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Kickoff Meetings: The Secret To Successful Projects

A kickoff meeting, when done correctly, is the first exciting step in a project's journey.

By Mara Calvello  •   May 5, 2021  •   7 min read

It’s always exciting to start something new.

Especially when that something is a project that you’re anxiously awaiting to get off the ground. With all of this excitement, it can be common to want to bypass all preliminary discussions and jump right in. But remember, without ironing out the details and defining specifics, your project could be doomed for failure before you even start.

Because of this, it’s crucial that you and your team take the time to plan and execute a successful project kickoff meeting that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s. Unsure how? Fellow has you covered with a complete breakdown of what to do before you dive in.

What is a project kickoff meeting? 

A project kickoff meeting is an initial sync that you have between the project team and all relevant project stakeholders. When done correctly, this meeting provides the chance to get all of the right people in the same room to discuss everything needed to ensure that the project is successfully completed on time and within budget.

Essentially, a project kickoff meeting should center around getting everyone on the same page before a project, well, kicks off. This ensures that all parties involved know what’s needed of them, or their team, and it can conclude with people having the same goal in mind. It’ll set the stage for all expectations, communication, and how to properly collaborate on the project for it to be a success.

What is the purpose of the kickoff meeting? 

So, why have a kickoff meeting in the first place?

The purpose of holding a project kickoff meeting is to get everyone on board and lay the groundwork for a successful project. You want everyone to have a complete understanding of specifics pertaining to the budget, scope, goals, timeline, responsibilities, and everything in between.

The project manager should take the time to set expectations, as well as assign each person working on the project a role with ironed out responsibilities, so there’s no confusion as to who is doing what. This meeting can also be used to foster and build team morale, in addition to strong work relationships, especially if the project timeline is scheduled to go on for an extended period of time. 

The general purpose of the kickoff meeting can also be used to define the best way for all personalities to come together to work effectively and efficiently. You’ll want to figure out how each team member should communicate and check in with each other, how often these check-ins will happen, and what they’ll look like. It’s also a good idea to discuss the timeline of the project and any unforeseen blockers that could make it harder to hit project milestones and goals.

How to prepare for your kickoff meeting 

It’s crucial that you prepare for your kickoff meeting so it can be as effective as possible. Follow these steps to ensure your meeting is a success and nothing goes overlooked.

1 Schedule a convenient time

The first step in preparing for a kickoff meeting is to find a time that works best for everyone involved. You also want to make sure you set enough time to go over all of the necessary details. The last thing you want is to have to rush through details in order to make sure all talking points and key items are discussed before the meeting comes to a close.

According to the Future of Meetings Report, the optimal time to schedule a meeting is between 10am-12pm.

2 Invite only the necessary people

It’s common to feel like you need to invite every last person to the kickoff meeting. Remember that just because someone will be involved with the project at some point, that doesn’t mean they have to be invited to the kickoff discussion.

As you invite meeting attendees, try and limit the number of people joining the kickoff to the key stakeholders of the project who are needed to discuss shared viewpoints and decide on aspects like the budget and overall timeline. You’ll also want to invite those who these decisions will impact the most, and who will be working on the actual project day in and day out.

3 Create an agenda

In order for your kickoff meeting to be a success, you’ll need to feature a fully developed meeting agenda. This will include details like:

  • Talking points
  • Action items
  • Decisions
  • Necessary support documents

Having an agenda sent out beforehand will ensure that meeting attendees know what to expect before joining, what they should be ready to discuss, and what information they should have ready and available. It’ll also ensure attendees stay on track and time isn’t wasted discussing unnecessary items.

The more prepared a meeting attendee can be ahead of time — the better.

4 Have a project mission statement ready

Another great way to prepare is to have a project mission statement ready to present. Remember to keep this statement short, to the point, and motivating. The mission statement should inspire the team to work towards the goals of the project and encourage everyone to work hard to see success.

5 Share prep material in advance

Finally, make sure the attendees of the kickoff meeting have all of the necessary prep material before joining. In addition to the agenda, this could include financial details, any presentation or slide deck, the meeting link (if it’s virtual), and notes from any other relevant meetings that could have related information. 

What should be covered in a project kickoff meeting? 

When you and your team are ready to lay the foundation for a successful project kickoff meeting, be sure that everyone is on the same page with what needs to be covered. Here are some talking points to discuss in your project kickoff meeting:

  1. Background: high-level overview of the project
  2. Purpose: project mission statement
  3. Scope: specific activities and deliverables
  4. Timeline: project roadmap (from kickoff to completion)
  5. Roles: discuss who’s responsible for each part/milestone
  6. Questions: address team questions or concerns

Best practices for killer kickoff meetings 

Now that you have a better understanding of what a kickoff meeting is, how to prepare, and what to cover, it’s time to dive into the best practices to keep in mind if you want your kickoff meeting to be the best it can be.

1 Make this meeting exciting, fun, and motivating

We’ve all joined our fair share of meetings where we have to fight to stay awake. Don’t let your project kickoff be one of those meetings. To accomplish this, think of new ways to keep the conversation flowing, let numerous people have the floor to present ideas, and don’t be afraid to try something new to get everyone engaged. If this group is coming together for the first time, consider an icebreaker to kick things off.

2 Let different team members own specific parts of the project

Assigning certain ownership to specific meeting attendees gives them something they’re responsible for during the meeting that they’ll want to present on, answer questions regarding, and discuss with the team. This also helps to ensure the same person isn’t talking for the entire length of the meeting and can be a better way to answer questions from other attendees should they have them.

3 Document meeting notes and key decisions

To ensure no detail gets missed, it’s also in everyone’s best interest if meeting leaders document the project kickoff in a meeting document tool like Fellow. That way, all information regarding the agenda, meeting notes, talking points, action items, and key discussion items are all organized and ready for anyone to look back on, whenever they need them.

4 Follow up on meeting action items

Finally, be sure to follow up on deadlines, as well as milestones, within the meeting. Calling out specific deadlines that have been achieved is a great way for the team to stay on track. Similarly, reaching and celebrating major milestones can help to keep everyone motivated and on pace to hit future milestones within the project timeline.

What is the difference between an internal kickoff meeting and a client kickoff? 

In addition to conducting an internal kickoff meeting with you and your team, you should be aware of a client kickoff meeting.

But what’s the difference?

Essentially, when handling and executing client work, a project kickoff meeting will be when you take the time to introduce the team working on the project to the client. It’s also when the meeting leader will make the client aware of all of the project stages needed for success, and come to an agreement about how to effectively work together to ensure that the project delivered is achieved and is exactly what the client had in mind. 

Ready, set, kickoff!

When done correctly, a kickoff meeting is the first exciting step in a project’s journey and it can get everyone started on the right foot. When all meeting attendees understand exactly what is needed of them, which teammate is responsible for each task, and the timeline that needs to be followed, it sets the project up for greater success. 

Once the meeting comes to an end, it’s time for the team to roll up their sleeves and start working on their dedicated tasks, striving to hit milestones within the timeline, and aiming to be as productive as possible.  

Good luck!

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