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Episode 73 / September 18, 2023

Crafting an engaging, quota-crushing sales kickoff

Tune in to hear three industry powerhouses share how to bring energy, connection, and success to your next sales kickoff. 

It’s that time again: You’re gearing up for your next sales kickoff (SKO). In this episode of Event Experience, we’ll share how you can outdo last year’s event, blend education with celebration, and set your sales and go-to-market teams up for a triumphant year ahead.

Reimagine your SKO and gain insights to elevate your internal gatherings in this timeless discussion featuring industry experts Kerry Taylor from Workday, Lauren Grady from Vimeo (formerly of Bizzabo!), and Sarah Shaheen from Amplitude.

Tune in to discover how to craft an engaging agenda, select a diverse and esteemed set of speakers, foster genuine employee interactions, and make employee celebrations truly memorable. 

Here’s what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • How to build an SKO agenda that educates and energizes 
  • Tips for creating an environment that fosters employee connection 
  • Strategies to make moments of recognition more meaningful

Note: This podcast episode originally occurred as a webinar in mid-2022, but the content and strategies are truly evergreen. 

sales kickoff event production kit


[00:00:10] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

This week, we’re bringing you a timeless sales kickoff conversation between Kerry Taylor, Lauren Grady, and Sarah Sha-HEEN. Kerry is the Senior Director of Strategic Internal Events at Workday, Lauren is the Strategic Events & Programming Lead at Vimeo, and Sarah is the Director of Corporate and Strategic Events at Amplitude.

As you plan your next sales kickoff, you’ll learn how to design an epic agenda that educates and energizes, how to cast a diverse, relevant, and respected speaker lineup, how to create an environment that fosters employee connection, and how to make moments of recognition more meaningful. Let’s get you started into this vibrant discussion about planning your next impactful Event Experience!

[00:01:16] Lauren Grady: My name is Lauren Grady, and I’m very excited to be moderating this discussion with you today. Joining me today are two event leaders with extensive experience in event and program planning.

[00:01:34] We have Sarah Shaheen, who’s the Director of Corporate and Strategic Events at Amplitude. Welcome, Sarah. Thanks for joining us today. 

[00:01:42] Sarah Shaheen: Hi, Lauren. Hi, thanks for having me. 

[00:01:46] Lauren Grady: And also joining us is Kerry Taylor, who is the Senior Director of Strategic Internal Events at Workday. Welcome, Kerry thanks so much for being a part of today’s webinar.

[00:01:55] Kerry Taylor: Thanks so much for having me. I’m super excited for the conversation. 

[00:01:59] Lauren Grady: Now, to jump right in, I would love if both Sarah and Kerry, if you could give us just a brief overview of the last SKO that you planned. So, was it in person? Was it virtual? Was it a mix of both?

Recapping Recent Sales Kickoff Events

[00:02:50] And how it was similar or different from the events that you planned in the years past? And if Kerry, if you don’t mind, we will start with you. 

[00:02:59] Kerry Taylor: Sure. Can everybody hear me? Okay. I just got a notification that my internet was unstable. All good. Okay. Awesome. So, yeah, it’s been quite a change with COVID, but our last SKO was in March of this past year.

[00:03:13] We had planned for a global event at first with a hybrid feeling, a hybrid perspective. And then as, as the plans changed, we actually decided that we were going to do one in North America, one in EMEA. And then do remote for APJ and then we pivoted again and we just did one event live from Las Vegas with a live audience in North America and then we did a hybrid event for our EMEA and APJ audiences.

[00:03:49] Lauren Grady: Amazing. And I see some pictures that we have on the screen. Is there anything here that you wanted to call out from your last event? 

[00:03:56] Kerry Taylor: I think the biggest sentiment that we had this year was to make it fun and really to reconnect. We had a number of people, I think 51 percent of our audience had never experienced a workday event or an SKO before and had not met their teams in person.

[00:04:13] So it was really important for us to bring in the fun this year and to do a lot of networking. And I think these pictures explain that. And then you could also see our digital audiences as well. They gathered when they could in offices, and we tried to include them as much as possible. 

[00:04:29] Lauren Grady: That’s amazing.

[00:04:29] And I think I remember you saying that the pink convertible was your CEO and your head of sales that came in that way. Is that correct? 

[00:04:36] Kerry Taylor: Yes, that is our head of sales and the leaving head of sales, our co-president. So, yeah, they had quite a bit of fun. That was Elvis driving them in. And so they actually hung out with Elvis.

[00:04:49] For about 30 minutes prior, so they, yeah, they brought a lot of fun during the 

[00:04:56] Lauren Grady: Way to make an entrance. And Sarah, same to you. How did amplitudes last SKL look like in 2022? 

[00:05:03] Sarah Shaheen: So yes, in 2022 in January, we were planning up to the very first week of January, we were planning an in person event in San Diego.

