SKO Season 2014: Lessons Learned

Alana Kadden Ballon, of Inqune, works with a team at one of our 2014 SKO events.
Alana Kadden Ballon, of Inqune, works with a team at one of our 2014 SKO events.

Whew! We’ve been cranking since company kickoff season ended last month. Our team is working non-stop as we make the development campaign promises of those kickoffs into reality. Here, we take a moment to reflect on what we learned from the four unique events we were lucky enough to participate in globally.

8. There is never enough time.

Everyone likes to revise their content until the very last minute, no matter how early you start, how clear your objectives, or when your printing deadline for materials. We set this expectation upfront and try to be as flexible as possible, but limit last minute changes to minor content adjustments.

7. Preparation is key.

Even if you think you know your content, you need to practice. It always sounds different in your head compared to coming out of your mouth. Test it out. Out loud. A few times.

6. It is going to run late.

When you run late and cut sessions, it tells people certain topics aren’t important, so be respectful of your objectives and give each session equal time. You need a sergeant in arms to work with the presenters to keep them on track, dry-run to make sure people understand how fast the time goes, pad time in the schedule and be flexible. Pro tip: Put the speakers who tend to run the longest at the end of the day.

5. Create dialogue.

Make time for questions, on all topics. Create group discussion forums and have them report back. End the day with an executive panel Q&A and allow people to ask questions, speak their mind and learn what is important to the entire team. Create a culture of discussion.

4. What you do afterwards matters.

If you say you are going to do follow-up DO IT! Without reinforcement, additional programming and resources, the impact of a kickoff is very limited.

3. Having fun can be more important than anything else you do.

So much learning, team formation and understanding can come out of the activities that challenge the reps during and after the sessions. Let them show off their talents and get them thinking and working together.

2. Everyone is nervous.

Sometimes participants are worried about change, new leaders are worried about taking on the mantle, managers are worried about results. Do everything you can to make everyone feel comfortable.

1. People are there to hear the leaders.

The question I get asked most frequently about kickoffs is: why do people have them? Usually these events are meant to celebrate accomplishments, align to future goals, learn new information including messaging or market approaches, and bond as a team. But really, truly, people are there to listen to the leaders. People are programmed to tune into what their leaders say as a way of identifying what is  important. So really, they are there to hear from you. Make it good.