Hybrid Sales Kickoffs: Make It Epic Both In-Person and Virtually

May 30, 2023
Meisha Bochicchio
Meisha Bochicchio
Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

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As epic all-rounders, field marketers often find themselves tasked with managing both internal and external event strategies. And while the latter is your bread and butter, the former is equally vital to your bottom line.

Sales kickoffs (SKOs) play a major part in launching a successful sales strategy — and it’s your job to ensure they work their motivational magic. #nopressure

By now, we’ve seen that SKOs can and do work virtually, but there will always be team members who crave that in-person experience.

Question is, why not have the best of both?In this guide to hybrid sales kickoff events, we’ll help you make sure your next hybrid SKO is one to remember. Ready? Let’s get to it!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are sales kickoffs? The benefits of an epic SKO
  • Hybrid SKOs: Prep to perfection
  • How to boost engagement during your hybrid sales kickoff
  • Ace your après SKO

What are sales kickoffs? The benefits of an epic SKO

Sales kickoff events (or SKOs for short) are internal events, typically held annually, that bring the whole sales team together to get pumped up for the year ahead. 💪🏻

The goal of an SKO is to announce big-picture goals, align the sales team, and deliver a major boost of motivation for the year ahead.

‍Here are a few core reasons so many teams love their SKOs:

  1. Increased focus: Concentration levels at meetings aren’t great. In fact, 92% of employees use them as an opportunity to multitask. SKOs replace those meaningless meetings with an engaging, focused, high-energy event employees will actually want to attend.
  2. Better team-building: Whether your event is virtual, in-person or hybrid, a well-executed SKO is sure to get employees talking, bonding, and connecting.
  3. Create a positive environment: External events are great brand-boosters. And internal events are great mood-boosters too. If the content, engagement and vibe are just right, your SKO can improve your team’s outlook for months.
  4. Ramp up motivation: A dismal 15% of employees feel motivated. And with 40% of team success attributed to motivation alone, it’s something you can’t afford to overlook. How better to invigorate your sales team than with a killer SKO they won’t forget?
  5. Enhance knowledge: Educating your team for the year ahead is a big part of boosting morale. And we’re not talking a projector and some notes. Share important industry data, new marketing initiatives, learnings from the past year, and take extra care not to make it a snooze-fest. 😴

What does a hybrid SKO look like?

If you’re new to the world of hybrid SKOs, you might be thinking:

“Okay, I know what an SKO is. But how exactly does the whole hybrid thing work?”

Believe it or not, defining exactly what qualifies as a hybrid event is a topic of some debate. While there are different ways of creating a hybrid event, one thing most event marketers agree on is that they tend to come with some pretty stellar perks.

One part virtual and one part in-person, hybrid events provide more accessibility for remote attendees, valuable networking opportunities for both audiences, and an ultra-engaging event experience.

But as with any other type of event, you need to plan to win.

Hybrid SKOs: 5 tips to prep for perfection

You’ve decided a hybrid SKO is the way to go — great choice.

But as event legend Lisa Gregory reminds us, if you go hybrid you’re basically “running two events at the same time.” 🤯

Fortunately, with the right preparation you’ll be set to launch your hybrid SKO without a hitch.

Hybrid SKO step 1: Lock down your in-person venue and platform

If you recently shifted your SKO to a virtual setup, that also meant dropping one of the biggest hits to your event ROI: the venue. Instead, you probably found yourself trading presentation rooms and seating charts for a virtual event platform.

Now that hybrid’s here, you’ll have to juggle both. And that can get a little complicated. So let’s settle the basics.

Virtual: Find a virtual event platform that aces engagement

If you’re all about elevating the virtual component of your hybrid event, narrowing down your platform options is priority #1. But with literally hundreds to choose from, it’s no simple task.

💡Make these essential features part of your non-negotiables list:

  • Branded and integrated registrations pages
  • Speaker showcase page
  • Optimized screen share capabilities
  • Customizable navigation tabs
  • Multiple session tracks for ultimate attendee choice
  • Session and public chats
  • Booths and inseam peer-to-peer chat for optimal engagement

💡Then, if you really want to level-up, focus on these two areas:

  • Next-level engagement options: Go beyond one-way interactions and let your virtual SKO attendees really participate via live chat, polls, and video-powered Q&A.
  • Multi-track functionality: Break your sales team into individual groups (e.g., by territory) or different tracks based on theme (e.g., latest ABM trends and tactics).

Experts like Lisa use experience and data-driven platforms that help strike the right balance:

“Hybrid is all about running a full-blown virtual conference on a platform like Goldcast and having a venue that you're streaming from. Speakers appear both in-person and virtually. With Goldcast we could also have parts pre-recorded and a live session in every three tracks.”
In-person: Find a hybrid-optimized SKO venue for optimal wow-factor

Choosing a venue is always tricky.

There’s a lot to consider, including:

  • Cost
  • Location
  • Capacity
  • Layout
  • Facilities

…the list goes on.

💡 Keep this checklist handy when browsing venues for your hybrid SKO:

  • Is the stage setup streamworthy: lighting, speakers, camera distance, etc.?
  • Do they have solid wifi strength?
  • How much access will you have before the event to set up your tech?
  • Do they have enough screens to facilitate:

1) Speaker content

2) Engagement display (poll answers, Q&As, live chat streaming, etc.)