[00:05:11] And then with Omicron, we decided that first week of January, right after the holidays, that we were going to pivot to virtual yet again, which was very disappointing. And so we held. our event virtually. We live streamed it globally. You know, at the end of January and people were really disappointed.

[00:05:27] So what we ended up doing this summer, which wasn’t really in the 2022 plan. But there was just again, overwhelming feedback that people wanted to be together. So we did five different offices. We did this camp amp, which was a CKO and a sales kickoff mid year. And we kind of took advantage of, you know, the summer theme.

[00:05:48] We made it camp amp and you can see in some of the pictures here that you know, we had a lifeguard. We had we set up 10 you know, lanterns, people dressed up in their camping gear or their Boy Scout outfits or the Girl Scout outfit to make it really fun again similar to what Kerry did. I love the tricycles, Kerry, that looks really fun, we have axe throwing, I don’t know if you can see that in one of the pictures.

[00:06:11] But again we just wanted to make it fun and have everyone be together.

[00:06:20] Lauren Grady: That’s amazing, and did anyone sleep in those tents? 

[00:06:21] Probably not. 

[00:06:22] Sarah Shaheen: We did at one point talk about me possibly sleeping there because we were up late doing actually broadcasting to Amsterdam until one o’clock in the morning. So we joked about me sleeping there, but I didn’t. 

Designing the Sales Kickoff Agenda

[00:06:32] Lauren Grady: And to continue with you, Sarah, how exactly in terms of the agenda and the content framework, what was the process for you developing that?

[00:06:41] Sarah Shaheen: I mean, typically, yeah, we’re doing for this event that we just did, as well as the one that we’re planning, you know, in January again for the sales kickoff it’s, you know, initially we meet with the sales leaders to find out what are the priorities for the year? What are the goals for the sales kickoff and, you know, typically it’s to celebrate the year that just passed and to get people excited for the year ahead.

[00:07:00] And then we meet with. enablement team also to find out what is most important. You know, what are the sales teams need to know? What do they need to be trained on for the year? But most importantly, post COVID as we plan these agendas is taking advantage of people being together and we cannot overload people with content.

[00:07:20] So we’re trying to be really careful about making sure that we have enough networking opportunities and enough time for people to just be together. And you can see in the agenda that we just did for our mid years sales kickoff we really went light on content and we had, you know, very concise message. We had a 30 minute keynote from our president 20 to 30 minute updates from our head of product and then our head of demand gen a pipeline update.

[00:07:44] And then we went into the fun stuff, which was the awards, the club location. We did an impact activity, which was, you know, an interactive community impact activity. And then the rest of the afternoon was just. for people to have fun, be together and enjoy each other’s company. 

[00:07:59] Lauren Grady: Amazing. And Kerry, same question to you.

[00:08:02] How did you design an agenda that both helped to educate but also energize the sales team at Workday? 

[00:08:10] Kerry Taylor: Yeah. So I think one of the biggest things that we did this year was we said Let’s do a little less content, right? We would always have a ton of breakouts, a lot of talking, right? And so from the pictures you can see, we did this work day Olympics, which was on day one.

[00:08:28] We flipped our agenda completely. Normally we would do team time or regional sessions on the final day. We moved that up to day one. We said, let’s let everybody meet each other. Let’s let them meet their teams, their leaders, their people, and then let’s give them fun. Like we left at one o’clock, right?

[00:08:46] We did lunch and we left and we did these workday Olympics where everybody was. out and being outside was also a major, major bonus because of COVID, right? We wanted everybody to be super careful and, and safe. So so getting outside and having fun was a major change to our agenda this year. 

Tackling Event Speaker Recruitment

[00:09:08] Lauren Grady: And as a follow up to that, Kerry, you know, anytime that anyone is researching or recruiting speakers, we know it’s so important to have a diverse group of people and perspectives involved.

[00:09:19] Can you shed a little bit of light on what your process was for recruiting internal and external speakers for the event? 

[00:09:26] Kerry Taylor: Yeah, and apologies. It looks like I’m having some internet issues, so I apologize, but we’re always trying to find. Right. So we have our executive team. That’s awesome. Right. And so we also use speaker coaches all the time.

[00:09:41] We want everybody to be able to deliver the messages on point and keep everybody enthused as well. But we also want to make sure we have a diverse audience. We want to show new leaders. We want to show people in the sales team in, you know, that are. leaders that might not often be seen on stage. So that’s a major factor when we’re figuring out who’s gonna be on stage, who’s gonna be speaking.

[00:10:05] It’s all about what the audience, we think what they need to see and what they want to see. And it’s about just diversifying everything we can from a workday perspective. 

[00:10:15] Lauren Grady: Yep. And that’s a great point. It’s actually something that a past organization we started to do as well. We opened up an application process for our employees to actually apply to speak at internal events based off of various topics that, you know, they felt strongly about to try to incorporate them more into our sales kickoffs.

