By the time you’re ready to hold a project kickoff meeting to launch that new marketing campaign, customer service help desk, or employee wellness program, you’ve (hopefully!) done a lot of preparatory work with internal team members and/or clients. Now you have to bring together all the moving parts, make sure the team is on the same page, and shift the project into action in this all-important kickoff. How can you do this successfully? Keep reading to find out.
A kickoff meeting marks the official launch of a project. In the kickoff, the project team comes to agreement on the project charter, which documents a project’s vision, goals, strategy, members, and key milestones. Some teams call a charter-type document by other terminology, e.g. scope of work or project plan. Regardless of what you call it, the charter establishes shared understanding that guides the team as they execute the project. Note that the project kickoff meeting is not the time to create the charter. It is generally the last step toward finalizing the charter in preparation for action.
So, what is the objective of the kickoff meeting? To align. Follow this checklist to reach alignment in your kickoff meetings.
What does success look like for you at the end of the kickoff meeting? Be specific and write down what you want to accomplish. Defining these desired outcomes will inform how you structure your agenda. Here are examples you might include:
Consider the key stakeholders for this project – who needs to be in the room in order to achieve your desired outcomes? Additionally, think about what role you would like each of them to play in the meeting. Do you want the project sponsor to demonstrate support? Do you want someone in another department to share a different perspective? Do you want clients to raise concerns? Make sure you communicate the expectations clearly in the meeting invitation or privately ahead of time so people know how to contribute.
Send the agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting to help people prepare for the conversation. Depending on the team’s preparation, the size of your team, and the scope of your project, your kickoff meeting can range from 60-90 minutes. Here’s a sample kickoff meeting agenda curated in Meeteor software that identifies the meeting items and suggested time frames for each of them. Adjust it to fit your team’s needs.
Prework helps both the meeting participants and leader prepare for the meeting conversation. What data, visual aids, or other information do you need to share with the team in addition to the charter to provide context for the discussion? To make prework actually work, don’t just attach the documents to the agenda, but ask meeting participants to do something with them. Include instructions like,
“Please critically review the material. Where do you agree? Where do you disagree? What can we improve? Please add your comments to this shared document for everyone to review prior to the kickoff.”
Norms establish ground rules and expectations for how the team will behave during the meeting. Here are some example norms you can use when walking through project documents.
What have you found to be successful or not successful in project kickoff meetings? What do you document in your project charter? Share with us below or tweet at us @MeeteorHQ.
P.S. Want to know how Meeteor structures its project charters? Click here to download a template.