3) Virtual attendee interaction and remote audience streaming

An epic sales kickoff starts from the moment your attendees step in and log on. So take the time to ensure you’ll make a great first impression with both your virtual and in-person venues.

Hybrid SKO step 2: Choose your hybrid sales kickoff format

Ok. You’ve got your venue and platform sorted.

Next up: the format.

When it comes to hybrid event formats, you typically have three options: the great, the good and the classic table-stakes approach.

  • The all-in and all-together: Going all-out on both the virtual and in-person components is a must. And if you can blend both teams together for an engaging and inspiring hybrid event, you’re onto a winner.
  • The sandwich model: Event pro Lisa Gregory suggests, “having your in-person event first then, afterwards, hosting a virtual event using that content plus a unique virtual offering.”This is ideal for teams that want to put experience first, but can’t commit to a full-scale all-together event. The only downside? In-person and virtual attendees won’t have a chance to engage together as one group.
  • All-in on in-person, but stream virtually: “When you just post the content online, the excitement drops,” says Lisa. While a stream isn't the most engaging for your virtual attendees, it's still a good option for companies looking to dip their toes into hybrid. Just make sure you’ve coached your hosts and speakers to acknowledge your virtual attendees, and maybe even offer them a treat like some free swag or sponsored lunch. Aim to make them feel special, even if they can’t be there in-person.

Bottom line? Choose a hybrid format that provides an engaging, personalized, and interactive experience for both your virtual and in-person SKO attendees.

Hybrid SKO step 3: Know your goals

If you’re planning to splash the cash on an epic sales kickoff, your boardroom is going to want to know what they’re getting back in return.

To get to the right hybrid event metrics, work back from your sales team’s business goals, e.g. To increase monthly Closed-Won rates by 5%, and ask what relevant sales kickoff goal you can tie it to. Here are some examples:

  • SKO goal example #1: To inspire. How? By celebrating past wins.
  • SKO goal example #2: To align. How? By reviewing annual goals.
  • SKO goal example #3: Toupskill. How? By including educational workshops.
  • SKO goal example #4: To motivate. How? By explaining and hyping up bonuses and incentives.

But remember, hitting your goals isn't a check-box exercise. To really inspire, align, upskill and motivate, you have to engage your SKO attendees throughout the event.

Here’s how.👇

How to boost engagement during your hybrid sales kickoff

With your pre-event prepwork done and internal teams on board, your sales kickoff is ready to rock.

But the hard work doesn’t stop there.

Now, it’s time to lean in and engage your sales audience.

Hybrid SKO step 4: Keep engagement equal and awesome

Let’s be honest. Keeping your audience engaged is always a tough task.

In fact, when it comes to virtual events, audience engagement ranks as the biggest challenge among B2B companies.

“When it comes to virtual events, audience engagement ranks as the biggest challenge among B2B companies.”

And with hybrid, you have double the engagement options to think about. Here’s a quick list to help you keep it simple.

It’s tough to strike the right balance, but try not to over-index on one audience and not the other — they’re both expecting a show.

Hybrid SKO step 5: Slay the content game

Engagement features are key. But no one wants style over substance.

Smartling’s Adrian Cohn believes, “The best way to engage users is by creating great content. It all starts with content.” And we couldn’t agree more!

“The best way to engage users is by creating great content. It all starts with content.”

Say goodbye to overhead projectors and monotone speakers.

There are some new content formats in town, and they’re set to wow your hybrid sales kickoff audience:

  • Live speakers: Whether on screen or on stage, make sure your superstar speakers have the right tech, are ultra relatable, and ace the improv test.
  • Pre-recorded videos: Well-produced pre-recorded videos can be a powerful way to share your creative content with no day-of stress.
  • Booths: 1:1 content will elevate your SKO — masterclasses, VIP sit downs, team bonding, and so much more. In-person or virtual, quality booths are a must.
  • Downloads: Never waste content. But instead of cramming it all in, create an epic library of evergreen on-demand resources your sales team will love.

Ace your après SKO ⛷️

Congrats! You smashed your hybrid SKO.

There’s just one last step before you kick back from your kickoff .

You guessed it: the follow-up.

Hybrid SKO step 6: Execute a revenue-driving follow-up strategy

Granted, you’re not looking to seal the deal and lock in revenue with an internal event like a hybrid SKO. But follow-ups are still an absolute essential.

With the right hybrid event platform, you have access to key data, such as: Who went to which sessions? Who asked what questions? Did virtual attendees stay for the duration? How did they answer that poll? Did they download any resources? And much more.

💡Use your SKO insights to answer these important questions:

  • What topics did my team attend and enjoy most? Which ones didn’t they like?
  • What topics did they ask questions about?
  • There were a lot of downloads on this topic. Do we need more training on it?
  • This networking pairing went well. Would they make a good team?
  • This employee had limited interaction. How can we motivate them?

There are no email campaigns or follow-up calls to make. But meetings to discuss and act on your findings can turn out to be an even greater revenue booster.

Retention. Reinvigoration. Results.

An epic sales kickoff has a lot to offer. It’s a crucial opportunity to retain your sales superstars, empower your team and, ultimately — ramp up those results.

But a stellar hybrid SKO isn’t always easy to pull off.

If you prep like a pro, prioritize engagement, and use event insights to really improve the employee experience, you’re well on your way to stealing the SKO show. 😉

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