I don't need to tell you about how COVID-19 has forced all of us to adjust to a digital reality. You're knee-deep in that already.

As the possibility of in-person events becomes increasingly impossible in 2020, I have seen many of my colleagues and connections starting to brainstorm how to make a typical Sales Kickoff or similar internal annual event virtual for their organizations. I just did that for my organization to kick off our new fiscal year for the first time, and there were some growing pains. I want to share my six key takeaways and lessons to help you plan your own virtual Sales Kickoff (or any virtual event, really).

Keep it short and sweet

You do not need to treat a virtual SKO as a glamourous event. It should be informative and to the point, to ensure you maintain engagement.

The question to ask yourself is, "What can we do to make a virtual SKO valuable and engaging?"

The short answer is to identify an agenda that works for your organization's structure.

As an example, I work for a Global organization with reps selling multiple products across the world. For our structure, we could only host sessions during the hours of 8 AM – 11 AM to satisfy our Americas and EMEA regions. We had to duplicate sessions for our Asia Pacific region. Our sales reps only had to attend the product-based meetings for what they currently sell, and we made general sessions required for all attendees.

Logistically, this maps out to ~2-hour commitments for our reps during the day, with wiggle room for the general sessions. After the sessions finish for the reps, they continue to move through their day. A key benefit to this structure is that your Reps will be actioning their learnings as they go through SKO.

Pre-record critical information

It's time to start identifying your virtual event agenda. I suggest trying to minimize the time spent in front of a computer, not only for yourself but also for your teams.

It would help if you also thought about what content you can pre-record and make available in-advance, on-demand, and what needs to be "live." On-demand sessions will help add flexibility to your agenda and the time of participants.

As an example, we had analyst presentations that could not function without the live Q&A aspect. Instead, we decided to record our pricing training and product roadmaps for the upcoming year and added a quiz to measure retention. Then we hosted an engaging live Q&A session for the product roadmaps with all our product owners.

Choose the right platform

As we were planning our Sales kickoff, we chose not to invest in an external platform for our sessions. We considered various factors, and ultimately, we decided to use Microsoft Teams Live for our event.

We chose Microsoft Teams Live because the recording capability was significantly more straightforward. We could also share our system audio for "lobby music." Most importantly, we could track engagement and attendance.

As I've been surveying the field post-SKO to measure sentiment and collect feedback, our teams had minimal technical issues accessing the platform on different devices. I consider that a big win!

Make it a company kickoff

As you go virtual with Sales Kickoff, your organization has the unique opportunity to allow everyone to attend. If you expect improved results and performance because you were able to align sales team messaging, imagine what you can achieve when everyone is on-message?

Give yourself some grace

Nothing is perfect, and your first-ever virtual Sales Kickoff will be no exception. We are all especially challenged during these tumultuous times. The most important takeaway from this article is that you can pull off a virtual event for an entire company, keep everyone engaged, and you don't need to invest thousands into fancy baubles.

What you will find is that your sales team will feel confident and clear on the direction and will take that energy into conversations with their clients.

Don't go at it alone

Thank you to the fantastic women who rallied around this event and helped me succeed, including Jacqueline Fleming, Tara Sawyer, Shurita Chatterji, and Emily Olson! Although Sales Kickoff was a month ago, I am still grateful for the efforts and teamwork!

Have you hosted a SKO this year, or planning one now? Comment below with your experiences!