish we had more lead time for. It’s definitely an area I hope to improve moving forward. With 30+ speakers we have an opportunity to distribute outreach widely in our network. We could have a dedicated staff member focus on this entirely and it would probably have a big return. We use Notion to keep track of each guest, their info, and whether they’ve shared the event.

🌼Offers: A summit is a unique combination of offers because there are 30+ sessions to choose from –  Guests RSVP to different sessions, and then receive a reminder and link to join live. But we’ve condensed the offer into a single registration page to reduce friction. Once people join they are invited to become formal members (longer process) to access individual sessions.

🐝 Audience: We’re using to manage our contacts – specifically to connect with potential speakers and send personalized messages. This has been very effective and was easy to learn. Other aspects of the audience are being managed in ConvertKit. For example, we have segments to show who has registered but has not yet created a profile. This helps us followup effectively with clear invitations.

Graphics: Kevin Richardson created the initial graphic and then I added some of the other branding elements from HHN. Canva has been really helpful for collaboration and Circle released a spaces template pack last week that I immediately put to use.

🖼 Media: A summit is a media opportunity like no other. Every session will be recorded and then provided as a replay inside Circle – increasing the value of the network for years to come. Each 20 minute interview is connected to a profile so people can get to know the person’s work better.

If you want to learn more about the Maple Skills Framework, and measure your own skills in 16 essential areas of web-design, click here to take a free skills assessment.

Join the summit, November 15-18th, 2022

The summit is free and open to all. Come learn about what’s happening to fight oil & gas at the Halt the Harm Network summit.


In conclusion, It’s fun to put the skills framework to the test in something beyond website design. I hope this post has given some insight into what is possible when you have the right tools, systems, and team in place. 

Ryan Clover

Designer and founder of Maple Creative, providing technical wizardry for activists, educators, and small business owners who are out to change the world.