Summit vs Conference

Summit vs Conference: What’s the Difference?

Take a closer look at the differences between summits and conferences to choose the best option for your event. Learn more about summits vs conferences here
April 3, 2023

Are you planning to host a future event and are confused about the differences between a summit and a conference? Don’t worry, you are not the only one! Conferences and summits are two terms that are often confused, but by taking a closer look, you will quickly learn that they both serve different but important purposes. 


What is a summit? 

A summit is an event that gathers experts and leaders in the industry to share ideas and have a conversation on a very specific topic or issue. 

Unlike online conferences that are designed to encourage audience participation, virtual summits require the audience to give their full attention and listen to the speakers. They are reserved for people of high-importance in an industry or organizations that have received an invitation.

in-person summit

Here are a few things to know about summits:

Summits focus on conversations and idea-sharing

When attending a summit, participants have the opportunity to engage in high-level discussions and learn from industry experts and business leaders on a specific topic. According to 99Firms, 99% of speaker panels could be characterized as gender-inclusive. Choosing a diverse group of guest speakers can lead the conversation in a unique and thoughtful direction. When people participate in a summit, their objective is to gain as much information as possible, therefore it is often expected that participants take part in all of the sessions.

Summits incline to be formal, ritualistic, and dedicated to the interests of a particular group of people

Summits tend to be targeted to people of high-importance  that are influential in their industry, for example surgeons, government representatives, and company executives.

Summits focus on a specific issue

For example, in 1996, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization organized a summit in Rome to focus on world’s hunger. This type of event tends to have a well-thought-out agenda and selection of participants, who are usually powerful people such as leaders or people of great influence. These people will discuss their point of views and present solutions to a specific issue. The goal is for attendees to discuss the issues of a chosen topic and to walk out of the event with actionable solutions for it.

Why attend a summit? 

Taking part in a summit is a valuable opportunity to make new connections and gain detailed knowledge on a particular topic. It is also a way to stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in the industry, and to build your reputation amongst experts in the field.


What is a conference? 

By definition, a conference is a formal meeting that gathers a large number of people from the same industry to share ideas and discuss a particular topic, generally for several days. Some activities of conferences include workshops, networking sessions, and speakers. 

Conferences are not as exclusive as summits. They may or may not require participants to register ahead of time and get tickets that can be free of charge or not. Some conferences can be reserved exclusively for people who’ve received an invitation.

in-person conference

Here are a few components of this type of event:

In most cases, conferences are open-ended

Conferences are more open to information-sharing and networking rather than finding solutions to a problem. It is always recommended that speakers end their presentations with a call-to-action, but people attend conferences to get new ideas and gain more knowledge.

Conferences are targeted to a broader audience

Conferences are hosted for a large group of people working in a specific field or industry, rather than being targeted to a narrow group of individuals. Guest speakers deliver presentations to share their opinions, experiences, and knowledge on a specific topic, and often encourage the audience to engage in discussions. It is a great way for participants to network with other attendees and speakers.

Conferences can be a tool for promotion 

Sponsoring a conference  is a great way for companies to promote their brand to a broader audience while supporting a good cause, which is why many companies sponsor events such as conferences. According to EventMB, sponsorships make up 23% of virtual event revenue for planners. Because conferences gather a large audience of people working in the same industry, it is the perfect set up to promote your products and services to new customers or even investors.

Why attend a conference? 

If you are looking to increase your knowledge or learn new things on a specific topic, then you should definitely attend a conference. Moreover, it will be an opportunity for you to connect with new people who share the same interests as you and to strengthen relationships you might already have with peers working in the same industry. It’s estimated that up to 76% of all event attendees go for networking purposes, according to Zippia. Conferences are also the place to be if you are interested in learning about the latest trends in your industry.

Summit vs conference: A more detailed look 

You may be wondering which is better to accomplish your objectives: summit or conference? 

Let us help you see clearer by taking a closer look at the differences between summits vs conferences .

Target audience 

A conference differs from a summit in that they are not directed to the same target audience. Summits cater to an exclusive audience of specific interests, whereas conferences are organized for a more general audience of people working in the same industry.

People attending a summit are usually of high-importance such as leaders and experts of an industry, or individuals with a lot of influence. 

Read and Learn: What our Survey Data Revealed About What Attracts the Most People to Events

Discussions topics and goals 

Whether it is a summit or a conference, both events are designed to encourage networking and idea-sharing. However, hosting a summit vs a conference will not help you achieve the same objectives.

Conferences are more focused on educating attendees, sharing ideas and opinions, and are typically open-ended. Although speakers usually end their presentation with a call-to-action, people don’t leave a conference with a solution to a problem, but with more knowledge. 

On the contrary, summits gather people of high-importance, such as country leaders, to discuss a specific issue and the end-goal is to find solutions to resolve it.

Style and program flow 

Summits have a set event agenda and participants attend all of the sessions and presentations. The audience is usually required to stay quiet and does not get the opportunity to speak, unless they have been invited to do so by the organizer or the speaker itself. Participants can focus on what has been discussed during the event and gather the information to reach out to the speakers once the event is over. 

It is the opposite when it comes to conferences. This type of event encourages people to engage in discussions, to exchange ideas, and to network with other participants. To facilitate participation, conference organizers often divide the audience into break-out sessions to make it easier for attendees to communicate amongst each other. Also, conferences are the perfect place for businesses to promote their brand, which is not necessarily the case for summits.

Plan your next event

Hopefully by now, you have a better understanding of the differences between summit vs conference. While they both promote networking and idea-exchanging, summits focus on resolving an issue and target a specific group of people, whereas conferences are hosted for a wider audience to exchange ideas and gain additional knowledge.

Planning to host a virtual conference or a virtual summit? Reach out to us to book a demo!


Hubilo is the webinar platform built for marketers that helps you 2X your pipeline. Founded in 2015, Hubilo's powerful engagement features, dedicated client experience team, and custom branding tools have helped create over 12K virtual events & webinars, creating hundreds of millions of minutes of high-engagement experiences and counting. Headquartered in Bengaluru and San Francisco, Hubilo's 200+ employees are dedicated to enabling webinars & virtual events that convert.

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