This time last year, SBI released the research report “Sales Kickoffs are Dead,” and revealed how to host a world-class acceleration summit for your employees. The same principles still apply — create an environment that motivates your team and activates the culture, so they leave with everything needed for a successful year — except now, it is all virtual. In a time where employees crave interaction with their teams and have been eager to leave their monotonous work-from-home environment, this year’s event is even more crucial than ever before.
With the summer conference season behind us, start rethinking how you will organize this year’s kickoff using this infographic on how to plan engaging virtual events. By now, many are familiar with how to host a successful meeting or presentation online, yet a common mistake is overlooking the fundamentals of event platforms. Here is a helpful article with reminders from muting the audience to leveraging the chat or poll functions that most platforms offer.
While SBI has always been a virtual firm, the face-to-face events hosted throughout the year have been used to drive employee engagement and build relationships. We, along with organizations all over the world, are now asking, “How can I create an impactful and memorable summit in a virtual world?”
Understand the Pros and Cons of Hosting a Virtual Event
It goes without saying that the one thing your teams will miss during a virtual kickoff is having meaningful peer-to-peer interactions. After all, nothing can replace a proper face-to-face meeting.
While this con may seem daunting, consider the many pros of hosting your event online:
- You will have more control over the logistics of the meeting and won’t be at the whim of your venue for what days you can and cannot host the event.
- Planning a virtual event can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in air travel, hotel rooms, AV, catering, and more. Reallocate those dollars for virtual team building activities during your event and swag that will make your team excited to attend.
- Many companies have even opted to record or live stream their presentations. This advantage allows the content to be accessed or reused by attendees in different time zones or even new hires. Additionally, a more produced event adds a new element of a special occasion to differentiate itself from the repetitious video call.
Create Authentic Presentations That Boost Morale
It has been a long year, filled with uncertainty and fear regarding your team’s health, safety, and even their job security. How can you get your teams excited and motivated for the following year? Take the time to recognize the hardships you have experienced over the last year and praise resilience. But more importantly, emphasize how you and your team are in it together.
Provide your annual updates about where you have been and where you are going. Take the learnings from the past year and translate them into new best practices you can share with your team. Consider the opportunities your digital evolution may have provided for your company and share big bets for 2021 and how you plan to activate them.
Infuse Small Break-Out Group Exercises into Your Schedule
It’s easy to get lost in a virtual meeting thumbnail, especially with larger organizations. Give everyone a chance to be part of the larger conversation by splitting up into smaller group sessions or team-building exercises to allow people to share their ideas in a more intimate setting among their peers. Provide them with simple thought-provoking questions and topics and allow the discussion to develop organically. Often, this is where they get the most value.
When adding small group breakouts to your schedule, be wary of how much time to allocate for this and any other presentations or activities. Virtual meetings can soon become dull even after two hours, so plan breaks accordingly and space out your sessions appropriately.
Don’t Skimp on Employee Recognition
It’s easy for recognition and hard work to go unnoticed from your home office and not being around peers. Take the time to acknowledge individuals who have had a standout year despite it all. Spotlight recent promotions or teams on large deals — after all, these actions are worth celebrating even in a typical environment.
One thing SBI does well is rewarding people based on peer nominations centered around the core values. For more about our culture and how we celebrate our people, you can read this blog post.
Make Your Event Fun
Companies like teamraderie or teambuildingroi create unique experiences for your group, from virtual wine tasting and cooking classes to trivia games and escape rooms. Adding in a fun activity that is not around the state of the business will be a refreshing break for your people and inject the more casual and social aspects that they truly yearn for during your annual meeting. Invite their partners and families to participate in the fun and get to know your teams away from the traditional ice breaker questions.
It goes without saying that putting on an excellent show for your employees matters now more than ever. While we won’t be able to truly replicate the engagement or excitement from face-to-face meetings, make the most out of what’s available to you. SBI’s session on “The New Virtual Reality” offers a deep dive into how to reimagine your event to drive engagement and collaboration. Do you have other best practices for hosting virtual events? Share them with your peers on our LinkedIn Inspire Others group. You and your people have had a long year — it is time to celebrate!