[00:10:31] So it’s not just the leadership that, you know, on stage. So that’s a great point. Sarah, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the speaker recruitment process as well. 

[00:10:38] Sarah Shaheen: Same. You know, of course, we want to hear from our executives. The team needs to hear from the executives here, the priorities. But we also look to have other salespeople on stage.

[00:10:48] Sellers love hearing from other sellers and sharing those success stories. And it is a great opportunity to get someone that could be more junior, the opportunity to get on stage and have that experience. And we’ve also had a lot of success with with bringing customers to tell their stories. And I think that’s also really great for SKO specifically because these are customer success stories that, you know, they, that can help them sell to other customers.

[00:11:12] And, and lastly, talking about, you know, keeping the speaker lineup diverse. First you know, if you have a very, you know, non diverse sales team or, or, you know, maybe it’s very male heavy, that’s a great way to get women on stage to or other diverse groups of, you know, go to your customers and you know, have them, you know, make the, the lineup more, more diverse.

[00:11:34] Lauren Grady: Absolutely. And you know, we’re talking a lot about the content and the agenda. But there is also this just human element that’s really important to a sales kickoff or anytime that you’re bringing a group of people together. So Sarah, let’s continue with you in terms of how do you best create an environment that really fosters that type of employee connection.

[00:11:55] Sarah Shaheen: Yeah, we just did that in again talking about content. This some of the sessions that we did. Thank you. at our C. K. O. Portion of this this mid year C. K. O. S. K. O. We had 133 sessions. Two of them were interactive workshops. So again, like the content that we that we did do were interactive so that people could continue talking to each other, continue networking.

[00:12:16] So 2 of the workshops that we did 1 was led by 1 of our co founders who focused on our company values. And so people got into groups. And talked about who, you know, in the company, could they think of that represented our values and what did they do and how did they do that? And then we celebrated them in a Slack channel throughout the day.

[00:12:34] And then another workshop we worked on was just really getting people to think about the priorities and the strategies that we, they had just heard about from our CEO and sitting down in teams thinking, you know What are risks that we may face? Or, you know, just different almost like a hackathon you know, for the sales and marketing teams to think about you know, what, what are risks that we may face that we haven’t thought of yet?

[00:12:58] Lauren Grady: I love that idea. And I think anytime you can infuse a company’s values into your event, I’m sure your people’s team really appreciated that. But creating a slack channel. where people could nominate their colleagues based on the values and have people contribute and, and comment is just a really easy way, especially digitally to connect everyone and to bring those values to life.

[00:13:18] So Kerry, same question in terms of creating an environment that helps to really foster employee connection. What are some of the things that Workday has done? 

[00:13:26] Kerry Taylor: Yeah. So again, not, I don’t want to go back to the Olympics, but the Olympics was really fun, right? We also do brain dates, which is a big way to connect.

[00:13:37] Can you guys not hear me? 

[00:13:40] Lauren Grady: Nope, we can! 

[00:13:41] Kerry Taylor: You can. Okay, great. Sorry. Definitely having, do you see all this alcohol behind me. This is for after this session. But yeah, I think, you know, one of our core values is fun. It’s to be nice, right? And so we brought in as many fun elements as we could this year. We do a lot of Braindate discussions.

[00:14:01] One of the things that we brought into one of our other events, Altitude, which was just about a month ago, is coffee talks. So they are small gatherings with executives at workday that you might not otherwise get the chance to talk to that we created an environment where they can have those one on ones, right?

[00:14:17] Like all of our leaders want to know the people and that’s super important at doing it in SKO or any of our events. And that we found truly valuable and the teams loved it, right? Like they might not always get the opportunity to sit down and talk to an SVP of marketing when they’re on sales arc, right?

[00:14:37] But they want to know what they’re thinking about. So that was super valuable and important. 

[00:14:41] Lauren Grady: That’s a great point. I think, you know, especially on the in person side, we look forward to those spontaneous moments of connection, but whether it’s in person or virtual, also being able to facilitate a actual environment to bring people together and to connect, whether it’s coffee talks or, you know, however you design that is really important to make sure everyone’s getting, you know, the most out of their time being spent together.

[00:15:03] And Kerry, I’ll follow up with you in terms of the recognition piece. I think it’s You know, very popular for there to obviously be sales leadership clubs and things like that, and award ceremonies as part of SKOs. But what are the ways that you really bring recognition to life and really make moments of recognition memorable for the go to market team?

[00:15:22] Kerry Taylor: Yeah, so one of the things we started doing more recently was announcing our sales club winners prior to ales kickoff. We would always, in the past, announce them at sales kickoff. Some people might miss their seeing their name on screen or in a different way. But so we started doing these video announcements prior to SKO about a week prior to sales kickoff letting them know you want, you’re going to sales club, right?

