Every event is a learning experience, and this year’s sales kickoff taught us a lot in terms of what we did right and what we can do better next time. Below we’ve shared ten crucial takeaways from our SKO that you can put to use when planning your own event.
1. Send continuous reminders on multiple forms of communication before and throughout the event
Getting everyone prepared and aligned for the SKO so there’s a baseline of knowledge set coming in the door can have a huge impact on the success of the event.
To make sure everyone did the pre-work or even received the materials, it is essential to send multiple reminders to the attendees on every possible line of communication available to them. That means posting reminders in Slack, sending agendas over email, posting emails in your sales enablement application, and even having everyone download special technology for the event such as a mobile application or chat tool. Cover all your bases and don’t assume everyone got or opened your first message.
2. Have clear objectives for the event— and follow through on them
It is crucial to set expectations for attendees and speakers so presenters and audience alike come prepared and are aligned on those objectives.
In our case, we used our sales kickoff to bring two large sales teams together following an acquisition to teach the reps about new products, cross-selling opportunities, and also just to give them an opportunity to get to know one another.
Often with sales kickoffs, and certainly with ours, there is such a wealth of information to share with attendees that truly meeting your objectives requires follow-up and post-work. At our event, we were able to see where our sellers had the most questions about new products, so we know which training materials to follow up with. We also ran a survey to get feedback from the reps on what they wanted as their next steps.
3. Drive engagement for remote audience
When planning your SKO, really think about how you will integrate live and virtual audiences and give those separate audiences a similar experience. To do this we had a livestream of the event for the virtual attendees, a trivia game between sessions through a mobile app, and a Slack channel to monitor remote people and keep them engaged and answer their questions.
But tracking who is watching from home and monitoring whether they have had a chance to ask any questions is challenging when you’re focused on making the live event a great experience for the attendees who made it out. We realized we could have assigned more prep work for remote audiences in terms of identifying deals or accounts they’d like to discuss and coming prepared with specific questions after reviewing the agenda, topics, and speakers beforehand.
4. Utilize high performers
The SKO is a perfect time to teach and upskill your sales reps using peer-to-peer training. Everyone is in the same room and focused on the same topics. This was especially important for us this time around when we are combining two sales teams and teaching everyone about new products.
To really take advantage of the occasion, we prompted high performing reps to interject with their experience and examples whenever possible. We also had several presentations on customer use cases and deal reviews by top performers built into the schedule to really spotlight them.
5. Time management is key
Have a strategy in place to politely handle presenters in order to keep on schedule and keep audience engagement up. It’s tough to be the Timing Police, but it is necessary for a successful event. CEOs and other executives can get really excited at these opportunities to directly address and work with their teams in person, and as a result can tend to run over their allotted time. Similarly, if a guest presenter runs long in the beginning of the day, that puts the rest of the day off track and can affect morale by eating into happy hour, travel time, or another presenter’s time.
That’s why when it comes to planning a SKO or other company event, it is better to overestimate the amount of time each speaker will need, especially when Q&A is involved. Make sure to receive speakers’ presentations prior to the event and to practice with the presenters to ensure that they are engaged and within their time slot.
If you schedule a presentation to run from 12-1PM and it runs over into lunchtime, or if you schedule a panel to run from 430-5PM and the day runs long, the audience will drop off very quickly— they’ll be hungry, tired, distracted, or simply frustrated that their plans have been interrupted. If you schedule a panel to run from 1130AM-1PM and the session ends at 1240PM, no one will be upset about a longer break period between sessions or an opportunity to shorten the day.
6. Tech is make it or break it
In today’s world, having a firm grasp on the technical logistics of the event is the make it or break it factor for the event, even if your SKO is 100 percent in person. Microphones, cameras, presentations, and communication tools all need to run smoothly for the event to stay on course. Make sure your executives and presenters understand the technology and set up before they go on. In our last SKO, we weren’t as prepared with the technology as we were this time, and it made all the difference.
Technology can also affect audience engagement and the overall experience. Try to take laptops out of equation to discourage attendee distraction. We used a special mobile app just for our SKO so reps could use their phones instead of their laptops. The app allowed us to receive and respond to comments and questions, conduct on-the-spot surveys, and play games like trivia.
7. Have backup plans and backup plans for your backup plans
Meet in person with your coordination team at the venue the day before the event to review, prepare, and test your technology and feel out any potential issues with audience or presenter set up. Make a list of every potential scenario that could happen and have a backup plan for it— whether that means multiple microphones or multiple chat venues to communicate with attendees.
8. Have an event coordination team
One thing we did differently this time that really enabled us to ensure the event ran smoothly was having a coordination team in the room monitoring everything and making adjustments as needed.
We had people at the front and back of the room monitoring tech and events. They could then communicate and address any concerns on a private Slack channel for organizers and orchestrators. This setup allowed our team to make on-the-fly adjustments without disrupting the speakers.
For example, there was an audio issue with the microphones at one point. Instead of stopping the entire event, the tech team at the front of the room and the enablement team at the back of the room decided over the Slack channel to coordinate a break in presentations during which the audio was fixed.
9. Utilize your sales learning and enablement tools for prep for and during event
As practitioners of “drinking our own champagne,” we have many great sales enablement and readiness tools to choose from for enriching our SKO process. We used Brainshark to send out an expectation document and introduction video before the event and a survey after the event, that way we can measure viewership and engagement.
Bigtincan Content Hub played a huge role in this year’s SKO. It enabled us to make videos and materials available to everyone before, during, and following the event.
There was one instance where we were able to help a rep with a deal right away by uploading collateral to the Content Hub immediately following a conversation at the event. Having that shared space to make content easily and instantly accessible allowed for quick reacting and pivoting on our part.
10. Make it fun!
Add levity to the event. It’s a lot of information packed into a few days and can be mentally exhausting for attendees. We incorporated a Halloween-themed trivia game as well as a 3D scavenger hunt using Bigtincan XR, which upwards of 60 reps participated in! It gave us a break from business-focused conversations and an opportunity to just have some fun as a group. Reps even cited these activities as highlights from the event in our post-SKO survey.
We hope our experience helps you plan your own event.
You can get more tips and resources for planning a fantastic sales kickoff by downloading our SKO Toolkit here.