Welcome to the second and final part of Capdesk’s guide to kick-offs. I’m Hakon, Capdesk’s Chief Commercial Officer and employee-first evangelist. In this article, I’ll give you the lowdown on planning and executing a kick-off event from start to finish.
In case you missed it, I’d recommend checking out part one of this guide first, as it covers the essential early stages of the process: developing a concept and creative theme.
Right, let’s get started.
First things first, I have to acknowledge something pretty important. When it comes to creating inspiring team events, Capdesk has an unfair advantage: Dave Breckon.
Dave brings thought, passion and brilliance to his work that goes beyond any job spec we could have written; to be honest, it's hard to put it into words (cue emotional music).
When Dave and I first talked about doing something design-led with our internal events, we organically converged on each of the Capdesk values (iteration, empowerment, togetherness, curiosity and purpose).
Just like that, Capdesk kick-offs were born!
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and kick-offs are no exception. We typically start the process two months before the K.O date, at which point we assemble our event committee. All employees are invited to join, whether they’ve been with Capdesk for three months or three years. Everyone’s input on how we make this event exceptional is equally welcome.
Beyond the core members (see my Q-tip below) the committee is limited to six people. At the first planning meeting, we assign roles and responsibilities to each member, and start using Notion to document tasks and plot a timeline. We also use this time to brainstorm with Dave, throwing around ideas that will inform his creative concept.
From here on, the committee checks in weekly, reporting on progress. We keep a close eye on our overall budget (set by the CFO) and track all expenses as we go.
Some areas need clear ownership, and it’s best to keep the same person in charge from kick-off to kick-off as they accrue knowledge. These people make up your core team.
A week after the initial brainstorm, Dave presents a number of creative concepts to the committee for discussion. Each possible theme has a message which aligns with our strategy for the coming quarter, which we try to bring to life in as many ways as possible.
Take a look at some of the concepts we explored for our Q1 kick-off this year – we’ve made the page visible to the public.
As a committee, we decide which concept to take forwards. If we have especially ambitious plans or want to change something fundamental, we’ll loop the founders in for their approval.
Once the theme is set, we try to keep it totally under wraps. Revealing the theme to the rest of the company on the day of the event is a big moment, and everybody likes a nice surprise!
The role of creativity in our events is essential, and our employees tell us they look forward to the theme reveal each quarter. Virtual events are harder to get pumped up about than in-person ones, so we do everything we can to keep the buzz going around the business.
If you have designers or creatives in your company, try to get them involved in some capacity. Emphasise the value they can bring to the event for the benefit of their colleagues.
Without a doubt, logistics is the most painful part of running a virtual kick-off event. Sourcing suppliers, ordering merch and coordinating deliveries is a hugely time-consuming task, and new hurdles appear every time.
Four kick-offs in and Dave is now a bonafide logistics pro, but we’re all aligned on the fact that this is far from scalable. As of today there are very few businesses that offer help with this part when you have fewer than 100 employees.
For a recent event, we ended up getting all the merch delivered to Dave’s home, repackaged into ‘swag boxes’ and shipped to employees’ locations around the world – at which point Brexit reared its head and customs officials all over Europe intercepted.
If you're going to do it right, then be prepared to go all out, invest the time, and stay ready to change your plans at the last minute. Anticipate delays to avoid disappointment!
In our latest kick-off we pivoted from upfront deliveries to launching an online merch shop, where employees can customise the items they want and have them delivered after the event. Our employees get more choice, and we get a little less deadline stress, so everybody wins.
We separate our kick-offs into two halves. First there’s the sign-off, where we reflect on the previous quarter’s wins, losses and achievements worth celebrating. After that comes the kick-off, where each team reveals its plans for the coming quarter and we collectively set the tone for the next three months (in line with our overall kick-off theme).
The sign-off activities often take place on a Thursday afternoon, culminating with a special event organised for our Capdeskers. We’ve had a magician, a standup comedian and most recently a live Sofar sounds gig – yes, all virtual!
Employees have the morning to themselves, to spend however they like (often recuperating), but we also arrange a yoga class for anyone who wishes to take part.
Capdesk’s workforce is spread over many different countries and time zones, so we take the necessary steps to ensure our schedule doesn’t accidentally exclude anybody, or expect them to wake up at 5am. Specifying time zones on the agenda is a simple step you can take to avoid confusion.
The day finally arrives, and it’s madness!
From an operations perspective, we have at least one person hosting the event, ensuring we stick to the schedule and assisting with any technical issues. This is part of my role.
From a catering perspective, we give each employee a budget of 75 GBP to spend on drinks, dinner and snacks as they please over the course of the event. We use Pleo cards to manage this from start to finish.
There is no one-size-fits-all software for events like these. We’ve found Zoom is great for mobile-optimised experiences, while Hopin’s breakout rooms make networking with colleagues much easier. We keep an eye out for new tools that can keep up with our changing needs.
The final step of this entire process is the all-important wash-up. Reflecting on and learning from projects is how we bring Capdesk’s ‘iteration’ value to life. Our Content Lead Scarlett documented a wash-up process that we now use across the business.
We use each of these wash-ups to help us tweak based on results from our latest launches. Our wash-up sessions close the process off on a positive note, leaving the committee inspired and full of ideas for making the next event even better.
Well, that’s about it from me. I hope this has been a helpful glimpse into how we do kick-offs and provided a jumping-off point for organising your own event. Get in touch if you want to find out more, I’m happy to lend a hand to anybody working on improving their employees’ experience.