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Kickoff Meeting: The Complete Guide To Starting Projects Right

By 21/12/2016 10 Comments
 

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The kickoff meeting is such a critical moment in a project. Fundamentally, it’s about alignment.

The project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to establish common goals and purpose in completing the work. We’ve written about project kickoffs before in our articles on how to run a great internal project kickoff meetings, starting projects right with clients, and how to run great project kickoff meeting but we’ve  pulled together this new, Kickoff Meeting – The Complete Guide to Starting Projects Right resource guide, complete with a project kickoff meeting agenda download, to cover all the great content from our posts on project kickoff meetings and more.

The Kickoff Meeting – A Key To Successful Projects

A project kickoff meeting is the first meeting between a project team and the client or sponsor of a project when kicking off a new project. It’ll take place after contracts have been signed and there’s agreement on the statement of work (SoW), costs, and timeline, although sometimes with new clients this paperwork may not be finalized.

The purpose of a project kickoff meeting is to introduce the team, understand the project background, understand what success looks like, understand what needs to be done, and agree on how to work together effectively – it’s a chance to level set and get the team and client on the same page.

For the agency team who are tasked with delivery of the project, the project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to get they key information they need to succeed and demonstrate their enthusiasm and understanding of the project, it’s a chance to instill confidence in the client that they’ve made a good decision in their choice of agency and project team.

There’s no doubt a project kickoff meeting can set the course and tone for the rest of a project. So done right, the project kickoff meeting can contribute enormously to the success of the project itself. And done badly, the project kickoff meeting can destroy any chance of success before the project has even started. But what makes a good project kickoff, or a bad one?

It’s About More Than Just The Project Kickoff Meeting

Fundamentally, a great kickoff is the result of proper preparation. But doing a project kickoff meeting right requires more that just good luck or ten minutes of preparation before the meeting. To give yourself, and your team the best chance of success, there’s much more than just the project kickoff meeting to consider. In this guide (complete with a project kickoff meeting agenda for download) we’ll cover off three steps to doing a project kickoff meeting well – follow these steps to conduct an effective project kickoff meeting:

  1. Preparing your team properly and arming them with the right tools for success in an internal project kickoff meeting.
  2. Starting the project client relationship well, and getting the client on-side to ensure you give the project the best chance of success.
  3. Putting your best foot forward with a highly polished approach for the client project kickoff meeting.
On-demand Mini Course

Looking for Kickoff Meeting Agenda samples & templates with a video lesson?

In our Project Kickoffs crash course, you learn everything you need to kickoff successful projects. Plus, you can get:

  • Kickoff Checklist
  • Kickoff Agendas
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Email Template
  • Kickoff Meeting Exercises
Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

The Internal Project Kickoff Meeting

As project managers, we can’t stand faffing around and talking about work, when time is being wasted and work just needs to be done. We love getting things started and seeing stuff happen.

But in the case of a project kickoff meeting with a client, it’s critical not rush into it before first prepping properly with an internal project kickoff meeting to come up with a solid plan as to what exactly you’re going to do!

The internal project kickoff isn’t just a precursor to the client kickoff meeting, it sets the tone, style and vision for the entire project. They’re a chance for you as the project manager to properly educate the team and develop cohesion before finding yourselves floundering in front of a client. The internal project kickoff meetings need to get you (and the team) to a place where everyone can confidently say, ‘We’ve got this!’

Plan your internal project kickoff meeting properly

Going into a kickoff meeting with an informed team and a proper plan helps you get the most out of your discussion with the client and the stakeholders. It’s important for the team to know as much as possible about the client and project before they start asking stupid questions in front of the client! It’s also important for the team to work together to come up with a solid plan that’s going to instill confidence in the client, and to collectively make any important project decisions ahead of time, so that valuable hours, money, and face-to-face client time aren’t wasted with internal debates with the client watching (and becoming increasingly concerned that the agency team doesn’t really know what they’re doing).

