This year, instead of our traditional sales and marketing event, we took the opportunity to do a whole company virtual kickoff. Identifying ways to engage employees across all departments, from all over the globe, from their own homes, required out of the box thinking and significant preparation for our marketing team. Here’s what I learned from organizing Fuze’s virtual company kickoff this year.
1. Develop an attendee experience journey by region.
Because of the pandemic, this year we had the opportunity to open up our kickoff to the entire company. Traditionally, our kickoff model can be costly because we do the entire event in person at a destination location, with only certain teams in attendance. However, during this year’s kickoff, we knew that being virtual would give us an opportunity to evaluate when to host our main stage sessions. Holding presentations between 9am-1pm ET allowed us to capture as many attendees as possible in North America and Europe. We also hosted a handful of live events in the evening to ensure our Asia-Pacific employees could engage. Additionally, we made taped meetings available the Monday after kickoff so that all employees could go back and watch missed sessions. Like many things, COVID has changed how we will produce our annual kickoff.
Moving forward, I envision a hybrid model where we host a large virtual company kickoff, and the teams who may need on-site training (like sales) can still meet in person. Just like the future of work will become hybrid, I believe the future of company-wide meetings will be as well.
2. Extend your virtual event beyond the screen.
A virtual kickoff will never feel exactly like the real thing. So don’t force it. Instead, find small ways to extend the event into the real world to engage your workforce such as surveying employees during presentations, hosting a virtual happy hour, or handing out company gear. Swag bags are a kickoff staple at Fuze, and we weren’t going to let this year be any different. We offered every employee a customizable kickoff kit, where they could choose from three options that included, a notebook and pen and either a new Yeti coffee mug or a Fuze-branded cocktail kit.
3. Invite a high profile external speaker.
While big name celebrities and professional athletes can be challenging to secure due to travel schedules, being remote has made these speakers more attainable options. Celebrities are guaranteed to pump up any company meeting and can have a substantial influence on the information we retain, how we feel when leaving a meeting, and the attitudes we adopt moving forward. This year at Fuze, Damion Lee from the Golden State Warriors joined us for an interview to talk about perseverance, goal setting, and teamwork. His mantra, “small victories win the war,” struck a chord across teams as he emphasized that you shouldn't lose sight of the big picture, but you can only get there one day at a time, one game at a time, one step at a time.
4. Don’t limit the kickoff to one day.
One of the biggest benefits to not being onsite at a hotel paying for a ballroom and production crew, is not being tied down to the traditional kickoff format. Using this to our advantage, at Fuze we decided to expand our kickoff to three days. Spreading out the events ensured that we were following video meeting best practices and preventing video and PowerPoint fatigue. Spreading out events also enabled our employees to still get work done, be with their families, and have moments of screen-less time, while digesting all the company presentations.
5. Continue building remote company culture.
It can be challenging to build remote culture, but not impossible. And finding ways to keep employees engaged throughout kickoff sessions can be harder with at-home distractions. This year we brought in complementary partners to lead team building events and games to break up keynote presentations and to keep the overall energy light and fun. One of our partners, Go Remote, was a huge hit! Employees across regions tapped into their competitive edge and went head to head in trivia and games such as, name that tune. Activities like these were essential to fostering employee engagement and connectivity throughout this year’s kickoff.
Planning a virtual kickoff meeting is a chance to use your creativity and reimagine your company’s audience engagement strategy. Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback, we’re already thinking about how we can leverage these lessons for other company events and next year’s kickoff.