The project kickoff meeting is one of the most important meetings a team will engage in. It sets the expectation for what the project is about, who is involved, the scope of work, and the general timing of when tasks are to be completed. The initial meeting is the framework on which the final project deliverables will be built, tested, approved, and released.
No matter the size of your team, dollars in your budget, or hours in the project plan, the more prepared you are as a project manager at kickoff, the better you will be able to lead your team.
Table of Contents
- The Anatomy of a Project Kickoff Meeting
- Types of Project Kickoff Meetings
- Project Kickoff Meetings for Remote Teams
- 8 Tips for Hosting Successful Project Kickoff Meetings
The Anatomy of a Project Kickoff Meeting
A project kickoff should have a similar anatomy whether it is for a visual digital solution, a complex technical build, or a physical construction. Every kickoff meeting should include the following:
- Introduction of all key team members and stakeholders
- of the project proposal, detailing the project’s creative and technical goals
- Walkthrough of the timeline
- of the RAID (risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies)
- Discussion of the assets, including what is available and what is needed
- Overview of the approval process, including legal and regulatory reviews
- Explanation of the project change order process
- List of collaboration tools
- Next steps, upcoming meetings, and status reports
- Time for Q&A
Types of Project Kickoff Meetings
There are several different types of project kickoff meetings that may occur within your organization. They may not all be necessary for every project, but each helps to get things off to a clear start.
First, you may find a pre-kickoff meeting is necessary. This is where you meet with a key team member or smaller group of leads to review the project scope, as well as gathering input and preparing for an upcoming client kickoff meeting. This is an opportunity to get questions lined up for a smooth and competent project start.
An internal project kickoff meeting is where your organizational team meets prior to a client or a vendor kickoff meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page, asks the right questions, and begins a project on the right path.
After meeting with your internal stakeholders, it is time to host a client project kickoff meeting. This is a secondary kickoff that introduces the team to the client, as well as introducing client to your organization and the leads who will be defining and executing the work.
A kickoff meeting with a vendor or a third-party developer is another type of project kickoff meeting that is important to hold when multiple parties are involved in a project. They could be the partner who is designing visuals, writing copy, developing code, testing builds, or translating deliverables into multiple languages. They will need to understand how their role plugs into the overall project, when they are needed, and to what extent.
Project Kickoff Meetings for Remote Teams
A project may require a partial or fully remote team. While it is generally desirable to have a team working together in the same location, this is not always the case. This setup poses a unique challenge for any project manager striving to keep all team members working in concert.
Now more than ever, people are successfully working remotely. The key to managing remote team members is keeping everyone engaged, informed, productive, and responsive. Remote teams can be local, like when an office goes virtual or uses a hybrid methodology (with people coming and going on different days or weeks). Alternatively, your team might be geographically spread out across time zones, countries, or even continents.
The key to managing remote team members is keeping everyone engaged, informed, productive, and responsive.
Unique challenges for project managers with remote teams include coordinating meetings in multiple time zones, facilitating communication when there’s a language barrier, and accommodating different cultural norms. Whenever possible, it is a good idea to get people together in person at least once. Team members typically collaborate better when they’re able to put a face to a name.
In lieu of in-person meetups, video meetings through conferencing tools like Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet bridge the gap well. Expect the host of the meeting and anyone presenting during the meeting to be on camera. For smaller meetings of 10 or fewer people, it may be a good idea to have everyone participate visually.
8 Tips for Hosting Successful Project Kickoff Meetings
Every project manager has the goal to host a successful project kickoff. Much of the work for the PM is done up front in preparation for this important event. Once things get underway, the brunt of the work is taken on by the team and distributed over time and deliverables. The following are tips to ensure your project kickoff meeting is the best it can be.
1. Invite the right people.
Know who all of the project players are in advance of the meeting, so you invite all the right people. It may help to create a project governance structure using a tool like VISEO to identify the project stakeholders, workstream leads, and approvers in advance, and then map them out in an org chart.
2. Meet at the right time.
Schedule the meeting at a time convenient for all parties and locations. This could take some creative advance planning to coordinate everyone’s calendars within the confines of a typical 8am to 5pm work day.
3. Keep it small.
A project kickoff is not an all-hands meeting. You don’t want to invite too many people; stick with the leads who can report back to their individual teams.
4. Set an agenda.
Have an agenda prepared and approved, and then send it out in advance to all attendees. When assigning topics, be sure to note the time you expect to spend on that topic in the agenda. During the meeting, you should feel empowered to interject and move things along.
5. Don’t waste anyone’s time.
Be respectful of time. Try to keep the meeting to no more than an hour and don’t run over. Budget enough time for Q&A and next steps. You don’t want to lose people near the end without getting to these crucial agenda items. Be sure to give a 10-minute warning before the end, so you have enough time to wrap up.
6. Employ visual aids.
Provide on-screen visuals or handouts to those attending, so they can follow along. Provide these in advance or just prior to the meeting in the email invite to give your team a chance to review the information.
7. Take detailed notes.
Take good notes and share your minutes within 24 hours of the kickoff. That way, the information is fresh and the team is clear on the next steps and action items assigned.
8. Record the meeting.
Consider recording the meeting (if allowed), so extended teams can review at another time. Recordings are also useful as a refresh for anyone who may have missed part of the meeting, had to drop early, or is transitioning their work to a new person post-kickoff.