November 4, 2020

A Look at How Showpad is Running Our Virtual SKO

We already know that planning for a company event in 2020 will take your team into a new territory that wasn’t necessary to navigate in years past.

Your virtual sales kickoff will look different, feel different and require extra planning if you want to pull off a truly memorable event. At Showpad, we’ve already begun the long (but rewarding) journey of SKO planning.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through some of the techniques and approaches we’re taking to create a dynamic, virtual SKO experience. 

Plan ahead of time

With any event, early planning is essential. Virtual sales kickoffs are no different.

Most companies set their kickoff for January or February of the new year. It’s critical to start planning as early as September on major themes, topics and objectives. To start, you need to think about the messaging you’ll create, curriculum you plan to teach and pre-work you want to have ready for all attendees. 

Depending on when you close out your year, you want to assign and send all messaging out before everyone is busy closing out the quarter. For Showpad, this window is the last two weeks of January so proper planning well in advance is needed to get messaging, curriculum and pre-work to our attendees beforehand. This gives them time to get ready for kickoff and close out the quarter successfully. 

Plan to get all pre-work to your sales team in early January and then send it again right before kickoff. Many topics at an SKO can be best delivered before the event, allowing the SKO to focus on interactions, activities and exercises. The more time you give them to prepare, the more successful your SKO will be. Work with sales managers to track the completion of any courses, videos or reading at least one week before the event.

Set goals that engage

All events should be centered around a goal or set of goals. One of Showpad’s cornerstone goals for our kickoff is achieving a high level of engagement and excitement before and during the event. 

This engagement doesn’t come naturally. To keep attendees genuinely interested throughout the day, we put learning through exercise into motion. A great example is to provide content other than an uninterrupted slide presentation. After a couple hours watching their laptop screens, there’s no way to know if attendees are taking notes, following along or getting anything out of the presentations.

Oftentimes, structuring your event with speaker after speaker does more harm than good. Sales people don’t learn by listening. They learn by doing. Unless you’re exercising the practices you plan to use, you’re not helping your sales team in a practical way. 

Inform and spark curiosity with pre-work

As we prepare to send out messaging, we always aim to excite. At Showpad, we’ll build out an Experience within the platform where we can tease our kickoff concepts, the agenda, speakers and what attendees can expect going into the SKO. Additionally, we publish video announcements and spotlights featuring executives to build and track engagement.

Although email is a reliable way to inform attendees about your SKO, Showpad mainly depends on the Experience built within the platform. This way, we can let sales people know what’s coming and get them thinking about the event as early as the first week of January. 

Correlate engagement and effectiveness

Getting people engaged is great but executives will want to measure value. Showpad is developing a virtual leaderboard within the platform to track performance in events. Let’s look at an example. 

Let’s say we have our co-founder Louis Jonckheere speaking about the vision of enablement platforms. After his session, we give attendees an assignment to record their personal version of the story that they would deliver to a prospect. Having an activity like this right after learning helps drive engagement, retention of key principles and practicing until the participant is both confident and comfortable. It can then be reviewed after the event as a reminder to evaluate for continuous improvement. 

Although we can’t track the engagement of live sessions and live training speakers, we will be using live polling to both drive engagement and get real time feedback. Even this small gesture during live sessions can give insight into how many people are actively following along.

Differentiate content types

As previously discussed, engagement is everything. Differentiating the types of content you present during your kickoff will not only keep attendees’ attention, but also gives you the ability to experiment with various content experiences. 

Static slide presentations get boring quickly. Incorporating animations, recorded speeches, music, company announcements and engaging activities your attendees can actually participate in elevates your kickoff. Don’t stick yourself in one box and plan a kickoff with just slides and lectures. The more learnings you can weave into your kickoff, the more prepared and confident your sales team will feel when the event is over. 

Let attendees take breaks

Speaking of the flow of your kickoff, it’s imperative to sprinkle breaks throughout the day. Breaking up the day with a planned non-digital activity gives everyone time to get up and leave their screen. Because the kickoff is completely virtual, these pauses throughout the day will reset and re-energize everyone, breathing life back into your event. 

After the event

As our SKO is in full swing, we leverage the Showpad platform for key areas of focus during the event so that attendees become aware and comfortable on where to find content and information. Following the event, we can then build upon the sales plays, frameworks, processes and other structures to support go to market motions. In these new Showpad Experiences, we can continuously release information, content and sales readiness programs.

When it comes to retention and adoption, sales managers should assess their team’s performance, track activities and engagement and work with enablement teams to continuously improve knowledge and skills.

Collect feedback

When the sales kickoff is over, consider collecting feedback from all attendees. Showpad aims to assess the experience before and after by asking these questions:

  • What are the goals we want to achieve? 
  • Did we get the engagement we wanted? 
  • Did we generate up enough excitement? 
  • Did we provide unique and compelling experiences for sales to gain knowledge and develop skills?
  • Do people feel like they walked away with adequate product knowledge, sales skills, industry verticals and knowledge about the different buyer personas and markets that we’re focusing on?

The feedback survey should be nearly complete before the event, with clear goals for the kickoff team to strive to attain. Again, leverage managers to drive participation in the survey.

Plan now

We hope you’ve taken some inspiration from how Showpad is approaching and planning for our sales kickoff. As you prepare for your own, remember that careful and early preparation is necessary and should start as soon as possible.

For more insight and inspiration, read our blog post on three tips you can use to run a virtual SKO.