How to Plan a Virtual Sales Kickoff

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Planning a virtual sales kickoff? This overview of this important internal event will show you challenges, best practices and top tactics for delivering a virtual SKO that energizes, motivates and creates a lasting impact on your sales organization.

After the Covid-19 pandemic, companies across the world are adapted to a remote work landscape. Sales kickoffs, or sales conferences as they’re often called, followed suit, with organizations of every size facilitating their annual events virtually.

Events in 2021 showed that going virtual doesn’t have to hold your event back. With the right mix of content, and healthy planning and preparation, virtual Sales Kickoffs can be just as motivating and energizing as their in-person counterparts.

These internal virtual events are a great way to connect to your sales team, share information, and motivate. Yet planning a virtual event comes with some particular challenges.  

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Top Considerations when Planning a Virtual SKO

Traditionally a sales kickoff is a time to share a lot of new information with your sales team, reflect on the previous year’s sales, and motivate your team for the next year. It might be an action-packed event that staff attends from across the state, country, or globe.

To successfully host a virtual SKO, you will need to adapt certain communication strategies for the virtual landscape.

To connect with your sales team, deliver your content effectively, and create an seamless virtual event, you need to:

• Reimagine what your event is going to look and feel like

• Reimagine what audience participation is going to look like

• Acknowledge that there are limitations

• Have realistic expectations about what can be achieved

• Use technology to both foster, and monitor, engagement

When it comes to what your event is going to look and feel like, keep in mind that the best Sales Kickoff events are fun! It is a time for your sales staff to connect. Here are some ways to foster connection and energy:

• Build relationships and engage in team-building exercises

• Allow teammates to receive awards or win prizes

• Create moments to share a memorable, social, and fun experiences – perhaps a look back on the past year

• Use moments to incorporate higher-production main stage content. Many events bring in guest speakers or music acts to add some fun and engagement to the event.

These are examples of some of the activities of an SKO. A virtual SKO is no different – and aims to incorporate the same elements. Participation, connection, and boosting your sales force are still possible. You will need to be creative and proactively use technology to help build relationships, and boost morale – both during and after your event.

Some of the activities above may make you wonder: What resources do you have at your disposal?

Make Your Budget Work For You

Depending on your budget you can still bring your event to life. However, you do need to be realistic about what your company can afford to provide for your staff.

While there still can be expenses, a virtual SKO can save your company a lot of money. There are no budget requirements for accommodation or travel.

By redirecting your funds to add value to your virtual event will help you to connect to, and motivate your sales team.

Your budget might be big enough to bring the party to your staff! If so, consider some ways to personalize the event.

• Deliver special meals, care packages, or snack baskets

• Send out event or company branded gifts (Coffee mugs, t-shirts, journals)

• Intersperse vouchers for stores, entertainment, services, or travel

Depending on your budget, you may consider that your staff has a family, too. Instead of sending vouchers for a single person, imagine the personal touches of sending a gift for a newborn, or a fun experience for the whole family.  

What are the industry standard best practices when hosting a virtual SKO?

Virtual SKO Best Practices

Experts suggest that virtual SKO best practices incorporate traditional elements of business as well as new factors that relate specifically to the virtual space. Hosting a virtual SKO event includes a lot of the same preparation and organization that you would do for any event.

• Plan, plan and plan again

• Manage time effectively

• Work to a set agenda

• Align all members or teams, and clarify their contributions

• Two-screen format ( You need to select staff who can help you to monitor the audience, record polls, or use chat during a presentation.)

• Designated presenters, facilitators, and staff to oversee each part of communication (E.g. You might use a live chat feature as a part of your event.)

• Record sessions

Hosting a virtual SKO event means relying on technology and understanding exactly how to use social and meeting-hosting platforms. You will need to check which platforms will work best for your company.

You will need to research the various options, or, check with your IT staff to see which platforms may be the most suitable.

How can you help boost the energy in your event?

Virtual SKO Energy Boosters

Do you have a theme in mind for your event? Event facilitators often agree that having a positive overarching theme helps people feel connected to your message and the presenters. A great theme concept can have a powerful visual impact, and boost participation.