[00:15:43] Announcing where it is, what the dates are, letting them know. And then while at the event, we scroll all the sales club winners names, we put them in the mobile app so everybody can see and know who won, who’s going. And then we do awards, right? And not everybody makes sales club, but we want to make sure that everybody feels Right.

[00:16:03] So we have six categories of awards and then they are given out on main stage or in regional sessions so that they can be recognized by their peers, which I think is super valuable. And then again, in that respect, we put all of those work winners in our mobile app. So at any time throughout the event, once they’re, once they are delivered.

[00:16:24] or spoken to, then they can figure out who their peers are and people can congratulate them in the mobile app. So again, to the digital aspect, if they’re not in person, they’re still getting that recognition. People are seeing who they are. 

[00:16:37] Lauren Grady: Sarah. Same question. Moments of recognition. How do you bring that to life?

[00:16:43] Sarah Shaheen: The same thing with with the awards. I see someone actually wrote a question of how do you keep awards fair? I think that was one thing that I was very intentional about in the event that we just a few weeks ago with the with the mid years sales kickoff was, you know, it’s not, let’s not just award the salespeople, but let’s, you know, reward everyone and recognize all groups because everyone, you know, marketing, You know, all the teams contribute to sales.

[00:17:04] So we did make sure that we, you know, recognized all groups in those awards. And then the other thing I wanted to point out just with regards to again, kind of making you know, the moments of recognition meaningful was was back to that. That interactive workshop that we did with the values and again, going back to that slack channel of, you know, just making sure everyone had access to that.

[00:17:23] And that could be used across anyway, not just for that across anything, not just for that 1 workshop, but also, you know, keeping people engaged when those awards are announced and making sure that everyone’s engaging and congratulating them. And that’s a great place. If you’ve got that slack channel, a specific slack channel created for those moments to really celebrate everyone in 1 place.

[00:17:44] Lauren Grady: And to your point, something that you mentioned that I’ve seen be really successful is in terms of that sales leadership club, having half the awards go to sales leader and half of the awards to your point, go to marketing, having the sales folks actually nominate on their colleagues from their cross functional teams, who has supported them the most, anyone from a copywriter to various functions, and then all say 20, if it’s split 20, go on that trip.

[00:18:10] And now you’re promoting even more. cross functional alliances and you know, the marketing team feels really supported by their sales folks who nominated them. So that’s something that I’ve seen trending more in terms of bridging it out outside of your sales folks. 

[00:18:25] It’s really 

[00:18:26] Sarah Shaheen: and we also actually had someone from our sales kickoff this past year in January from the legal team who went to President’s Club because he was just such an integral part and getting those contracts through in a timely manner and closing the deals, you know, quickly. So it really is the whole company that should be recognized and included. 

[00:18:45] Kerry Taylor: Yes, and we do that same thing.

[00:18:46] We, we bring in other teams because I think recognizing the support of sales is. 

[00:18:51] Lauren Grady: Super important. And now to switch gears a little bit, I think sometimes as marketers, we sometimes miss the mark on taking what really our core event marketing principles that we know to be successful for our external events and applying them to our internal audience.

[00:19:08] One example is internal is communications. We have a whole email and communication plan for our external events, but it doesn’t always match that level of maturity. You know, when we’re planning a sales kickoff to make sure our sales reps are you know, fully educated on what’s going on. So I wanted to ask both of you, what are some examples of event best practices that you have applied to your SKO that you found to be very successful?

[00:19:34] Kerry Taylor: Do you want to go first, Sarah, or?

[00:19:40] Lauren Grady: Kerry, we’ll start with you. 

[00:19:41] Kerry Taylor: Okay, great. So I think the more communication, the better. I also think it’s important, right? We have a whole MarCom team at. Workday that works on marketing communication. And to my perspective, for an sales kickoff, it’s more about event communications, right? We’re telling them what they need to know more so than marketing.

[00:20:02] We’re not trying to get them to come to SKO. We need to ensure that they know what they’re going to get from sales kickoff. So I think those are two different things. And I think it’s very. It has to be very clear on the points you’re trying to get across and communicating to the right amount of times to right.

[00:20:21] Salespeople sometimes have short attention spans, right? So we need to ensure that we are communicating to the point and giving them the information that they need to know rather than too much information, if that makes sense.

[00:20:38] Lauren Grady: And Sarah, same question to you.

[00:20:45] I was following up on Kerry. She just shared a couple of event best practices, mostly around the communication. But whether it’s communication or something else in terms of what Amplitude has implemented, 

[00:20:56] Sarah Shaheen: Yeah, I was focused on 2 things. 1 back to communication was. One thing that we did or that we’ve been doing for the past several events is this F A Q document.

[00:21:04] So the events team puts together this F A Q, which has been super helpful and just communicating questions. The teams are not so much coming to us with the questions, but we’re referencing the F A Q. So everything is is in there with regards to COVID testing, travel, you know, all of the details are constantly updated there.

