Should You Be Planning for a Virtual 2021 Sales Kickoff?

Face-to-face interactions are the pinnacle of not only business but what it means to be a human. In-person garners greater engagement. Being in the same room with someone, near other people, breaks down invisible barriers and unites us as a community. While I can and will continue to tout face-to-face as a business best practice that will never go out of style — our current global situation demands we shift perspectives for the time being, including a possible virtual sales kickoff.

Lucky for us, we have technologic solutions to continue our business activities even while we are asked to remain socially distant from one another. And for a while there, I myself figured business would be taking off once again the second half of this year with all offices reopening. But it is safe to assume we will see ebbs and flows of social distancing guidelines. Business leaders and their employees need to stay vigilant and agile.

Though it may seem early yet, given the current circumstances, now might be an ideal time for your leadership team to start discussing your 2021 sales kickoff. It might look different this year — and it might demand more planning than ever before.

Virtual Sales Kickoff Planning

  1. Commit to Your Platform Early

  2. Plan to Serve Your Audience

  3. Connect Your People


Commit to Your Sales Kickoff Platform Early

It is tempting to plan for an in-person sales kickoff. “That is months away,” you might say. “We will probably be able to be in-person by then.”

With the current state of things and the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, you could have planned the most top-notch in-person sales kickoff for it to be derailed by a new wave of the virus. A thrown-together virtual sales kickoff will not cut it. If anything, a virtual sales kickoff will take more planning than an in-person. It has not been done before. This will take a whole new foundation.

Consider the pros and cons of virtual sales kickoffs as you are making your final call.


    • Lower operating costs than an in-person event.
    • Can connect while maintaining social distancing.
    • Innovative technology offers new capabilities.


    • Potential disengagement.
    • No impromptu networking.
    • Potential for technical errors.

You have a lot of options from which to choose for your actual technical foundations. Likely, you have already developed a preference from your recent work-from-home experiences. Explore all these widely and make sure they can support your sales kickoffs and its goals. Also have backups, technical support and protocols in place to protect the security of your event and the workings of your event in case things go awry.

Consider technology elements down to the smallest of details and ensure they can integrate between platforms. Companies like Jabra, a leading consumer, professional and medical communications technology organization, are going above and beyond to serve businesses in a socially distanced environment. From an all-encompassing technology package for headsets, video conferencing and software to keep communications united, they have readily supported organizations in their work-from-home transitions — and see the vital need to do so for upcoming sales kickoffs and similar events.

“In times of change, it is important to take the right steps early on to set a powerful foundation for future success. The uncertainty in the global environment demands organizations prepare for future remote events, such as sales kickoffs,” says Mark Derby, Vice President, Large Enterprise and Public Sector Sales at Jabra. “But investing in any technology is not enough. To successfully pull off large events where a lot is at stake, you must invest in the right technology that is backed by a team of dedicated experts.”

Plan to Serve Your Audience With Compelling Content

Apple’s 2020 software conference was held online. Microsoft moved its Build event to the digital sphere. There is a lot to take note of from these tech giants on how they morphed these events to be successful on a new digital platform. They acknowledge the shortcomings of virtual events, including potential disengagement and a lack of impromptu networking. But they offered-up innovative ideas to overcome these and to provide a next-level experience for the audience.

In this case, your audience will be your employees. This theoretically boosts the engagement level considerably, because if your culture supports it, your people are invested in your joint success.

Next, you have to consider the reality of a virtual sales kickoff. Your employees will not be in the same venue as one another. There will be a loss of energy and excitement as John closes his office door and powers up his computer, taking a seat alone at his desk. There will be a different energy in each room as Susan sips her coffee and Ted is distracted by his kids throwing Legos through the crack under his door.

Read up on Sales Kickoff Content Best Practices — Virtual Or Otherwise

How can you overcome the distance?

  • Demand Their Attention Fast
    Your sales kickoff has to start off by addressing the people you are talking to. This means you cannot drone on about your company and its performance this past year. There cannot be data dumps. Talk to the people who are on theirs screens connected to yours. You can still get to all the important company information — but from a different, more compelling and relevant perspective.
  • Encourage Key People’s Engagement With Planning
    Give key leadership or employees an assignment or prompt to prepare to contribute during your virtual sales kickoff. Depending on your company size, this could include many people, everyone, or just key leaders. Depending on your culture, this could be something fun and lighthearted, just to get everyone in the same zone or something more practical and inspiring.
  • Break-off Into Smaller Groups
    There has been no single solution to overcome the networking barrier. But it is a step forward to allow your large groups to break-down into smaller subsects, where everyone can speak and feel engaged. This is especially important for exercise and role-play practice sessions with salespeople after providing new product information and messaging.
  • Enhance the Engagement and Entertainment Value
    Visual presentations are a must. The best way to keep audiences engaged is through multi-modal methods. You cannot sit on one format for too long. You can have a talking head for some time, cut to a pre-recorded video highlighting another concept, switch to an animated visualization of data points. Perhaps you can hire a local celebrity or performer to break-up sessions with five- to 10-minute skits. Maybe you ask your employees to prepare material like in the point above. Virtual has drawbacks but it also offers new tools that can offer up some fun.

Go Above and Beyond to Connect Your People With a United Goal

Content is key to your sales kickoff — true no matter what. Mereo follows a RICH™ format to enhance the resonance of concepts and thought leadership.

Relevant to your audience.

Innovative information.

Compelling and new ideas.

Hard data and proof to support your points.

When your sales kickoff content is RICH, your concepts will land and remain with your audiences, even if delivered across disparate screens. Through this framework, you will support a team that will drive sustainable revenue performance.

How Axway 2019 Sales Kickoff Changed the Game With Mereo’s Help

If you need support in planning for your 2021 virtual (or not) sales kickoff, reach out to the experts at Mereo.

virtual sales kickoff