Everything you need to know about midyear kickoff events

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Believe it or not, it’s the middle of 2021…

Many sales organizations are in the midst of implementing new approaches to work, whether returning to the office, staying remote, or adopting a hybrid approach. Given the shifts, 2021 seems a particularly good year to bring sellers together and re-align sales efforts. 

This year we’ve observed an uptick in midyear kickoff events, as well as larger sales summits, and national sales meetings. With that in mind, here are a few questions and answers if you’re wondering about if your org should host one, and how to do it right.

Who should host Midyear Kickoffs? 

Midyear kickoffs are less common than standard kickoffs (held at the beginning of the year). That said, many organizations, of all sizes, host them. They are an excellent way for the organization as a whole, or specific teams, to align on major company updates, and level-set for the remaining year.

That said, midyear kickoffs are most important when there are considerable changes in the organization. Factors may include:

  • New management or leadership changes. E.g. if there has been a new CRO or CMO, this can be an excellent time for individuals to get to know them more personally.
  • When there are a LOT of new hires
  • Any funding changes or plans (e.g. a new acquisition)
  • Major product launches

Product launches are a core driver for midyear kickoffs, as these necessitate disseminating information to the entire company (though relevant information will vary by function). They are an excellent time to incorporate product training; peer-led workshops; feedback sessions, etc.  

When is the best time to host a Midyear Kickoff Event?

We most commonly see these events in mid to late July, or early August, assuming the organization is on a fiscal year calendar. 

How does a Midyear Kickoff compare to a Kickoff or Sales Kickoff?

Midyear kickoffs have similar goals to beginning-of-year kickoffs or SKOs. They do tend to be shorter, and a bit smaller in scope and focus more on changes / updates since the beginning of the year, rather than forward-looking goals.

How to Host a Midyear Kickoff - in-person, virtual or hybrid?

The typical trade-off between in-person and virtual events applies to these internal events as well. In-person events are much more expensive if flying team members in from all over the country and renting space. Yet, they tend to come with the energy and camaraderie that people look forward to.

Virtual or hybrid events don’t need to be bare-bones though. We advise going a notch above your standard video conferencing solution to make the event stand out. At the same time, you likely don’t need a premium event platform that has all the bells and whistles. Look for something that is flexible, easy to set up, and allows custom configuration (so that you can easily set up breakouts and a variety of programming).

Tips for Engaging Kickoff Events

As we’ve been a part of planning dozens of kickoff events and observed hundreds more internal events, we regularly see event feedback improve with more opportunities for engagement. Engagement shouldn’t be limited to solely a ‘networking session.’ Rather, creating opportunities for peer-led sessions, smaller-group breakouts, etc., makes an event much more energizing and impactful. 

Often people’s greatest takeaways from an event are not what the keynote speaker said, but a connection that was made about what the keynote speaker said. Don’t forget to offer spaces to cultivate these moments of connection. A few programming ideas to consider:

  • After mainstage presentations on product updates, plan in breakout rooms for different functions. Relevant product knowledge varies greatly by team. Allowing each team to follow-up with deeper-dive sessions and workshops allows them to get the curated information they need.
  • If introducing new members of leadership, it is also nice to offer breakout Q&A sessions with those key members.
  • Another way to help make the event more engaging, and much more impactful, is to schedule in time for individual team alignment. Kickoffs are not just for company updates, but also a helpful time for teams to strategize, reflect and plan. Don’t assume teams will do this on their own. 
  • Finally, think through creative networking ideas. Go beyond the basic happy hour to incorporate fun activities or themed get-togethers. If virtual, consider a pre-recorded talent show (attendees can submit talents) or a planned virtual activity (organized trivia).

Engagement may be a little more work when laying out the agenda, but when you get your event NPS scores back, you’ll see it is well worth it.

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Written by:
Lindsey is the Head of Growth at Filo.co, a platform for collaborative virtual events like sales kickoffs, trainings, workshops, deal reviews, and more. Prior to Filo.co, Lindsey ran marketing, events and growth for a range of companies, from greenhouses to QA software.

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