[00:21:22] So people have one place to go. And then just with regards to best practices I think Kerry and I both have continued to say this, but I think post COVID you know, we’re, we need to focus on the experience more than ever. And, you know, it’s not just an event anymore. Now it’s. It’s the experience and the experience is what people remember.

[00:21:42] I mean like the tricycles that were at Carrie’s event, the pink Cadillac, you know, all those things that we did with the tents those are the things that we need to focus on more than ever post COVID. 

[00:21:56] Lauren Grady: I will say another kind of tip and trick that we’ve used in the past. If you are hosting an S. K. O.

[00:22:02] That is a destination being able to provide say those communications to your employees at various stages. So it might be a long email. It may be a briefing document or an F. A. Q. You might have short snippets and slack. We also actually used. We had an external podcast and recorded an internal only podcast episode released to our employees to listen to on the plane.

[00:22:25] So we figured some of our sales reps may start to kind of pay attention and wonder about the agenda while they’re actually flying to the destination. So it was very short, it was 10 minutes, but sometimes hearing it conversationally they can digest it a little bit better than longer documents. So all different couple ideas to try to meet them where they’re at and how they, they take in that information.

[00:22:45] Sarah Shaheen: And one other thing Lauren, I’ll add with communications is we also included, just like we do in our external events, you know Email communication timeline as part of the entire event timeline. So that also kept us on track of meeting our deadlines. And, you know, when this, when X date happens and this is done, then we send an email communication, letting everyone know, you know, this has been updated and this is what you can expect.

[00:23:06] So we probably had three community, you know, maybe once a month or, you know, every three weeks where we’re sending them some kind of communication. 

[00:23:16] Kerry Taylor: We also do a know before you go document before every event, so know before you go is just everything about the event so they could download right and start logging into the mobile app in advance and learning more and more of what they’re going to foresee at the event.

[00:23:31] Whether it be digital or live. 

Assessing SKO Event Budget Considerations

[00:23:33] Lauren Grady: Absolutely. And now I want to make sure that we do get to the discussion of budget because I think it wouldn’t be an honest conversation today if we didn’t talk about it. Obviously, the majority of us are trying to be as cost effective as possible. So I would love to hear what each of your organizations are doing to be more budget conscious without necessarily you know, taking away from creating the memorable experience that you have planned.

[00:23:58] And Sarah, we can certainly start with you. 

[00:23:59] Sarah Shaheen: Sure. So, this the mid year CKO, SKO event that we did actually was not planned for FY22, but it was something that we, we realized we needed to do. So, you know, we had to find the budget in one way, which wasn’t much. So, the way we were able to facilitate that was that we used our offices as much as we could.

[00:24:18] So, you know, we, we had that event in five cities at the same time. So, again, used our offices, used just as much as, as we could. That way we also, because we had five cities there was not a lot of travel. People were, excuse me, typically traveling to their local office. And then, you know, if you think about, as I think about what we’re getting ready to plan for our sales kickoff in six months, you know, I know everyone’s budget conscious right now, so, you know, some of the things we’re considering is, does everyone need to go?

[00:24:48] You know, can we cut the numbers down? And do an event that way. The other thing is it’s an internal event. Do we need to have a big fancy production or can we cut there? I think the key there is if you’re making cuts to the quality of the event, like that can be okay. But I think the key is to set expectations with the stakeholders and just make sure that everyone understands you know, what, what that means if we’re, we’re going to cut what the experience will then be instead.

[00:25:19] Lauren Grady: Absolutely, and Kerry, what are your thoughts on that? 

[00:25:22] Kerry Taylor: So for 2022, we actually did not cut budget. We, we went large, right? We, it was very important for us to get people back together. But to also do it very safely. So we put quite a large number into testing, right? Those that were on site, but also offering a pretty robust digital program for those that either couldn’t travel or didn’t want to travel.

[00:25:48] Definitely this year, we are looking at budget cuts, right? With the economy, the way it is. But again, agree with Sarah. Like, we don’t want to cut the experience. That’s super important. So it’s looking at things like, okay, this is an internal event. Should we just be live this year? Do we have to offer it

[00:26:06] hybrid is a major thing that I think is on all of our minds, right? Like, what is this new world look like? And what, how should we be offering events? I think is top of mind, at FY 24 planning.

[00:26:21] What are we doing? Right. But last year we looked into doing different events around the globe this year. It’s definitely back to one global. And I think we’re just trying to figure out hybrid or not, and then just trying to figure out where can we cut right? Because last year we did go really large, but we want to make sure that the experience is still the same for it.

[00:26:42] Lauren Grady: I also want to touch on the subject of personalization because I feel like it kind of feeds into what we were just talking about. If you do have budget cuts, for example, and you might not be able to do everything and give it to everyone like you have in the past, personalization can be that lever to really bring an experience to life, which not always has, you know, a high cost to to that element.

