Whatever the initiative that’s getting underway, a project kickoff meeting is essential to success. Putting time and energy into turning your kickoff from “just a meeting” into a motivating, action-oriented session can pay big dividends over the course of the project.
Your kickoff needs to fit the type of project being launched. Examples include:
- Internal projects like a marketing campaign or application development plan
- Vendor and/or client-facing projects like an advertising initiative or product design effort
- C-suite sponsored projects like an enterprise-wide IT system rollout
The basic elements to prepare for and lead any project kickoff are straightforward (depending on project types and goals, you may need to make adjustments). To kick meeting quality up a notch or two, include these tips and best practices.
8 Steps to Plan a Project Kickoff Meeting
Think through and arrange everything that will make the meeting most effective.
1. Create the meeting agenda
Using the meeting flow points noted below as a guide, set up an agenda that is appropriate for the project type. Assign time blocks for each section of the agenda and limit meeting time to an hour or, at most, an hour and a half.
2. Determine required and optional attendees
Include everyone involved in the project who needs to be included. Equally important, don’t include anyone who doesn’t need to be part of the kickoff. There’s no need to take up the time of people who aren’t required attendees.
3. Set date and time
Schedule the meeting as close as possible to the actual project start. If you are unable to check invitees’ schedules, stay flexible if adjustments need to be made, and plan to record the meeting in case some are unable to attend live. Be sure to keep possible time zone differences in mind when scheduling.
4. Attend to meeting logistics
Reserve a meeting room and/or virtual meeting space. Identify any materials that will be needed, along with any technologies required (e.g., videoconferencing, projector). Double-check that you will be able to record the meeting for people who can’t attend
5. Prepare any key attendees who will need to speak
Work with anyone who will need to speak about aspects of the project. Make sure they understand what’s expected and how much time they’ll have.
6. Assign a scribe
Ask one of the attendees to be responsible for taking notes during the meeting. You will use these notes for your follow-up email.
7. Send out meeting notices and attach the agenda
Include a short description of the purpose of the meeting and any other materials needed for pre-meeting review.
8. Send out a meeting reminder
Resend the meeting information the day before the kickoff and include any last-minute information if needed.
Create an Effective Kickoff Meeting Flow
Make sure you come in with lots of energy and focus to set the tone for the meeting. Start and end on time and stick as close as possible to the time blocks allotted to each agenda item.
- Welcome and introductions. If attendees don’t know each other, open the floor for introductions. Even in cases where everyone is acquainted, give a general overview of the roles of each of the team members.
- General project description. Go over the project including purpose, goals, and metrics.
- Project plan/timeline overview. As a natural next step, review the timeline and key milestones.
- Project-specific information. Additional topics will depend on the type of project being launched. For example, offer what-if scenarios or possible risks and mitigation, note critical path items in the timeline, or discuss interaction protocols across the company (such as with clients or with supplies/vendors).
- Q&A. You will likely find it useful to answer questions as they arise (allow for this in each agenda time block). Therefore, this section of the meeting can be a final check for any outstanding queries.
- Next Steps. Close the meeting by agreeing on action items that were identified during the meeting, and who is accountable for each.
2 Important Post-Kickoff Meeting Steps
Your effective project kickoff doesn’t end when everyone leaves the meeting. Follow up with attendees to keep the momentum you’ve created going.
- Upload relevant materials. Put any useful material in an accessible online location and give attendees access instructions in your follow-up email.
- Email follow-up. Thank attendees for their participation and send a summary of meeting outcomes based on the notes taken by the scribe. For those who were unable to attend, highlight the link to the kickoff video and invite questions.
Though they’ve already been mentioned, these tips are worth re-emphasizing:
- It’s not possible to do too much preparation. Think of your kickoff meeting as a demonstration of how participants can expect the project to proceed.
- Starting and ending on time and adhering to your agenda time blocks are key to an effective meeting. Further, consider it a nonverbal demonstration to attendees of how the project will be managed.
- Follow-up is as important as your preparation. It’s the follow-through that keeps project participants engaged and maintains momentum.