October 27, 2020
Updated: January 28, 2022

3 Tips For Running a Successful Virtual SKO

So, here we are again. Planning for another virtual sales kickoff (SKO) and trying to make it as engaging, motivating and interactive as the in-person SKOs of ages past. Easy, right? 

Whether or not this is your first virtual rodeo, there are always new challenges involved in pulling off a good virtual event. And sales kickoffs are probably one of the most important events — virtual or not — for any company (no pressure). 

First thing’s first: What’s a SKO? 

The purpose of a sales kickoff meeting is to motivate your sales reps, sales managers and other revenue-driving stakeholders for the upcoming year. Think of it as the pep rally before the big game (as in, your next fiscal year). You want to get your revenue teams PUMPED to rep your brand and bring home the gold.

A typical sales kickoff agenda includes time to reflect on previous sales strategies, celebrate last year’s successes, and get your teams fired up to push the envelope even further this year.

But a successful sales kickoff should be more than just an opportunity to gather your reps in the same (virtual) room. In fact, many companies now use the term RKO (that stands for Revenue Kickoff, in case the business world didn’t already have enough acronyms) instead of SKO to reflect the audience of an entire go-to-market team: customer success, marketing, and sales.

As you start planning to host a virtual SKO (or RKO, if you feel like getting fancy with it), you’ll need to really think about your company’s broader priorities, pivot where you need to, and loop in all relevant stakeholders — even if they haven’t attended in the past. 

But how can you actually host a good sales kickoff event that’s 100% virtual? 

Your SKO is going to look and feel different

There’s no getting around it. Virtual events just don’t really compare to the energy of in-person events. That’s right, we said it. Once you’ve made your peace with the fact that your virtual kickoff probably isn’t going to look or feel the same as the in-person SKOs of the good ol’ days, you’re ready to begin.

Don’t get us wrong. It’s still possible to pull off a really great virtual SKO that keeps up engagement and morale. When done right, a virtual kickoff event will leave your teams feeling energized and ready to crush their new goals. 

We’ll walk you through three steps you can follow to plan — and actually pull off — an engaging and impactful virtual SKO.

1. Announce your event, then announce it again

Your SKO announcement is one of the most important parts of getting the entire company excited and ready for your kickoff. Making sure every team is aware of the event is the first step. This calls for … a captivating internal email!

We know, we know. How “captivating” can an email ever really be? This is where your rockstar marketing and content teams come in. Host a virtual brainstorming session and let the creative juices flow. 

If there’s one thing your SKO announcement shouldn’t be, it’s a One and Done email blast. It’s easy for one email to get lost in the shuffle and … it’s boring. Instead, use a series of engaging content that builds on itself and that gets your teams HYPED. Plan on creating a set of emails to send over the months leading up to your SKO that remind teams about how to prepare, what sessions will be most relevant to them and (most importantly) why they should be getting excited for the big day!

Talk through your strategy with your marketing and content teams and ask the following questions:

  • Have you sent out a calendar placeholder? Sending out a ‘Save the Date’ calendar placeholder to all attendees well in advance gives everyone the chance to plan around it and reschedule conflicting meetings if necessary. No excuses for no-shows here!
  • Who is the email going to? Do you need to segment and personalize your emails for different teams across the company? Is there a full schedule or suggestions for specific roles? Think through the email flow and decide what makes the most sense for your event.
  • Where will the event be hosted? Yes, the event is virtual, but the internet is kind of a big place (or so we hear). What virtual event platform will you be using? Include these details in your invite so your teams know where to find you.
  • What instructions or permissions are needed ahead of time? If your teams need briefing and instructions on how to sign up for, install or navigate the tools you’ll be using, now’s the time to let them know. 
  • What new content needs to be created? Whether it’s a blog post, animation or fun videos, think of what new content you need to create to let your teams know what they can expect to learn during the kickoff.

2. Keep things fresh

We’ll say it again. Virtual events are hard. Employees are remote, separated from their team members and missing the genuine connection and energy that comes from in-person kickoffs. This naturally leads to a lack of enthusiasm and makes it easier to get distracted by other things like their email, barking dog, family members or Netflix.

So how do you get your remote teams to care about your kickoff? And what’s the secret to capturing their attention despite not being under the same roof? Keep things fresh, fun and relevant. Hell, you can even hire an inexpensive DJ to spin tunes between sessions.

virtual sko, tips for keeping virtual event participants engaged

Here are our tried and true tactics for keeping virtual event participants engaged:

  • Change formats often. Using one format for hours on end usually results in bored and disengaged attendees. Think about switching formats regularly as the kickoff gets underway. This could look like a live-stream presentation, followed by a fun pre-recorded video, followed by smaller breakout sessions for Q&A and so on. Have you heard of Menti? It’s a fun tool for polling employees and sharing poll results in real-time. 
  • Have fun with it. Think about the sessions you’d want to attend and make it happen. Feel like a virtual escape room would make a good team-building exercise? Do it. Company-wide trivia between sessions to test how well your attendees were listening? Go for it — and have some good prizes up for grabs too. These fun interactions can be the difference between a decent SKO and one that your teams will be talking about for months. 
  • Get to the point. No one wants to hear something they’ve already heard drawn out and repeated over and over again just to fill time. After a while your presenters will start to sound like the teachers from the Peanuts cartoons (wah, wah, wah). Save your teams the headache and get right to the point. 
  • Take breaks: Taking some time to clear your head after a long virtual session helps prevent Zoom fatigue. Plan several breaks throughout the day, giving your attendees 15 to 20 minutes to leave their computers and do what they need to do — whether it’s to grab a coffee, do some stretches, pet their dog or use the bathroom. Don’t want your attendees to stray too far? Host breaks that are interactive and get people moving, like stretching or jogging or place. The important takeaway here is not to stuff your SKO schedule with speakers from 8 a.m. through to 3 p.m. Let the event — and your attendees — breathe.

3. Set clear objectives

Take a second and ask yourself: what do I really want my teams to get out of this event? Setting clear objectives as the baseline of your SKO keeps the event on track and valuable for everyone to tune into. 

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting your SKO objectives:

  • Make them measurable. If the goals you share with the company can’t be measured, you may as well be sharing them with a genie in a lamp because you’re not making goals you’re making wishes. Unmeasurable goals make it hard to know if you’ve ever actually achieved them. When you set goals that are easy to measure and have real results to work toward, your teams will be more motivated to make it happen.
  • Make them specific. Sales goals should always be specific, clearly communicated and understood by everyone on the team. Lay out exactly what the revenue teams are expected to do within the next year. As goals are reached, celebrate them! Your teams worked hard to make it happen and they deserve the kudos.
  • Make them ambitious but realistic. When you present goals during your SKO, your sales team should walk away with clear action items they’re excited to get to work on. Sales goals should always push your team to do better than the year before, but within reason. We’ve all heard the story about a certain winged individual who flew a little too close to the sun, right? TL;DR: It didn’t work out well for him. Raising expectations too high can put unnecessary pressure on reps, leading to burnout and (if things get really bad) resignations. Make sure your new goals are practical and that your teams have all the coaching resources they need to realistically reach them. 

While your virtual SKO will look and feel different from the in-person kickoffs of years gone by, you still have the unique opportunity to plan a virtually (sorry, we couldn’t resist) unforgettable event.

Download our free sales kickoff checklist that includes questions to spark inspiration as you prepare, plan and launch your own virtual SKO.