Six Key Elements Of The Sales Meeting Of The Future

Jill Anonson

They’re getting shorter. Edgier. Digital. They’re incorporating b-to-c experiences, taking cues from the entertainment industry. And thanks to multi-generational influences, from millennials on up (with Gen Z just around the corner), they’re feeling more co-created, personalized and shareable.

While the foundation of the sales meeting remains the same—to inspire, motivate and recognize—how the sales meeting acts, what it looks like and how it’s designed is evolving. Here are six ideas to help modernize any sales meeting.

1.  Less Talking, More Networking

The sales meeting is often the only time of year certain employees are face-to-face and able to meet peers and establish new contacts. The new sales meeting is less formal and places a stronger emphasis on peer-to-peer engagement with structured and unstructured networking opportunities.

For a structured networking opportunity, you might assign a topic that was brought up but not able to be addressed in the formal sessions. Supply a relaxed environment and soft furniture and create a “breakout” discussion group. Throughout each day of the meeting, work in several 40 minute breaks for unstructured opportunities that give attendees the chance to go back to their rooms to think or grab a coffee with other attendees to meet, greet and discuss.

“People will find productive ways to use those 40 minutes, so just give it to them,” says Rob Danna, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at ITA Group. “Get them talking. Get them participating and thinking outside the box. They’re not just receptors—they’re contributors.”

2.  Customization

Meetings today have a mix of generations to consider and a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to give today’s attendees the flexibility they want in terms of how they absorb information. One way to make everyone happy is to let attendees decide how they’ll engage.

“We’ve created a room that is comprised of a bunch of different ‘sets’ so people can pick and choose how they want to interact at the meeting,” says Sarah Haines, VP-Event Management at ITA Group. “You have to make sure you give people the power to choose.”

3.  Discovery Learning

Ditch lectures, mandates and PowerPoints. The next-gen attendee is accustomed to multisensory learning and quick hits of information, rather than the long form. Content in meetings is becoming more interactive with two-way dialogues and crowd-sourced topics.

“The recommendation we make is to gamify learning,” Danna says. “Sales people love to hear their own voice, so we’re going to enable that.

“We’re going to send out a provocative question two weeks in advance and when they get on-site, we’re going to let them present ideas, share feedback and vote on best practices. That’s when the spirit of competition is born.”

4.  With Awards, Think Big

Recognizing top earners remains a key element in the sales meeting formula. But the new sales meeting delivers a high-production-value, television broadcast-style awards program that is not only rewarding, it’s shareable and memorable. Aside from creative lighting, music and a lively presentation, consider some high-value additions like a “gifting suite” (Oscars-style), where top performers are treated like celebrities with a VIP lounge and the opportunity to pick out gifts for themselves and their families.

5.  The ESPN Factor

Transform your keynotes or general sessions with broadcast techniques like ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Offer the agenda in a dynamic side-screen ticker allowing attendees to follow along, know what’s coming next and anticipate content. Deliver the content with spark. Bring in a celebrity or expert to comment on a topic for 90 seconds. Move on to a different speaker. And so on.

Adds Haines: “Our attention spans are nothing anymore, so you have to keep it moving and keep it fast. We even design the meeting spaces with constantly shifting lights.”

6.  Contests 2.0

Sales professionals are competitive, which is why contests are natural tools to get attendees engaged and involved in the meeting. But don’t settle for corporate “Jeopardy.” Think big and think next gen—like video contests. An example: inviting attendees to film an elevator pitch, their value proposition. The top 10 videos are then played at the meeting and voted on. These allow contestants to inject their personalities, get creative and involve “celebrities” or well-known customers in their industry. The videos can be shared internally to amplify the contest. Other ideas: Fitness tracker steps contests, competitions for the best sales “access” letter to potential clients, and app scavenger hunt battles.

Jill AnonsonJill Anonson has over 20 years of experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Solution Manager at ITA Group ( In her role, she is responsible for market definition, competitive research, business plan development and more while creating strategies and solutions that help ITA Group thrive.