When thinking of themes, consider using words that incorporate positive, aspirational tones and energize. Some power words to get the ideas rolling:

• Carpe Diem, Beyond Excellence, Believe, Achieve

• Accelerate, Ignite

• New Frontiers, Breakthrough, Beyond

• Infinity, Limitless

Virtual SKO Formats

Another way to keep the energy of your SKO high, is in how you organize the agenda. Hosting a virtual SKO means that you have to rethink the format of your SKO event.

There are standard best practices that can help you plan a memorable virtual SKO and maintain engagement.

• Avoid longer sessions with one speaker

• Incorporate breaks – particularly, invite attendees to get up and move around

• Plan in multiple group formats – mainstage content, breakout sessions, social sessions

• During sessions, encourage attendees to be on camera and participate, but also allow for moments when this isn’t necessary

Challenges when Planning a Virtual SKO

What challenges do you face during a virtual SKO? Preparing and planning a great agenda, having inspiring speakers, slides, and video clips tick all the right boxes. You can plan a great event, in theory, but a virtual setting has unique challenges. Working from home can mean that staff is sharing their living and working space with their family.

Ideally, you would like to have everyone’s undivided attention to communicate effectively and have a powerful impact. In a virtual space, your staff is connected to you differently. You are not able to scan the crowd and read the proverbial room. People are engaging using a different medium that must also, in turn, be used constructively - to be effective.

• What does this mean for you, and your company SKO?

• How does this impact hosting a virtual SKO event?

• What do you need to do to guarantee engagement?

You have to proactively restructure and design your SKO to meet the challenges of a virtual space. There are both positive and negative aspects to a virtual SKO that need to be addressed.

Rethinking Your SKO Timeline & Potential Audience

Hosting a virtual SKO event means that you are not limited to the set time that your company may have spent, at one location.

You are also not limited by location. What does this mean? It means that you are free to include staff or other parties that may not have been included in the brick-and-mortar style event.

• You can potentially create higher, continuous levels of engagement

• You can expand the framework of your SKO

• You can include other areas such as e-learning, training, and marketing

• You can incorporate other stakeholders. ( Who may not have been invited to your annual SKO event.)

• Short sessions over a few days

• Speakers, or guests, from other locations

Depending on the size of your company you may need to consider what time-zone best suits the most number of employees. Recording sessions and making them available at a later time is a way remote employees can still engage and take part in the event. Or, consider hosting different sessions for different time zones.

Depending on how your host the virtual event, most virtual event platforms should be able to facilitate these longer or more complex formats.

Developing your Virtual Mindset

You have to take factors into account that are specific to screen time, audience engagement, and the virtual space. You need to make technology work for you – and not against you. Screen fatigue, technical glitches, and dry presentations will make your event memorable for the wrong reasons.

You can use technology, and traditional methods, combined to encourage participation and make your event more social.

• Staff can post selfies to social media, or an SKO page/ account, with their favorite takeaways or moments in the event

• You can ask your sales team to add music to a playlist (which plays during breaks)

• Use breakout rooms for discussions, and team building

• Use Live Chat and take polls

• Plan time for audience feedback, questions, and breaks

How Long Should Sessions Be?

In long sessions, whether virtual or in-person events, people become restless, attention drops off and participation plummets. Thus, consider:

• Breaking sessions down into smaller, manageable chunks

• Scheduling frequent breaks

• Condensing presentations to 20 minutes sessions, interspersed with breakout sessions that offer more engagement

To help increase audience engagement in your event you can give your staff the material to preview before the event. Reviewing material can help your staff familiarise themselves with the information that is being presented. It can also give them more time to digest the information and, use the time in the event to offer opinions, questions, or comments that are relevant.

Virtual SKO Events Help Your Team Stay Connected

Your virtual SKO is an opportunity for your staff to be inspired, feel more connected to the company, and feel inspired to reach their sales goals. Hosting a virtual SKO is not without its challenges, yet shifting to a virtual mindset will help you to adapt to a virtual landscape and forge a new path ahead, that can be equally as rewarding.