[00:27:03] So I wanted to ask you both how you have used employee insights to really create a personalized experience for them. And, you know, Kerry, we’ll kind of keep the ball rolling with you there. 

[00:27:17] Kerry Taylor: Sure. I mean, I think it’s all about understanding the environment. Right. And so I think we know after two years of zoom meetings, which we’re, you know, pretty much on now, people just don’t have the patience, the tolerance to sit and listen.

[00:27:32] So it’s being in tune with what they want to know. Right? So it’s smaller sessions. It’s more fun. It’s more networking time. It’s letting it be more of an experience that they want to have, then forcing it down their throat to some regard, if that makes sense. So I think that’s one of the most important things is just creating an environment where they want to be there and they feel that it’s valuable, 

[00:27:58] Lauren Grady: So asking the right questions at the right time to form the experience that’s really going to be personal to them.

[00:28:04] Sarah, do you have anything to add to that? 

[00:28:06] Sarah Shaheen: I was just going to say, as a result of our surveys, you know, that was actually why we did this mid year C. K. O. And S. K. O. Event was because we got overwhelming feedback and The survey from CKO that in that we had to do virtual that we just needed to be together.

[00:28:20] And so in that feedback also came out in our employee engagement survey. So that’s really why we did that event. We took that information from that survey and realized we’ve got to do something to bring people together and then just from creating a personalized experience from the, the. The event we just did the Mid Year CKO, sales kickoff event, there was a lot of feedback in there about people wanting, so we had the afternoons free where people could just go to, you know, do happy hour and games and everyone was together.

[00:28:47] But what we did not include in those experiences was to create n etworking. And so that is something that we saw in the feedback that we will incorporate into our sales kickoff in January is just some networking opportunities and create those experience in like the evening events and the receptions to try to get people to not just talk to the people they always talk to.

[00:29:10] But to you know, cross collaborate. Some of those teams so that they’re meeting new people and you know, New relationships. 

[00:29:19] Lauren Grady: Well, I do see that we have a couple of questions in the ask the speaker chat. So I want to make sure with the time that we have, we’re able to get to those. But before we go into the audience questions, I do just want to take a look back at today’s conversation thus far to really highlight.

[00:29:34] What those five must haves are for an S. K. O. So first and foremost, if I’ve heard you all correctly, the relationship with sales is paramount. So really co developing the agenda with them early on and not going straight into execution mode is really important to make sure we’re driving toward those business targets.

[00:29:54] Secondly we have the human element. So remembering to make it fun and enjoyable. We heard a lot of different examples with the Olympics theme. If you have a mascot, bringing them on site or developing one. A costume contest. Really, all of these things to just really make it memorable so people continue to talk about it and be excited for the following year.

[00:30:13] Thirdly, we have the recognition component. So as we know with sales leadership club and awards, it’s really important to highlight the performance that qualified the sales individual to get there, but to really focus on the values because that’s when it becomes a teaching moment for the other 10, people in the room.

[00:30:31] So if you’re going to be, you know, giving them a formal introduction or creating a video for them, making sure you’re tapping into the values that they showcase, and then giving examples of how they possess those values. We also have the budget. So if you are being more cost effective, maybe you are flying your full go to market team or all of your company to a destination.

[00:30:51] Don’t be afraid to reevaluate all the ways that you can bring your audience together. This could be through a hub and spoke model where you have a central core location or headquarters, but then you have other employees meeting in regional areas near your other offices or where there are a lot of remote employees located and being able to connect them digitally and just a different way than you have in the past.

[00:31:11] And lastly, is the feedback component. So we all need the feedback to really improve upon our future events. When it comes to content feedback, it’s really best to get that in real time, directly when an employee leaves a session, when it’s fresh in their minds. So was the content relevant, and how did the speaker deliver that content?

[00:31:29] Then use the post event survey to really get a gauge on the experience, to inform your future events. So we’ll keep that slide up there for just a second, but I do want to get to the audience questions. So taking a look here at the most upvoted, we have John who asked, did you measure how well the sales organization retained information after the SKO?

[00:31:51] That’s a really, really good question. Sarah, why don’t we start with you? 

[00:31:55] Sarah Shaheen: I saw that. I just saw that question and no, we have not. So we will need to do that. We will, we’ll probably do it in two two ways. So we need to. Measure back from the SKO in January 2020, as well as this past SKO because it was a different focus.

[00:32:12] So we have not, but that’s a good recommendation, John. 

[00:32:16] Lauren Grady: Kerry, any thoughts there. 

[00:32:19] Kerry Taylor: We do ask a question in our final event survey to say, did the lessons you learned at are they going to help you in your career moving forward? Which I think is a good question that we added. A couple of years ago. So we do have scoring on that, but we don’t do like a bi yearly check in to say, Hey, are you using the skills you learned at sales kickoff?

