How to Shift a National Sales Conference to an Experiential Event

Maggie Wenthe
Maggie Wenthe

Group of engaged sales conference attendees listening to a keynote speaker

ITA Group hosts our annual sales conference where marketing, sales and sales support team members from all over the country gather together to talk thought leadership, learn new strategies and network with each other. This past year’s conference was one of our best yet. Here are the tactics we used—and you can apply right now—to make it a huge hit with our people.

Outline Your Objectives

The main objective of our annual sales conference was to train our teams on how to solve their client’s business issues using our solutions. Making this clear provided attendees with an idea of what to expect right away.

To meet this objective, we crafted the event to provide education around global and market trends, thought leadership from speakers (both external and internal), how customers are buying, selling tactics, ITA Group capabilities and our brand positioning.

Apply Strategy to the Theme

We wanted to light a fire within our sales team and inspire them to take what they learned from the conference and apply it out in the field. Which is why we themed our conference, BLAZE.

The theme was devised to mirror the buyer’s journey (which has undergone massive disruption over the past few years and we needed our sales team to understand how this affects our business). In order to make a fire—BLAZE—you have to have heat, fuel and oxygen.

Heat = today’s market and world trends (Awareness)

Fuel = engagement solutions that emotionally connect people (Consideration)

Oxygen = our capabilities that connect participants and stakeholders with purpose (Decision)

Keynote speaker addressing the crowd at an experiential sales meeting event

Offer Breakout Sessions and Relevant Speakers

Our 2017 sales conference was a combination of new elements and building off of the year before.  We had a really great year leading up to the meeting, so the theme needed to tie the 2016 conference to what progress had been made as a company at the time of the 2017 conference. 

We know that people are complex and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to motivation. So one of the new elements incorporated in this conference encouraged attendees to pick and choose breakout sessions that interested them most based on industries or trends they wanted to learn more about. That way, attendees could choose what motivated them most, which in turn increased engagement in each session overall.

We offered multiple keynote and breakout speakers, both credible external speakers as well as internal experts. Matching a speaker to each step of the buyer’s journey helped solidify the content shared throughout the day.

Heat = get ready for the future

Fuel = changing customer journey

Oxygen = high performance selling

Start Event Communications Early

The BLAZE theme needed to tie everything together and tell a cohesive story to the team in attendance before, during and after the event. Each of the communication elements involved in telling that story were about encouraging our team to blaze trails and ignite firestorms of success for our clients.

Prior to the conference, we ran a series of email communications to boost attendee awareness and get people excited. We first sent a save the date and followed up with multiple countdown emails that included testimonials from team members to help engage our audience, as well as highlighted different content attendees could look forward to. The week before the event, we mailed all event registrants across the country a card that let people know about the event app and included BLAZE branded earbuds in the envelope. We created and shared a Spotify playlist filled with motivational, fire-themed tunes to get everyone fired up.

Elevating Onsite Engagement

Communication elements included notebook handouts with the Heat + Fuel + Oxygen messaging to encourage attendees to write down any burning thoughts.

Sales meeting tables set up with communication elements for attendees

Throughout the event venue, strategic event signage was used to brand the space.

We invested in a robust event app. The app utilized augmented reality, polling, voting for awards, Q&A opportunities and provided ways to engage and network with other attendees before, during and after the event.

Sales conference attendees scanning QR codes with the event app on their smart phones

We hosted a supplier expo—effectively “speed dating” between our sales representatives and vendors—to ensure suppliers got in front of multiple sales people and those sales people met with suppliers that they typically wouldn’t network with in person because of physical distance.

Group of sales event attendees networking with vendors in the expo hall

During breaks between conference sessions, attendees could engage with experiential activities. We had a “Wall of Flame” where attendees could take photos with one another and post them on the event app as well as their own social media. There was even a temporary tattoo bar and a hot sauce bar where attendees could take swag to go.

Blaze branded event giveaways such as hot sauce and temporary tattoos

Towards the end of the sales meeting, we had an awards ceremony for our Leaders of Excellence—our sales team members who showed the highest levels of success over the past year. The awards were engraved with BLAZE branding to tie the recognition with the overall conference theme.

Pyramid shaped glass sales performance awards

The vibe of the conference had a tone of confidence and boldness. We wanted attendees to feel fired up and excited about the future of ITA Group and that’s exactly what we delivered.

Related: Check out how we executed a successful strategic event for T-Mobile that exceeded their goals.


Our desired results included:

  • Increased knowledge in ITA Group and our capabilities
  • Excitement for the future of ITA Group
  • Increased sales team confidence that what we’re doing as an organization is meeting market demand

To measure effectively, we issued pre- and post-event surveys.

Following the BLAZE conference:

  • 81% of attendees surveyed felt that they now have increased knowledge about ITA Group solutions and capabilities.
  • We saw an 11% lift in attendees who felt very knowledgeable about relevant world and market trends after the sales meeting than before the sales meeting.
  • 100% of those surveyed agreed that the BLAZE brand was represented well in communications.

Other measurement metrics included email opens, click-through-rate and face-to-face buzz about the upcoming event. We also measured event app downloads, survey responses and engagement with the different features available.

Key to Success with Any Meeting or Conference

Sales conferences and meetings have changed—for the better. You can’t force your team to sit in a dull meeting room for days on end and expect to get something valuable out of it. Sales meetings need to be strategic. Every element—from the food to the giveaways to the breakout session topics—needs to tie back to your event objectives. Take your next event off the charts and start driving results with event strategy. Learn how in our ebook, 7 Ways to Make Your Event More Strategic.

7 Ways to Make Your Event More Strategic

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie strives to help the world understand the power behind personalized motivation that aligns people with business goals to drive powerful results. As the leader of Marketing Strategy at ITA Group, she analyzes market trends to develop world-class solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies motivate and engage their employees, channel partners and customers. She is certified through the Incentive Marketing Association, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, as well as Pragmatic Marketing Level VI. Between marketing and three little boys, Maggie doesn't have free time. But when she can find a few minutes, she loves listening to audiobooks on marketing, business and sci fi thrillers.