Sales kickoffs serve a dual purpose: to celebrate the past year of success and to set the tone and goals for the new year. It’s important to create a kickoff and agenda that’s the right mix of celebration, motivation, conversation, action, and storytelling.

For 2018, it’s all about human connection and making people feel like they're part of something much bigger. Your perfect agenda needs to give attendees the context of why and also bring them together — whether it’s in person or a virtual kickoff. If you aren’t working this into your agenda now, it’s time to get started. Here are just a few ways you can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your 2018 sales kickoff agenda this year.

Of course a successful sales kickoff instills the motivation to keep sales reps and leaders going all year long. But that motivation needs some back-up support in the form of inspiration and clear, transparent, and open communication of goals, expectations, and metrics. A sales team can only be the best they can be if they know what success should look like — and if you make it personal to them.

The agenda should definitely include a clear articulation of not only goals from the most senior leaders, but also the “bigger than you” motivation. Think about Elon Musk at a launch or kickoff. It’s not just the electric car; it’s the entire message that they are there to change the world and make it a cleaner, healthier place. Communicating the difference your company makes to the lives of your customers — or the world at large — will deliver the motivation that everyone is part of something much larger. And, of course, be specific and prescriptive with what your team should do to help make that vision a reality. Provide their role in the big picture — not just the big picture.

With a one- or two-day agenda, there is the motivational piece and then there’s the drilldown into the tactics. What will a sales rep’s life look like over the next 30, 60, or 90 days? It’s crucial to communicate specifics. But be sure to leave time in the agenda  for people to actually talk about them.

This is another moment where you can bring the element of human connection into your agenda. If you inspire people with amazing energy and motivation but don't allow them to breathe and converse, then you have missed the real synergy that can happen to bring the goals to life after the kickoff.

These conversations can take the form of engaging workshop exercises to discuss the motivational topics and goals at an in-depth and personal level. Drive a discussion of “what it means to me and my role.” And don’t lose the valuable content produced there. Workshop leaders should collect the sentiments; the final session of the agenda could include a summation of the thoughts and “what we’ve been hearing from you.” The motivation comes full circle because teams are now directly involved and active participants.

New connections can also be created with peer networking. Help people meet each other who wouldn't normally meet — whether due to different territories, departments, you name it. You can do something very tactical and informal during the introduction of a session and say "Everybody walk up to somebody you don't know and tell them your biggest accomplishment from 2017." And you just get the room going with energy. It works with 10 people, 50 people, or 1,000 people. If you're doing a virtual kickoff, you can also make this work with video conferencing and chats. It helps break down that digital barrier.

You can also take a more formal approach to really facilitate these interactions and conversations. Why not let developers meet sales people? Why not let customer support people meet developers? Why not let sales people meet marketing people? Get people to share and talk with others they might not ever connect with and introduce their ideas to each other.

True inspiration and innovation can happen when we break out of our own bubbles. In the end, it’s all about driving human connection through conversation — and the best discussions are those around the themes and motivations anchoring the overall kickoff and the ultimate drivers of business success.

A sales team can only be the best they can be if they know what success should look like — and if you make it personal to them.”

Elay Cohen | CEO, SalesHood