It’s that time of year again: the annual sales kick-off meeting. This year will be different — but also the same. After all, the fundamentals of a sales kick-off meeting do not change with the delivery method. What changes is technology and intentionality. The challenge many sales organizations are facing this year is an increased likelihood of disengaged attendees.

For most sales organizations, the only option for their annual sales kick-off meeting this year is to hold it virtually. The option to skip the sales meeting because sales teams can’t meet in person is not realistic or desirable. The sales kick-off sets the tone for the year. If companies decided not to hold one, not only would they be setting up their sales teams for failure, but they would also not capitalize on the opportunity to model to their sales teams how to hold effective, engaging and efficient online meetings. It would be a significant lost opportunity.

In today’s marketplace, most sales meetings are held virtually, whether over the phone or using webcams and teleconferencing software. Sales organizations need their salespeople to be able to thrive in this virtual environment. The success of the company and the sales people depend on it. What better way to help than to use the sales kick-off to show them how to do it effectively?

Create Opportunities for Interaction

Two benefits of an in-person sales conference are that dispersed team members can hear from their colleagues on what is working and where they’re struggling and that they can network with peers and leaders. With a virtual format, it’s especially important to create opportunities for sales teams to learn from each other and have networking breaks.

Salespeople need a virtual space where they can hear from their peers, and both they and corporate leaders also need a virtual space where they can “bump into” each other. It is important to plan and be intentional about creating these normally spontaneous meetings. You can use a virtual watercooler or “open house” room to accommodate such meetings, and you’ll need to schedule these details into the virtual sales meeting.

Make It Fun

Don’t forget the fun. Sales kick-off meetings are known for giving sales teams an opportunity to celebrate and have some fun as a group. There are many ways to include fun in a virtual sales kick-off meeting, but again, it has to be intentional.

Two options to consider are gamification (for example, implementing virtual games where sales teams are pitted against each other for a healthy competition) and virtual experiences like a “cook-along” with a famous chef or a cocktail-making party with an experienced bartender. Above all, be creative! In some ways, companies can have more fun with a virtual kick-off than they could with a traditional in-person meeting.

Remember, the annual sales kick-off meeting sets the tone for the year. Without it, most sales teams will falter. When companies hold them virtually, they can model the effective use of technology for their sales teams, create intentional networking and fun opportunities, and develop a community that works and plays well together to bring sales in for the whole year.