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What you need to know to run the next successful annual sales meeting

photo courtesy of flickr Joe Shlabotnik cc

Sometime in the next 12 months you may be a part of an annual sales meeting. Having attended, hosted and presented at a lot of them, I have a few suggestions on how to run an effective sales meeting:

1. Eat well, don't skimp. Bagels and schmear is not breakfast; coldcuts with wilted lettuce is not lunch. Serve real food because the people you're feeding are doing real work and they don't get to choose their meal options and they are trusting that you will take care of them. Food sets the tone for the whole meeting.

2. Introduce products, services and changes like Steve Jobs. The droning engineer Power Point...I have watched the air get sucked out of a ballroom in nanoseconds when the new product introduction presentation starts. Steve Jobs did it best - dramatic, short, clear demonstration of value and lots of out-of-session materials for detail-diggers to review later. Hit the key points, explain the market need that is being met, give a few case study stories and then exit. Make certain that the nitty-gritty details are covered in all of the take-away materials.

3. Plan "Burst and Break and Best" sessions. Many annual meetings seek best practice exchange and collaboration through break out sessions. Here's a great break-out session structure approach I call "Burst-Break-Best."

-- Burst - a very brief presentation on a skill, technique or idea, by an expert for 10-15 minutes

-- Break - table discussion and take 10 minutes to discuss how to use the Burst information and apply it to the business issues being discussed

-- Best - each table determines its top 1-2 application ideas that were discussed and shares it with the larger group

4. Follow the presenting rules. The smartest people in the world share their very best ideas for solving the world's biggest problems and are allowed no more than 18 minutes in which to do it. Their studies determined that that period gave the maximum yield of attention and engagement in presented materials. It's a great rule to adopt for annual meetings for any single speaker.

5. Mix people with purpose. Seating the Human Resources Manager from the Manitoba office with the Sales Director from the Los Angeles office may sound like a great idea for team-building, but it's not. They don't work together, won't work together and don't need to know each other. Mix people with purpose.

6. Kit it up and make it digital. Everything that you want to print off, bind up, box to carry, etc. - all of it should be digital. Period. Save the trees and digitize the content. You have a better chance that the recipient will at least take it home and have it available if he or she needs it.

7. Capture the content and play it back all year long. You spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours on your annual meeting. You have presentations and speakers and materials and then everyone goes home. Humans don't absorb information all at once and then use it throughout the year. Your annual meeting creates a series of mental hooks that the ideas hang on. My recommendation is that you record, (video preferably, audio otherwise), the material. Have it professionally edited into manageable mental morsels and then send back out relevant portions throughout the year as a way of reminding and reconnecting people to the great information from the meeting.

Annual meetings can be phenomenal. Take these ideas and create a great event.

By the way, if you haven't taken the 9 second quiz to see what your truth experience has been with your competitors, compared to everyone else m now's the time.  We're taking it down 12/9/11.