It’s been well over a year since business events were flipped upside down due to the pandemic. Even though travel has picked up and more people are returning to the office, the look and function of events is still something of a wildcard.
As Q3 comes to a close and sales leaders are making big plans for next year, one question they’re grappling with is whether they should choose a live or a virtual sales kickoff meeting (SKO), or try to do both.
Here at Clarity Experiences, we’re a firm advocate for the hybrid experience, particularly at a time when your attendees’ preferences will likely vary across the board. Here’s what you need to know about planning a sales kickoff event, hybrid-style.
The Building Blocks of a Sales Kickoff Meeting
For many companies, the sales kickoff meeting is the one time each year where C-suite execs, sales teams, and managers gather under one roof. Together, they share in the company’s recent successes, soak in the current state of the company, and spark interest in the upcoming year’s vision and goals.
Can all of the above be done remotely? You bet it can! But there’s something to be said about the real energy and excitement that only an in-person meeting can create.
Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of a sales kickoff meeting, let’s look at its various moving parts and what these look like in a hybrid meeting.
The State of the Union
Most sales kickoff meetings open with a State of the Union-type speech. The CEO takes center stage and expresses their gratitude for the people whose achievements they’re currently celebrating. They share more details on where the company is today and where it’s heading in the near future.
It’s an informative moment, sure. But more importantly, an effective State of the Union is designed to get the sales team excited. This is the time where they get energized and focused before going into their breakout sessions, where they will go through the rest of the sales kickoff meeting with the company’s future vision in mind.
For live events: This usually involves a stage, professional lighting, a nice backdrop, and a screen so the people in the back can see clearly.
For virtual events: Planners should try to recreate the spirit of the room digitally. This means....multiple camera angles to show the stage and live components of the event as well as the audience's reactions. Using a Jib Camera which you don't see often in just a live event will be a game change for your virtual audience.
After an emotional introduction, sales teams split up into working groups to focus on specific functions or projects. These breakout sessions hold their interest, keep them engaged, and teach and inspire attendees with information they’ll actually use.
For live events: Breakout sessions are about drilling down into smaller group discussions. This is your chance to be more hands on and interactive within smaller teams. This often involves multiple private spaces that can accommodate smaller groups.
For virtual events: You’ll want to keep the emphasis on engagement. Choose tools that let attendees interact with each other in smaller groups, ask the moderator questions, and offer real-time participation.
Team Building Activities
One of the most essential elements in an SKO is fostering a sense of teamwork. Team building activities create trust, build familiarity, and encourage idea-sharing.
For live events: The sky is nearly the limit. You can use the same spaces you used for breakout sessions or even take your team building outdoors.
For virtual events: Gamification is digital gold! Use a points or rewards system to encourage participation. Have individual team members or entire teams compete against each other to win prizes and bragging rights.
Networking is arguably the most critical part of an SKO. This is your employees’ chance to make connections with your company’s higher-ups as well as other sales team members. Each person should leave feeling more connected to the people within their company.
For live events: Networking is usually combined with end-of-event entertainment. That’s why we suggest Give people a chance to connect before bringing in the “grand finale.”
For virtual events: Networking is one of the hardest aspects of a live SKO to recreate. Using engaging, interactive technology and making company leaders available during the virtual event can help to close the gaps in making more inter-company connections.
How to Bring an SKO Under the Hybrid Umbrella
Putting on a live event is a lot of work. So is hosting a virtual event. And doing both? It might not be a cakewalk, but given our current climate with an ongoing pandemic, hybrid might make the most sense so that more people can participate and benefit from the morale boost of an SKO.
We recommend doing the following to bridge the gaps between a physical and virtual salesforce:
Record Now, Stream Later
Hosting a virtual SKO doesn’t have to mean live streaming the entire thing from start to finish. Record your live event and use it to create content for the virtual event. This way, your audience gets the most important information and can “cut the fluff” of downtime in between sessions.
Rethink Virtual Entertainment
Live entertainment just doesn’t translate as well on a computer screen. That’s why we suggest taking an entirely different approach to virtually entertaining your remote audience. Consider fun activities like a live mind-reading, trivia game show, or comedy show, for example.
Best Practice: Approach Your SKOs as Two Separate Events
By now, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that a hybrid event is really two different pages from the same book. Hybrid events have a live and virtual component. The two formats don’t translate beat for beat, moment by moment, which is why we don’t recommend setting up a Zoom call for your virtual attendees and letting it roll.
Some hybrid events have the live and virtual component at the same time and some make it two separate events. One best practice Clarity has experienced that works well is when the virtual event usually happens after the live version so that you can go back to find the event’s best moments, add production value, and share it in a way that makes sense to a remote viewer.
But if it means gaining more participation from your salesforce by letting them choose the format that works best for them, the ROI will more than justify the extra effort.
From a Budget Perspective
Even though you’re treating your hybrid SKO as two separate events, you don’t necessarily have to budget for two separate events. We suggest setting a budget of 1.5x what it would be if you were doing just live or just hybrid.
That’s because some of your costs will overlap, such as repurposing the content from your live event for your virtual audience. And since each event will essentially be on a smaller scale than if you had a larger audience attending the same event, you can save money on both sides.
From an Outcome Perspective
Think back to the main goal of your SKO meeting. It’s more than just a nicety — it’s a huge opportunity to motivate your sales team. You’re feeding them with what they need to go out and do what they do best. When you transform your live event into a virtual-friendly format, you increase your chances of helping your remote teams learn and absorb the right things so they can make a difference, too.
Ready to start planning your hybrid SKO? Reach out to the experts at Clarity Experiences.