Wondering how to run or improve your virtual sales kickoff?

It’s likely that your most recent SKOs look different compared to the SKOs of prior years. As with most aspects of remote work, taking what was historically a face-to-face event and repurposing it for a fully virtual environment can feel like quite the challenge.

Looking back on our previous virtual SKO events, I’ve pulled together a list to highlight what’s worked for our team and the invaluable lessons we’ve taken away.

If you’re about to run your own virtual SKO, you can choose what works for you.

Our starting point as a team is intent. Preparing each event with a clear list of both knowledge and action objectives for our teams and team leadership.

1. Structure SKO over half-days

Without constraints of travel and lodging, we spread the SKO over 3 afternoons so that customer engagements can still run on the other half of the days.

It helps fight zoom fatigue and means teams are engaged without the worry of a growing work back-log.

Benefit: Actively engaged teams and no work back-log

2. Rally everyone around one common idea, with clear goals in mind

Be intentional about the event. Chances are you will not be able to fit in everything you or your sales leaders would like to.

To help, have a clear list of both knowledge and action objectives that you want your event attendees to leave with, in order of importance.

You can then prioritize the sessions and assess what the best audience and format would be for each.

Pick a common theme that is reflective of your yearly/quarterly objectives. It makes it easier for the team to focus on, provides relevance and excitement, and helps focus everyone’s thinking during tactical sessions.

This is also a great opportunity to provide a cohesive message to refer back throughout the year.

Benefit: Create cohesion to drive the execution of your yearly strategy.

3. Prep all your speakers

Run structured prep sessions with all your internal and external speakers so that their message resonates with the audience and the audience relates to their message.

This is also an opportunity to iron out any virtual technology issues beforehand.

Benefit: Content that is relevant, immediately applicable and that can be expanded upon throughout the year. Also gives you the ability to build threads in between speakers and link content around your common theme.

4. Ensure everyone is represented

Ensure the sessions are relevant to your audience to drive and maintain engagement. Keep the high-level for your main sessions and create smaller group sessions that are laser-focused on specific teams, segments, roles, missions etc. with clear objectives and action plans as an outcome.

Benefit: Increases engagement, retention and contextualizes the information for your team members

5. Mix it up!

Presentations, fireside chats, energisers, panel discussions, stretches, tactical group workshops, presentations, polls, chat activities and games: there are loads of options that you can either do yourself or outsource.

I often call upon consultants and thought leaders to support our events, whilst we develop more specific content ourselves.

Benefit: Increase retention, drive engagement and create memorable moments

6. Over-communicate before, during and after

Know Before You Go - 10 min calls or asynchronous videos are shared ahead of the event to rally the teams, lay the logistics and expectations & build momentum ahead of time.

This ensures everyone has the right information and is ready to get going during the event.

Create an SKO Slack channel and release pieces of information every day (e.g. speaker’s bio, stats, puzzles or instructions for example).

Quickly edit and publish the recordings of each session in your content management or learning management systems so that it is front of mind for those who missed sessions.

For follow-up actions (follow-up sessions, action plans, collaterals etc.), schedule deep-dive follow-up sessions on some of the content to keep it fresh and build-up skills/knowledge.

Share the team input from the tactical session and how it will be implemented to support everyone

Benefit: Drive engagement, readiness and accountability on follow-up.

7. Virtual is Global

One of the perks of virtual SKOs is that you have access to speakers from all around the world, as well as people you may not have been able to bring to a face-to-face conference. Another perk is that everyone in the team can easily ask questions via the chat and you can get through far more questions.

Benefit: Get awesome speakers! Drive engagement, and readiness as well as ensure that every voice is being heard.

8. Remember the fun!

Include mini-games throughout, make them 5 to 90 minutes depending on time and the size of the team. Mini Jeopardy, role-plays, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, word bingo, and more. You can also invest in online escape games, murder mysteries, etc.

It’s a great opportunity to create healthy competition and recognise people who did great work! Think of your award ceremony and how you can best recognise people in your team.

Benefit: Drives engagement, sets good examples of what good looks like, increases motivation to do well, team bonding, collective memories

9. Onboarding

Use the best of your SKO content as part of your new hire onboarding to ensure everyone is aligned on strategic goals, understands the role they play in it and can relate to follow-up actions.

Benefit: Align early to strategic goals, increase ramp-up and bridge the strategy-execution understanding

10. Measure engagement, gather feedback

Measure engagement and gather feedback to either improve the following day, or for future events. The information you gather from your teams will help you plan follow-up activities and build better kickoff and team events in the future.

Benefit: Drives sustainability of SKO content and drives improvement on follow-up actions and future events.