Conference vs Summit

A Detailed Guide To Help You Differentiate Between Summit & Conference


If you have been working on the internet long enough, possibilities are, that you have encountered invitations to a virtual summit or an online business conference. These terms are synonymous, but if I ask you the difference between conference and summit, would you be able to tell the difference?

Did you know there are closely 250,000 conferences and conventions held every year in the United States alone? It is no surprise that B2B exhibitions contributed $100 billion to U.S. GDP in 2019. With so many B2B events to be present and show at, it can be challenging to make a decision on which ones are worth your time and spend.

Even if you limit your organization to events specific to your industry, you could still be faced with hundreds of options – not to mention the confusion surrounding conferences and summits, and the way they differ. In this guide, we will break down the differences between the two events.


A conference is a large meeting in which individuals from a certain company or industry gather to talk about topics associated with their field. They are usually somewhat formal, and speakers are selected ahead of time to deliver presentations or participate in panel discussions.

A few conferences are ticketed events that are open to the public. They vary in exclusivity. A few are open to all, while others require an invite.

What is the difference between a conference and a summit? These defining elements will help you understand where they vary:

  • Conferences can be used to promote your brand – Companies hold and sponsor conferences to get their name out in the industry and establish themselves as key players in their space. Consider Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference, for instance – it is a big part of the company’s brand. They have established themselves as the leaders in the CRM space by holding such a wonderful program year after year. When done correctly, a conference can be an excellent PR investment.
  • Conferences have a wider target audience – Rather than simply a select group, conferences are for a wide range of professionals in a given field of industry. They even last longer, with some having multiple days of activities. Like summits, conferences have key speakers who share their professional opinions and perspectives, though those opinions may draw attention to a problem associated with their business. But unlike summits, the audience listens and rarely has the opportunity to take part in discussions. They pick up, and then they associate with the host and other attendees later.
  • Conferences are typically open-ended – Regarding a conference versus summit, conferences never have an end goal. Each speaker has ideas regarding what they would like their audiences to take away from their presentation, but conferences are more about sharing information than solving problems. It is a place to get new ideas to take back to work with you.

Why attends conferences?

Conferences are decent venues to know about the newest ideas circulating in any industry. Typically, the ones who speak at them are thought leaders who have written about topics in their field and are sharing information with others. Every time people have been to a conference, they have walked away with at least a few new ideas swirling in their heads.


A summit is usually a one-off, standalone event with a comparatively limited focus. Presence and the chance to be available at the event may be solely by an invite.

  • Summits typically focus on a specific problem – For example, the problem may be a trending international situation. Whatsoever the focus, summit trade events will have a well-structured agenda with public announcements from public figures and leaders who will try to influence attendees with their position or presented solutions. At a summit, groups come together to deal with a problem and hopefully walk away with a solution or an idea of the way to move forward. Afterward, attendees are inclined to have a better sense of belonging and comradery.
  • Summits tend to be formal and dedicated to the interests of a particular group of individuals – The industry experts call out a few examples, company executives, government representatives, surgeons, top physicians, or other high-caliber industry leaders.
  • Summits are all about discussion and idea-sharing – You can look forward to taking part in high-level conversations and hearing from thought leaders in the topic area. In addition, expect every person at the summit to attend all of the sessions, as opposed to break-out panels. You go to a summit when you would like to gain a lot more knowledge.

Why attend a summit?

Since summits cater to a narrow target audience, it is crucial for these organizational leaders and top industry professionals to meet their peers to exchange ideas and address top problems associated with their industry. In addition, summits often draw attention to an international audience, which provides a global perspective when sharing knowledge and engaging in discussion.


Conferences and summits are both idea-exchanging networking events. One focuses on solving problems and overcoming challenges, while another concentrates on gathering additional knowledge and often welcomes more promotional activities.

The most obvious difference between conference and summit is in the way they are carried out. In a virtual summit, you likely will not be participating in the discussion unless you are one of the invited speakers. Instead, you will be focusing on learning the insights and opinions of highly respected professionals within your niche.

In an online conference, however, you are encouraged to take part in discussions, network, and share your point of view on relevant discussion points.

The online conference and virtual summits benefits can drive a significant career, network, and business development for you. Deliberately join attendance-worthy conferences and summits according to your current needs.

To host a virtual summit or online conference, you can always count on, a reliable platform for organizing virtual and hybrid events!

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