Elli and I are talking about how to choose the right summits for you, because this is a question that I get asked a lot at Virtual Summit Search. We’re covering practical and mindful ways to make sure the summits you speak at are in alignment with you and your business. Let’s just jump straight in!


Jenn: It does not have to be difficult to decide which summits to say a resounding YES to. If you’re struggling with picking summits that light you up and get you results, then you’re in the right place, because in this session, we’re going to talk about choosing summits that align with your values.

I’m Jenn, host of Sell With a Summit: Speaker Edition, and I’m so excited to introduce you to the wonderful Elli Runkles, founder of the CEO lounge and a Dare to Lead trained business coach. Thank you so much for being here, Elli.

Elli: Yeah. Thank you. I’m so excited to talk about this topic with your audience today.

Jenn: Yeah, it is so important. I get so many questions about choosing the right summits because it’s so hard to figure out which ones are going to be a fit for you, for your business, for your audience.

So before we dive into all the details about choosing the summit that aligns with your values, can you give us kind of a quick overview of your philosophy around it?

Elli: Yeah. So I will say there are kind of two parts to this question. One is choosing summits that are aligned with your business as a whole and your goals as a whole, as a business.

And then also your sort of guiding values that are what I like to think of as like the foundational principles that guide all of your decisions in your business.

And so there are two layers, I think, to this question. And the first I always, of course, like to start with values by thinking about what are the guiding principles? To me, that’s what values are, is the guiding principles that are just the filter that you use for making decisions in your business. And so the first thing is being really clear on what those values are like what are those kind of non-negotiable things that you really want to embody through your business.

‘Cause values, a lot of times we can think of values like you may have done values exercises where you look at a list of words and then pick out the words that aligned with your values. And that can be a good place to start.

I like to think about values more as… what I encourage my clients to do is establish what I call a purpose statement for your business that is like the overall overarching guiding principle for how you make all of your business decisions and really it comes down to what is the contribution you want to make in the world through your business? What greater impact do you want to have? And that is a good place to start in terms of filtering the decisions that you make.

So I can share, just to give an example: my purpose statement is, “I want to contribute to the advancement of women and marginalized people’s economic power through entrepreneurship.” And so for me, every decision I make is this going to help women and marginalized people grow their businesses, grow their impact through entrepreneurship. And so that is where I start.

And so by getting clear on more than just, “I value efficiency or I value courage or I value, curiosity,” those kinds of things, but having a really clear core statement of this is what I’m about and what I’m trying to do in the world’ is a really good place to start.

And then from there, that’s like the first filter to look at things through, but then also you can think about what are my long- or short-term goals in the business? Who am I really trying to reach? What am I trying to do in more of a practical, pragmatic business sense, and use that as like the secondary filter once you decide, “okay, yes, it does align with my values; now, does it make business sense for me to make this decision?”

Jenn: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I really love that lens of looking at it from that purpose statement, ’cause that’s something a lot of folks don’t talk about. Like you said, we’ve all gone through that list of the different words and it’s great, that helps inform that, but then you can take those and turn it into something that you can actually use. So I love that.

Elli: Awesome.

Jenn: So I’ve seen summit speakers say yes to summits that didn’t really align with them, their audience and expertise, or like you said, their business goals. So why do you feel it’s so important to make sure that there is that alignment, especially with that purpose statement?

Elli: Yeah, so a couple of things. I think one is, I think the reason that people often make those decisions to say yes to a summit that really is not a great fit. I think so often those decisions are based out of scarcity and based out of, “if I don’t say yes to this, nobody’s ever going to invite me to a summit again.” Or I need to say yes to this because I need clients,” right? I need my business to grow, I need people to come in, and so I’m going to say yes to this to get in front of an audience.

And this whole idea of scarcity, I’m pretty pragmatic. And when it comes to making businesses and sometimes it is okay to make a decision on a scarcity. I don’t want to say if you’re making decisions out of scarcity, you’re not living your best life and all of that. Like, it’s okay sometimes, sometimes you have to take on a client that is not a hundred percent aligned because you’ve gotta pay the bills, right?

But when it comes to summits, summits are really more of a long-term strategy for your business. If you say yes to summit, usually you’re saying yes several months before the summit’s even going to happen, and then there’s a lot of work that goes into making that summit happen. And then there’s no guarantee that it’s going to lead to a monetary result right away. It absolutely is going to impact your business. I’ve spoken at several summits and they are such a good strategy for growing your business long-term, but when it comes to those short-term decisions, it’s really not going to have a really quick short-term impact.

And so I think that is something to think about first off is, I don’t have to make this decision from scarcity because like it’s a long-term thing. And so it needs to align with my long-term -business goals and where I’m going and what I want to be doing with my business.

