Top 10 Tips for Running a Flawless Sales Kickoff

(updated November 15, 2021)

It’s time to start planning for the big 2022 kickoff! Whether your company does a sales kickoff, a company-wide Kickoff or a combination of both, planning is critical to its success—everything you hope to accomplish can be undone by a poorly executed event! This year presents a difficult challenge for companies to decide whether it will be in-person, remote or hybrid.

At FRONTLINE Selling, we typically do company-wide kickoffs, as we use that as an opportunity to get the entire team rowing in the same direction and ensure our collective success. We have had some really successful kickoffs and some, well, not-so-awesome ones. We learn from every experience, so hopefully our top tips for running an inspiring company or sales kickoff will ensure your event goes off without a hitch.

1. Have a theme but choose it carefully. If you grab a theme out of thin air, like ‘Hit it Out of the Park!’ without really thinking through how it applies to your company, it’ll fall flat. Choose something that really exemplifies what you want out of your team next year.

Choose a theme you can use all year long. The message should be something you can reinforce in company newsletters, meetings and social events—this reminds the team about the mission of the company and ensures it isn’t forgotten. Think carefully about the current tone in your company.

Remember, this day should be inspirational and educational. Don’t dwell on past mistakes or misses. A good idea is to recap the previous year, but move quickly towards ‘what’s to come’.

2. Hire a professional for your A/V needs. I can’t stress this enough. A/V issues are disruptive, stressful and portray an unprofessional image to your team. If you are considering a fully virtual or hybrid event, this is CRITICAL. 

You want to inspire your team to ‘follow you’ in the upcoming year—don’t stumble out of the gates with inaudible recordings, fuzzy video or ear-piercing feedback!

Have someone onsite all day for setup, testing and troubleshooting. (Trust me, it’s worth the money!) In addition, discuss your plans with them well in advance of the event so they can help you execute on the front end and ensure quality output at the event. Poor audio in particular makes it difficult for your teams to concentrate and they’ll likely tune out. And once you lose them, it’s not easy to bring them back.

If you are doing a hybrid event, make a point to engage those online. While it’s easy to engage the folks in front of you, you’ll lose the attention of the online attendees if you don’t make it a point to engage them.

3. Nail down every detail for the catering. Catering snafus are a huge disruption for a company or sales kickoff and VERY stressful for your event coordinator. Outlining every detail will be key to a smooth food and beverage service. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Find out who is the onsite contact person on the day of the event and their cell number. And who is their backup if they are late or sick?
  • Determine how many people will be serving/cleaning up.
  • Get commitment on how often coffee/plates/napkins/silverware etc. will be checked and refreshed. (It sounds silly, but we had a buffet style lunch and ran out of plates, and there was no one in sight to help!)
  • Confirm when plates and glasses will be cleared. You want to ensure they aren’t doing that when someone is speaking or you’re doing a group activity.

4. Ask clients to speak at your event. Our team loves when clients speak because they don’t often hear from the clients themselves about how our work impacts their business. It’s been very gratifying to hear our clients speak so highly about what we do, and how their business has thrived as a result.

Last year we had several clients record a video since in-person wasn’t an option. It actually went over very well with our entire team!

5. ‘Link’ all your presentations together. Consistency in messaging is so crucial to ensuring everyone is on the same page. All presentations should tie back to your theme, showing a unified approach from the entire leadership team. Providing a template for each presentation is helpful to the one’s creating the content. Structure is your friend here! While everyone will have differing approaches to communicating their information, the framework and overall message has to be consistent.

(Hint: When I say ‘structure’ I don’t mean ‘stuffy’! No one likes stuffy speakers. Have some fun with your presentations—make some jokes and lighten things up. Just be sure the overall format and message is consistent with the team.)

6. Do a thorough run-through of all presentations ahead of the event. This is important for timing. Don’t just review bulleted slides and estimate the time it will take to present. Three bullets on a slide might look like a 3-minute slide, but if the presenter has lots to say, that ‘short’ slide could take 15 minutes! You don’t want to end up rushing the content planned for the end of the day.

(Tip: Have your presentations completed 5 days in advance to allow for run-throughs, optimizing and editing. It seems like overkill, but you’ll be so much more relaxed!)

7. Give plenty of time to clear calendars. Your team should not schedule ANY calls or meetings that day – it’s YOUR day. This is the one time where you have everyone in one place (even if it’s virtual) and you likely have plenty of important information to communication. This is all-hands on deck—no excuses!

8 Don’t skimp on the awards. This past year we invested in nice acrylic and crystal awards, selecting different styles for various honors. It was a HUGE hit among the winners and gave the rest of the team something to strive for. While the ‘honor of being recognized’ is always nice, don’t underestimate the value of that classy award being displayed on their desk. Spend a little extra and make your employees really feel how much you appreciate their contribution.

9. Involve as many different people as possible. Sharing information from the department heads and leadership team can be the majority of the program, but give others a voice. People love to hear from their peers, and it’s quite an honor to be asked. Even if they just partake in a ‘skit’ or lead a group participation event, the inclusion is another way to ensure your team feels appreciated and respected. It’s also a great way for future leaders to gain experience in public speaking, which can be nerve-wracking.

10. Don’t send them home uninspired. Leave them with something to make them get up and cheer. Close with a great speech—one that makes them excited about the upcoming year and ready to ‘roll up their sleeves’. Using music is always a great way to invoke emotion so consider having it as background music as you close the event. For example, we had a short break before we started the Awards Ceremony and played “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner as a lead in to set the mood. It was very well received!

If you have any other tips or pitfalls to avoid in your sales kickoff, please email me at mbuckley@frontlineselling.com so I can include them in our 2022 Kickoff plans!