Digging Into the Virtual SKO

[00:32:39] Lauren Grady: I will also add there. So Bizzabo, we had our three day all virtual sales kickoff in January, and we partnered really closely with our sales enablement team, and they conducted a series of trainings after the SKO that were related and aligned to the content that we shared during the event, and they took place weeks, up to two months after the event, and they also initiated their own kind of quizzes and knowledge retainment.

[00:33:08] So it was our way of kind of gut checking after the event, as we know, about 80 percent of people forget what they learned 90 days, 90 days out, not only from the event, but also the deep dive trainings that happened afterwards. So I think you can look at it from. What did they learn at the S. K. O. And how did they retain it?

[00:33:25] But then also, what are the educational sessions and trainings that you’re offering them throughout the year? How can you make sure it’s aligned to that knowledge from the S. K. O. And what type of quizzes and trainings can you implement to really follow that knowledge much further out from when your event ends?

[00:33:42] So Stephanie has a question geared toward more smaller companies. So what activities would you suggest for a smaller SKL? So say there’s 40 to 70 people there. So maybe you’re not able to really conduct a full Olympics or something like that. But are there any other sessions or types of engagement activities that either of you have done?

[00:34:00] That is geared toward a little bit more of a smaller audience. 

[00:34:04] Kerry Taylor: I can take that. I think we do a lot of giving and doing at Workday. We are always trying to give back to either the community that we’re in or some kind of cause, right? So I think that’s a super important thing that does not cost a lot, but it creates team building and the ability to do something together without a high cost.

Looking at Smaller Sales Kickoff Activities

[00:34:26] So that’s something we do at a larger events, but it’s something that you can very much do for a very small event, and we do it at all of our events. 

[00:34:34] Sarah Shaheen: I think that’s agreed, Kerry. We do the same. I think that’s a great idea. And you can always, you know, partner with the wherever, whatever city you’re in, you can always find something to do to give back.

[00:34:43] And that’s a great actually size to do something like that. Or you can join forces with, you know, another organization that might be looking for the same thing around the same time. I actually think that for a smaller group too, it’s, it’s can sometimes be easier because. You don’t have hundreds of people that you’re trying to coordinate, you’ve got, you know, 40 to 70, but, you know, it’s a little bit easier to get them into groups and you know, or even sometimes that stuff happens organically.

[00:35:04] So you know, 1 thing that’s really popular here at amplitude is karaoke. So I don’t know if your groups into karaoke, but that could be something fun to that. You all could do wherever you are, you know, at a bar or restaurant nearby. Or you could even make your own. I mean, you just get a karoake contest, 

[00:35:21] Kerry Taylor: Costume contests, too, people get into, I don’t know what it is about costumes, but costume contests.

[00:35:25] They love wellness too, is also something super fun to do, right? Like if you want to schedule a 5k or depending on when your event is, if you want to do things before the event starts a 5k or yoga or anything like that, it definitely brings people together. 

[00:35:42] Lauren Grady: You’d be surprised who comes out for the karaoke.

[00:35:44] We did improv session as part of our sales kickoff and you’re always surprised to see the people who come out and have it as hobbies and who really enjoy, you know, some of these activities. So we’re probably have time for about two or three more questions. So I’m going to skip around a little bit, but Keani here has asked, what’s your number one tip for executing a virtual sales kickoff?

[00:36:03] So we’ve talked a lot about in person, but any thoughts Sarah, if we want to start with you on, if it was a Fully virtual event. 

[00:36:10] Sarah Shaheen: So for fully virtual, again, I think my, I think I’ve said this 10 times already, but do not overload people with content. You know, I think as we’ve gone through virtual events for the past two years, people cannot sit and take in content, especially, Over zoom over, you know, whatever platform, you know, for very long.

[00:36:30] So I think do not overload people with content. If you’re going to do a multi day virtual event use, you know, maybe just do a couple hours every day. But just keep that in mind. Like do not keep make the sessions too long. And there’s also ways to do, you know, you can also do some things you know, virtually as team building, you know, you could do you could do maybe karaoke or you can definitely do improv virtually.

[00:36:57] So, I think try to incorporate some things like that in the experience to try to get people to come together. I have done something like improv virtually and it, and it was pretty effective. Kerry, what are your thoughts? 

[00:37:12] Kerry Taylor: I completely agree with Sarah, right? We’re all tired of long drawn out content.

[00:37:17] So keeping it short to the point, but then including gamification or something to keep them engaged, right? You don’t want people to zone out. So you need to create some of those fun elements, but also. You know, we did gamification when we were fully virtual, and it was just a way to know who’s, who’s involved, right?

[00:37:36] And then, you know, making sure that the chat is constant, that we have pre done chat starters, right? So if they’re getting bored and we’re not hearing chatter, right, we’re starting the chatter. We’re getting things going so that people stay engaged. So I think creating moments of engagement is the most important.