And then another thing to think about too is if you’re saying yes to something and this applies in anything, not just with summits, but if you’re saying yes to something that you really don’t want to do, like, you just have this gut feeling for whatever reason – whether it’s because it doesn’t like align with your values or it doesn’t make sense with your business goals or it’s just a busy time for you that you know you’ve got other priorities – whatever the reason is, if you say yes to something that you really want to say no to it, it leads to resentment. You are going to resent that decision. And when you’re doing something out of resentment, even if it’s like an underlying thing that you’re not even fully aware that you’re resenting, it just doesn’t lead to good results for anybody involved. It’s going to distract you from other things like that really are your big priorities that do align with your values.

And then ultimately, as a summit speaker, it’s typically doesn’t lead to great results for anybody else involved either because you’re resenting the fact that you have to record this presentation in the first place. You’re resenting that like, maybe the audience isn’t that aligned with who you really want to attract, and so you’re feeling resentful because you’re thinking, is this even going to be worth it? Is this going to even lead to results? And so ultimately the experience doesn’t feel good for you, and then also it doesn’t lead to great results for the audience, for the speaker, for the host.

And so it doesn’t work in the long-run, even if you’re saying yes, because like you feel bad to say no. I promise you the host of that summit would rather you say no to something that isn’t a good fit for you than to say yes because you feel guilty or you feel bad and then not end up following through, which is just our nature. You may say yes with even the very best intentions that you’re going to show up, even though you don’t really want to but it just sort of falls apart.

Jenn: Yeah. I fully concur on the host would rather you say no than to show up lackluster. ‘Cause I’ve had folks do that and it sucks like, either they’ve ghosted at the last minute and then you have a spot that you have to fill – or you have to just leave it empty – and/or they don’t promote and they don’t engage and you’re just like, “well, that was… cool?” So don’t feel bad to say no!

Elli: Better for everybody if you say no to things you want to say no to.

Jenn: Yeah. So thank you for covering that; I’m so glad you said that. So what is a specific action step that someone can take right after they’ve finished watching this to start making more aligned summit speaking decisions, and maybe even find more of those summits that align with their values?

Elli: Yeah. So I would say, very first thing, if you haven’t done this already, is do the work to really get clear on what are your values. If that purpose statement that I shared is helpful for you, absolutely take that and try and think about “what is that bigger purpose or contribution that I want to make for my business?”

And then once you’ve gotten clear on that, I would say the best next step is to start seeking out connections and building a network of other, not even necessarily summit hosts or people who’ve spoken at summits, but just people who are in your sphere, in your industry, who align with those values and starting to make as many connections as you can, but specifically being intentional about people who are on a similar mission to you, or have similar goals, like values-aligned goals as you.

And as you start making those connections and building that network, just make it known that you want to speak at summits. Just make that something that you casually bring into conversations or maybe even not so casually, just say, ” I’m really interested in doing this. Have you ever spoken at a summit? What was the experience like, or do you know of anybody who hosts summits?” Just bringing it up in conversation. And if you start doing that while at the same time being intentional about who you’re building a network of people around, you’re making those connections with people who align with your values, then opportunities are just going to come.

It’s not something that happens overnight, but as you intentionally start building out your network those opportunities will come. So that’s what I would recommend doing if that’s a goal that you have.

Jenn: Yeah. And the purpose statement, I definitely agree has gotta be the first step before you go into any of the other stuff we talked about, ’cause that’s going to be a huge way to inform what summits are gonna fit.

And so I know you talked a little bit about the journal prompts before. Is there anything else you want to share with folks before we wrap things up?

Elli: Yeah. So these journal prompts you can grab, it’s just a set of 10 questions that you can use to guide your thinking. And if you’re a journaler, that’s great, use them to journal out on, but you can also just use them as a guide to guide your thinking as you think about whether or not a summit opportunity is a good fit for you.

And that’s basically it, it just will guide you through that process. And then also there’s some tips in there about how to say yes or how to say no, like, once you’ve come to that decision, it’s, “okay, now what’s my next step? How am I gonna move forward with saying yes, or if I am going to say no, how can I do that in a way that still aligns with my values?” So that’s what you can find in this journal prompts.

Jenn: Awesome. I love that you included that, ’cause I know saying yes sometimes feels easy, but sometimes it isn’t, but saying no is always really, really difficult for folks, so that be really helpful!

Elli: Awesome.

Jenn: Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Elli. I’m so excited to see everybody take more steps towards being more aligned with the summits that they speak at.

And so if you haven’t already, go start working on your purpose statement, and if you have any questions for Elli, I’m sure she would be happy to answer them.

So thank you again for being here, Elli!

Elli: Yeah, absolutely. I’m happy to answer any questions that anybody has, for sure.


There were so many great techniques that Elli covered for choosing the right summit, but we covered even more in her full presentation, like red flags to look for in summit invites and how to know when to follow your gut feelings, so you don’t want to miss that. You can get free access to Elli’s presentation and all of the other fantastic sessions we had at Sell With a Summit: Speaker Edition.

Get Elli’s journaling prompts and learn more about Elli here.

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