The Complete Guide to Set Up the Perfect Project Kickoff Meeting

By Nathan Cavet
Published: 18/03/2021
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The project kickoff meeting is probably the most important meeting in project management.

The main stakeholders gather for the first time in order to align themselves with the project's objectives. They identify the means to be deployed to achieve them and remove any blocking points. The key is to ensure that all future steps are carried out smoothly and efficiently for the good running of your activity.

However, for a project kickoff meeting to be perfectly effective, it must include a certain number of steps. There are 8 of them which this article will detail.

But before diving deeper into the subject, what is a project kickoff meeting, and why is it so important?

Kickoff meeting: definition

The project kickoff meeting takes place at the time of the project's scope, just before springing into action. It brings together the key stakeholders, in particular the project team (supervised by the project manager) and the sponsor.

Note: Large projects sometimes require several kick-off meetings, at the beginning of each major phase.

☝️ Should a kick-off meeting be scheduled for an agile project? Or rather for a project carried out using a classic method? In reality, this meeting remains unavoidable, regardless of the project management methodology selected.

What are its objectives?

Why have a project kickoff meeting? This essential meeting will help you:

  • Determine the project's stakes and clarify its objectives;
  • Avoid grey areas that could compromise development;
  • Discuss the essential points and answer questions;
  • Establish the rules and good practices that will guide the project;
  • Specify for each stakeholder:
    • their role,
    • their needs,
    • their responsibilities,
    • their degree of involvement;
  • Anticipate risks and remove blocking points;
  • Define a concrete action plan and project kickoff meeting agenda.

☝️ The objective of a kickoff meeting goes beyond simple strategic and operational framing. It is also defined as an opportunity to establish good relations between the various stakeholders, which are a guarantee of better future collaborations. In short, the kickoff meeting fosters a positive dynamic by federating a set of partners around a common objective.

8 steps to a successful kick-off meeting

Step 0: Preparing the kick-off meeting

A successful meeting is a prepared meeting.

Therefore, you must work on your kick-off meeting beforehand, in order to organize it as well as possible in terms of content and form.

On the content

Ideally, you should have a project plan, which outlines

  • the main phases,
  • the milestones,
  • the important tasks,
  • the resources to be mobilized, etc.

This way, your kickoff meeting will be based on a solid foundation of information, so that you can get straight to the point and avoid digressing. Whenever you start a new project, you need first to design it as a whole, so be ready! It will help you run your project kickoff meetings smoothly!

On the form

Here are a few tips for organizing your kickoff meeting:

Plan one or more visual aids that all participants can rely on (a PowerPoint to project, a folder to share with each contributor, etc.).

By studying the project plan in advance, you can easily identify the stakeholders who are essential to the meeting.

You should also think about the location! Beyond the formalities, we have seen that the kickoff is also an opportunity to bring people together to create commitment and a positive group dynamic. So, why not consider an atypical location, outside the company for example?

Step 1: Introducing all participants

Is your project kickoff meeting underway?

As in any meeting, there is a real need for introducing the team. Who are the people participating? Why are they participating? How are they going to contribute to the project? Socialization is the very first step before trying to build a project together so try to link members of your team together!

☝️ As a reminder, some stakeholders are meeting for the first time. So don't neglect this formality.

Step 2: Recalling the agenda

Specify at the beginning of the kick-off meeting:

  • the objectives of the meeting,
  • the steps that will make up the meeting,
  • the expected results.

Step 3: Presenting the project

  • Why and in which context was the project launched?
  • What is its history?
  • Why was this project team chosen to carry it out?
  • What are the deliverables expected by the client?
  • What are the project objectives?

These are all questions that the project kickoff meeting must answer, for the simple reason that some stakeholders were not at the heart of the initial discussions on the subject.

The objective of this step is to make sure that all participants are up-to-date and on the same page and that no doubt remains.

Step 4: Detailing the project's progress

The objectives of the project have been clearly stated in the previous steps. It is now time to see with more details on how to achieve them.

During the kickoff meeting, you should therefore outline:

  • the main phases of the project,
  • the expected intermediate deliverables,
  • the deadlines for these intermediate deliverables and, of course, the final deliverable.

This way, you reassure the sponsor and confirm to be in line with their expectations, especially in terms of results and deadlines.

☝️ The kick-off meeting is also an opportunity to review the chosen project management method and the reasons behind this choice. Scrum? Waterfall? Other? The goal is for everyone to adhere to a common vision, in order to strengthen the spirit of cohesion during the actual execution of the project.

Step 5: Determining roles

Even if a quick roundtable discussion was held at the beginning of the session, specifying the details of the project leads to clarifying the roles of each stakeholder.

  • Who does what and why?
  • What are the competencies of each?
  • Which contact points should be addressed first?
  • How are responsibilities distributed?
  • Who are the line managers and validators?

Step 6: Identifying potential risks

To prevent the project from being slowed down or blocked along the way, it is recommended that you identify the potential difficulties you will face during the project kickoff meeting. The objective? To anticipate and limit the effects of any problem.

Step 7: Setting up communication logistics

For your project to succeed, it must be based on a solid collaborative foundation, as well as regular and transparent communication.

Thus, you should define clear processes for your future exchanges:

  • How will the different stakeholders communicate information?
  • And at what frequency?

Step 8: Scheduling future meetings

Finally, at the end of the session, it is recommended to take the time to schedule the next meetings and specify the objectives they are supposed to address.

💡 Good to know: the kickoff meeting, like any working meeting, implies the elaboration of meeting minutes, to be sent to all participants.

Ready to run new projects?

You now know all the conditions inherent to the success of your project kickoff meeting.

But beyond the specificities of project management, the kickoff meeting must above all follow the rules that condition the success of a working meeting in general: preparation, listening, interaction, punctuality and documentation are all components that will guarantee the effectiveness of your session.

Any idea or recommendation you would like to share with us? Let us know in the comment section!

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