[00:37:57] Lauren Grady: Absolutely. And I’ll add as well. You know, one of the things that with virtual events you have much more control over is taking the data in real time and implementing it. So one example at Bizzabo is we did three day virtual sales kickoff half days, and we proactively set up a stand up in the morning and a debrief in the afternoon with our emcee, who was our SVP of sales.

[00:38:18] And what that allowed us to do is in the morning, not only make sure we were on the same page for the agenda and Talk track ahead. But at the end of the day, we would look at our event data. Where are we seeing the most engagement and make some some tweaks? So one example of a tweak that we made is we had one session that was extremely popular.

[00:38:34] I think when we downloaded all the questions in the ask the speaker chat, there were about 30. We only got to 3 or 4. We actually ended up. Making some adjustments in the agenda the next day and adding a 30 minute Q and a only part of that session to get to those questions. Now, that’s something if we were on site, I might not have had visibility into every single session that we were able to take that data and make real time decisions.dmcge

[00:38:57] And then we already had the morning stand ups with our emcee to update him to make sure that he was. fully aware. So that’s something you definitely want to take advantage of if you do go fully virtual. So I think we have time for one or two more. So let me see. Julie from Glassdoor has a question for when you do live events.

[00:39:14] Do you use a destination management company to support your team? And speaking of teams, how big are your events team in terms of F. T. E. We are thinking about what to do next year. So have either of you used a destination management company?

[00:39:33] Sarah Shaheen: Yes, go ahead. 

Understanding Event Team and DMCs

[00:39:35] Kerry Taylor: Okay. So we we have event vendors, right? So we work with an event management company, right? And sometimes those event management companies work in place of the DMC. Sometimes they solicit out to DMC, but we do. Partner with different teams. I mean, our sales kickoff is between four and 5000 people.

[00:39:55] So we have a lot of people, right? And so our team, as far as FTEs is is fairly small. So we need those additional arms to help us in the planning and execution. 

[00:40:07] Sarah Shaheen: And we do some, it’s similar at Amplitude, so and we have a much smaller sales team. I mean, amplitudes only a 750 employees total. So our scope and CQ is much smaller, but it’s just myself and one other person on our events team.

[00:40:19] They’re full time. And so we also work with an event agency and they work on all of our events. So, you know, they know our you know, executives, they know you know, just really the company, their extension of our team. So we don’t work with the destination management company specifically but we work with an event agency similar to what, what Kerry does.

[00:40:37] And I, I think 1, I have worked with destination management companies in the past, but I think the 1 advantage of the event agency is that they kind of know all of your events. So they, you know, you’re, you’re not having to explain your company over and over again. If you go to a different city. 

[00:40:54] Lauren Grady: And the last question, I think we have time for one more.

[00:40:57] I’ll quickly sneak it in. But what is the difference between company kickoff content and content for your sales kickoff? So what is the difference there? And then also, do they look different when your events are not co located, like at AMP Camp? So any thoughts there, Kerry, with the difference in content?

[00:41:18] Kerry Taylor: Some content is the same and some is completely different, right? So a company meeting, you’re trying to reach all audiences. We’re in a sales kickoff. You’re really targeting at the salespeople. What does it matter to them? Right? And like one of our big things is we want to ensure the salespeople are the bread and butter of the company, right?

[00:41:37] We want to make sure that they’re happy. They feel like they’re at the right company and that we’re giving them the tools to make them successful to make them make money, which is what salespeople want to do. Right? So that’s I think the big you have to it. You have to realize your audience and sales, you know, are very different than a product development employee.

[00:41:57] So I think company meetings are all about what is the company doing and where are we going? Sales kickoff is. What do you need for you to be successful? What is the product knowledge? What, you know, do you need? 

[00:42:12] Sarah Shaheen: And I 100 percent agree, Kerry. I think for company meetings, company kickoffs, it’s very high level and it’s pretty short, you know, it’s a 90 minute, maybe keynote from the top executives on the strategy, the priorities and what we’re going to do.

[00:42:26] And it is to get the whole, the whole company excited about the year ahead. But the sales, the SKO is a little bit more deep dive. So 1) you have to have the company kick off or the company meeting first, everyone needs to hear that message. And then sales kickoff typically happens right after that. And then it deep dives into yes, specifically the sales team or the go to market team.

[00:42:47] What do you, what are your priorities and how are you going to, how are we going to help you succeed? Like here’s the tools that you need for the year. 

[00:42:56] Lauren Grady: Well, it does look like we’re at time, even though I know that we could keep going on this conversation, so I just want to thank everyone for joining us here today.

[00:43:03] I want to give a Special thanks to our wonderful speakers, Sarah and Kerry. Kerry, even in the blue. You still look fantastic. Thank you all for joining us and hopefully I’ll see you again soon. 

[00:43:28] Kerry Taylor: Thanks everyone. Thank you.

[00:43:38] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Kerry Taylor, Lauren Grady, and Sarah Shaheen for this energizing discussion for Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

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