Sales Kickoffs: What Works and What Doesn’t

It’s February—which means we’re in the thick of sales kickoff season. It’s a time when we align strategy, build camaraderie and generate excitement about the upcoming year.

And when conference calls, virtual meetings and email are becoming the bulk of our interactions, leveraging these face-to-face opportunities is critical.

After a recent whirl of SKOs, punctuated by our own Decker team kickoff last week, here’s a quick 3×3 rundown of what works and what doesn’t.

What Works:

  • Play to people’s strengths. When it comes to highlighting your key speakers and leaders, consider new presentation formats. Who is great at commanding a keynote? Who might be better in moderated conversation? On a panel? Pre-recorded on video? Is there another format for relaying the same information? Change it up! It keeps your audience on their toes.
  • Create space to build relationships. The kickoff is likely your one (and only) chance to bring your entire team together. One of the biggest benefits is to allow those relationships to happen. If it was just about getting everyone to hear the same message, there are plenty of ways to do that via your favorite webcast technology. You spent a lot of money flying them in for this event, so make it count. While tempting to pack in another session over lunch, try adding a “no agenda” part to your agenda. They’ll catch up, share war stories and best practices, and have a network of people who they can call on to help them hit their goals.
  • Manage your agenda. Most large events never provide a detailed agenda, so participants just hold on for the ride. Totally fine and expected, especially since there are so many last-minute shifts and changes to the schedule. The only problem is that without a great emcee (which we highly recommend), people don’t know what’s coming up next unless you manage the cadence of the event. Do that by telling them the most important thing they need to know – when they’ll get a break! Be sure that you are clear about when/where you need people, and for how long. Also, add more breaks than you think people need. They’re gonna be drinking a lot of coffee…

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Keeping butts in seats all day. Don’t forget to schedule some physical activity to get the blood flowing! Nobody wants to sit all day. And depending on the weather outside – giving them a chance to get some sunshine is a major bonus!
  • At all costs, avoid repetition! A nod to the theme is one thing, but rehashing it thousands of times is not. While good ideas are worth repeating, be careful not to overdo it. It can backfire. What’s the best way to filter this? Do a dress rehearsal with all the key stakeholders.
  • Packing in too much – for too long! Shorten the length of presentations so that presenters have to ruthlessly prioritize their messages. Then punctuate those talks with enough breaks to let the content sink in.

Have you been to a kickoff this year? What else would you add? Here’s some more advice for planning your next high-stakes event.