Whitney Perry is Manager, Global Go-To-Market Communications on Zscaler’s Revenue, Enablement and Velocity Team

Flights, hotels, event badges, mainstage, breakouts - does this sound familiar? As August is Q1 and the beginning of a new fiscal year for many companies, ‘tis the season for Sales Kick Off (SKO).

Zscaler’s Sales Enablement team (known as the Revenue, Enablement and Velocity team) took on an uncharted feat: hosting SKO in 3 geos.

🌎 Chicago ➡️ Prague ➡️ Bangkok 🌏

We welcomed 3,700 attendees, offered numerous attendee learning tracks by role and tenure, with 50+ breakout sessions. We coordinated 75+ speakers and supported 3 philanthropic organizations in the local regions.

A group of all-star enablement team members, plus a roster of speakers and executives circumnavigated the globe together over three incredible back-to-back weeks.

Why every enablement team needs a communications manager | SEC
A global enablement communications manager sits at the epicenter of an enablement team and is typically responsible for designing and executing a communication strategy to address various programs, product launches, change management, operations, and other pieces of critical information.

Returning to in-person events

Like all companies, the landscape of our work environment changed significantly over the past few years.

This year’s SKO was Zscaler’s first large-scale, in-person, internal event since pre-pandemic times.

Zscaler spent the pandemic years in hyper-growth mode, so for a large portion of our attendees, it was an event of firsts.

  • The first time meeting their peers,
  • The first time meeting their leaders,
  • The first time traveling for business, etc.

From an event perspective, this required over-communicating logistical information such as how to register, how to book travel, where to check in, attire, and what to expect.

We built an app and utilized push notifications to stay in constant communication with our attendees. Confusion popped up in unexpected places, like how hard it was to navigate the maze of hotel conference rooms – so being able to access attendees through their mobile devices was critical.

The number one piece of feedback we received on SKO was how great it was for people to meet their teams, their leaders, and have opportunities to connect and build relationships.

People were eager for connection and wanted more.

Happy hours, philanthropic events, booths, team offsites, and networking events were all attended at capacity. Attendees even arrived early and stayed late on their own—people were simply thrilled to get together. Being in the room buzzing with excitement reminded everyone that we are all one team.‌

Enablement communication, with Zscaler’s Whitney Perry | SEC
Highlights from our conversation with Zscaler’s Whitney Perry. Learn from her communications expertise in this article! | SEC

Events in the post-pandemic world

Beyond the valuable time for connection and socializing, we had ambitious goals for preparing the field on the strategic focus for FY23.

Zscaler’s Enablement Team built and executed a robust agenda of mainstage speakers and breakout sessions by role and tenure, offering attendees the ability to opt-into the content and training that aligned to their needs.

With the adjustment back to in-person events, we needed to remind ourselves about the human experience element and adjust our plans accordingly.

The balance and length of sessions, breaks, transit time between sessions, fatigue and restlessness are all considerations that differ from the framework of virtual events and pre-pandemic in-person events.

Reevaluating the event framework to align to our new normal takes empathy and imagination.

Another thing the pandemic cemented is that the virtual event track is here to stay. For the foreseeable future we will all be planning hybrid events, and for good reason.

Virtual events can alleviate the burden of travel, time away from family, and are generally more accessible. They’re also more affordable in terms of business travel. The downside is the depth of connection from an in-person event is unparalleled.

One key thing to remember is that hybrid events are only hybrid for the event planners - attendee experiences are either in-person or virtual. So it requires strategy, creativity, and the right virtual events platform and tools to cohesively integrate the two audiences together.

3 SKOs, 3 Geos, 3 Weeks - It Takes a Village

If companies want to foster a thriving culture, events like SKO need to be treated extraordinarily. SKO gives attendees a sense of purpose and can be a huge source of inspiration.

In-person events like SKO reinforce and prioritize company culture as one of the most valuable elements in a high performance company. This is why I’m extremely proud to be at Zscaler — our SKO was focused around our people and how we can all support one another to unlock our potential, our superpowers, and our wildest dreams for the future.

Despite the grueling jet-lag chasing us from geo to geo, and the sheer exhaustion from the long, hyper-social days, Zscaler’s Enablement Team knocked FY23 SKO out of the park.

SKO reminded us all of the spectacular heights we can accomplish if we roll up our sleeves, collaborate, and work together as one team.

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