It’s also important for the team to work together to come up with a solid plan that’s going to instill confidence in the client, and to collectively make any important project decisions ahead of time, so that valuable hours, money, and face-to-face client time aren’t wasted with internal debates during the meeting with the client watching (and becoming increasingly concerned that the agency team doesn’t really know what they’re doing).

So assuming that you’ve planned ahead and spent some time preparing for the internal kickoff meeting, here’s a sample internal project kickoff meeting agenda. In going through the agenda you’ll see that you’ll need to do some preparation in advance of the meeting. Get cracking!

We all want great project kickoff meetings but are we doing the right groundwork with our clients so we have a better client kickoff meeting? Projects sometimes start off a bit wonky because we dive straight into the project without getting to know the client and truly understanding some of the tacit, latent, informal requirements which might not have been recorded, but without which mean we don’t fully understand what needs to be done to succeed.

Projects can unravel as early as the project kickoff meeting, when we should be still in the honeymoon phase! But there is a simple way to help improve the chances of your project kickoff meeting going well, have better client meetings, and start your project on a positive trajectory. It’s as simple as having lunch. Have a meeting with the client prior to the project kickoff meeting, grab some food, have some banter, and iron out those prickly and pesky details, that tend to derail things, ahead of time.

Getting The Client On-Side

Projects can sometimes start off a bit wonky because we dive straight into the project without getting to know the client and truly understanding some of the tacit, latent, informal requirements which might not have been recorded, but without which mean we don’t fully understand what needs to be done to succeed. A simple way to help improve the chances of the project kickoff meeting going well is to meet with the key clients before the project kickoff meeting.

The pre-client project kickoff meeting

The purpose of connecting and meeting with the client before the ‘real’ kickoff meeting is to level set expectations outside of the potentially much more emotionally and politically charged ‘real’ project kickoff meeting. It’s an opportunity to establish some rapport with your client, communicate essential project and team information and get as much relevant information as possible prior to the project kickoff meeting with the whole client team.

You can use the pre-client project kickoff meeting as an opportunity to refine the kickoff meeting agenda and feedback to your project team. The discussion should be focussed on how you’re going to work together and as much as possible, set and align expectations. It’s an important meeting to have so that you can cover off project management aspects of the project without a huge audience of stakeholders who might complicate the discussion!

Client Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

The client project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to hear from the client and their project team as well as other stakeholders about the project and get a broader understanding of the background, business drivers that led to the project being initiated, a project briefing and discussion around making it a success.

The kickoff meeting shouldn’t be a discussion about scope but is an opportunity to level set with the stakeholders in the room expectations around milestones, rounds of review cycles, and an opportunity to streamline the approach. Try and steer it away from being purely about project management of the project – with lots of people in the room, you want to avoid any conversations where you could be pressured into extending the scope of the project.

Project kickoff meeting presentation

A slick, highly polished project kickoff presentation is an important part of the kickoff meeting. Remember, as much as information gathering, and glad-handing, the project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to demonstrate to the client and stakeholders, ‘we’ve got this!’ – that they’ve made a solid choice in selecting your agency and you know what you’re doing.

The project kickoff presentation is should include:

  • Introductions – happy, smiley faces and an org chart
  • A bit about your agency – what you do, and how you do it (making sure it’s all highly relevant – no one wants an agency history lesson)
  • Supporting content for the project kickoff agenda as below

Remember to ask the client for their content so you can add it into your presentation deck prior to the meeting. Trying to switch between presentation or laptops during the meeting eats up time and impacts the flow of the meeting.

On-demand Mini Course

Looking for Kickoff Meeting Agenda samples & templates with a video lesson?

In our Project Kickoffs crash course, you learn everything you need to kickoff successful projects. Plus, you can get:

  • Kickoff Checklist
  • Kickoff Agendas
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Email Template
  • Kickoff Meeting Exercises

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed this article, you might find these other resources useful:

What Do You Think?

What do you think we’re missing?  We’d love to hear if you’ve got any thoughts on kickoff meetings – why not join the conversation below?

 

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the project management tool for G Suite fans.

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Ben Aston

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedigitalprojectmanager.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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