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Virtual Reality takes centre stage for our first virtual Sales Kick-off

GoCardless sales team member using virtual reality headset

By Even WalserFeb 20213 min read

Creating a fun and purposeful environment in the sales team is important to us at GoCardless and we find success often runs downstream from culture.

Amid the global pandemic as the GoCardless team works remotely, we looked for an innovative way to engage, motivate and celebrate the achievements of our team. In January 2021 we hosted the first-ever virtual Sales Kick-off (SKO) using the Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality (VR) system and virtual meeting software, Spatial.

GoCardless sales team in the virtual auditorium

Why use Virtual Reality?

Traditionally pre-pandemic, our SKOs, like in many businesses, would feature the entire sales team gathering in-person for one or two days. With everyone working remotely, I felt that it was crucial to capture what makes our sales culture unique and change the format to keep our team engaged and the use of our time productive.

With Zoom fatigue setting in, a third lockdown in place and a dark and gloomy January for most of our teams, I thought how do we break out of that? How can I make the event special in the current environment? And how can I recreate the magic of our in-person SKOs?

That’s when VR first occurred to me. VR can help the team be in the same room without actually being there. A better alternative to Zoom and the next best thing to meeting in person. Primarily used for gaming, VR has a lot of fun and novel aspects that we can utilise. This way we can also recognise as a team, that there is an upside to achievement besides money.

Using VR was a big bonus for our new starters who joined remotely and have never had the chance to meet the rest of the team face-to-face.

“Being a remote new joiner, it’s quite hard meeting as many people as I would like to. The VR system really gave me the impression of being (almost) back to normal and having a meeting at the office. The experience was completely different from a “normal” Zoom meeting, and I believe it was 100% useful.” Felix Bernard, SDR, GoCardless.

How did the virtual SKO work?

Through VR and the Spatial software, we created realistic 3D avatars of each member of the team from photos. Once in the virtual space we could move around, interact with and even high five each other.

We built the virtual spaces with the intention to create a brand new experience for our sales team, transport them out of their homes and into an innovative and interactive place where we could collaborate and have fun.

To make the virtual meeting space as engaging and entertaining as possible we spent a lot of time preparing the space. From mountains to elephant herds strolling, from galaxies in the sky to a quintessential English pub, a DJ booth and an ‘Oscar gala’ style stage. Of course, everything was GoCardless branded and we even gave out virtual gifts of champagne and trophies to our award winners.

GoCardless sales team avatars in virtual reality

Realistic 3D avatars created from photos of the sales team.

Our primary use of the virtual space was to host talks and workshops, an Oscar-style awards gala and team-building activities with games like Topgolf with Pro Putt to enable the team to wind down and socialise.

In order to keep the sessions fresh and relevant, we split them between VR, where we could interact with each other and Zoom, to include people outside the sales team, who didn’t have the Oculus Quest 2. We also decided to spread out the sessions and make specific ones optional so we could cater to the varying needs of the sales team and engage them in content relevant to their role.

“Having shorter sessions all along the week makes it interesting to follow. And the team meetings with the Oculus Quest 2 were absolutely awesome. We had so much fun between ourselves despite being in different countries across the world. Absolutely loved it!” Boris Piquet, Senior Account Executive, GoCardless.

Key learnings from our first virtual SKO

The virtual SKO offered a lot to the team. As a novel and new experience, we saw a great turn out and engagement in our virtual sessions. Feedback from the GoCardless sales team was that they genuinely felt engaged and had had the most fun at work since the pandemic had started.

Creating an effective virtual workspace does require preparation. We created ‘how to’ guides for the team to get set up on both the VR hardware and software. We also encouraged our sales leadership to host sessions in VR ahead of the SKO to give people the time to get used to and experiment with the new environment.

Virtual Reality has been a great step towards recreating the face-to-face interactions we’re used to having. This method was so popular amongst the team that we now regularly host meetings in VR as a more interactive way to communicate and collaborate. Our teams also often use the VR system to wind down together at the end of the week and maintain a strong team connection.

In light of not being able to meet in person, VR got us evaluating how we work as a team and how we keep our unique sales culture thriving. As our teams continue to work remotely, we will keep using VR as a communication tool.