How to Run a Great Project Kickoff Meeting

The project kickoff meeting is your opportunity to bring the team together and set a tone of excitement, cohesion, and purpose. I’ve put together tips on how to hold a great project kickoff meeting, and included a project kickoff meeting agenda as well, to help make your next one a great success.

Throughout my project management career, I’ve heard the term “project kickoff meeting” used in different contexts:

  • an initial meeting with the team to start talking about the project.
  • a mid-planning-point meeting, where you bring your high-level information and come together to plan more in-depth.
  • the final meeting in the planning phase.  Once the team completes the plan, the kickoff meeting is used to communicate the plan to all and kick-off the execution.

I am going to approach it in this post from the perspective of the last bullet above. This is how I learned it many years ago from Rita Mulcahey at RMC Project – as the meeting in which you share the plans with the team and get full buy-in and level-set everyone on the plan going forward.

I use the Kickoff Meeting to kick off the execution of the plan.

Keep that in mind as you read this post, as others use the kickoff meeting in other ways.

 

What Is a project kickoff meeting

The Project Kickoff Meeting is an opportunity to make sure that everyone fully understands the plan. It’s a chance to set a tone of enthusiasm before executing the plan you’ve all worked so hard to put together. Everyone has had input to the plan, and now they get the opportunity to see it all laid out, ask questions, and have a formal marker that you’re all about to move forward on your plan.

It is not a planning meeting. It is a communication meeting to share the plan and make sure everyone is clear on it.

The project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to share the plan with the team, answer questions, and make any slight adjustments that might be needed.

It should convey a sense of purpose and optimism for moving forward to execute your plan.

It’s also an opportunity for all parties to meet if they haven’t yet had the chance. The kickoff meeting also provides an opportunity to identify other risks or concerns that team members may not have yet identified.

When to Hold the Project Kickoff Meeting

People have different perspectives on when to hold the project kickoff meeting. I’m writing this from my perspective and know that not everyone follows this approach. I’m open to hearing how others handle this.

Early in my career, I learned that the Project Kickoff Meeting is held at the end of the planning phase, before you begin executing the project. The intent of the kickoff meeting is to level-set everyone on the plan and communicate it clearly so that everyone is on board and has a common understanding of the plan.

One area of difference I see is WHEN to hold the meeting. I’ve heard some who hold the meeting when they first start the planning. As I shared, I come from a different school of thought. I learned that the kickoff meeting is held once the plan is all in place, and the team is about to execute the plan.

Who comes to the Project Kickoff Meeting?

The intent is to share information about the plan, so it is important to have representation from each area.  It may not be feasible to have every single project participant in the room, and you may want to offer remote access.

How to Run a Great Kickoff Meeting

This is an opportunity for the team to see all the work that went into planning. You can set a tone of optimism and cohesion among the team with a great kickoff meeting.

Before the Meeting

Distribute information before the meeting: Because you’ll cover a lot of information, it’s helpful to share it in advance if possible. Distribute the agenda, the project schedule (or at least the milestones), the scope document and deliverables, and the communication plan if appropriate, before the meeting.

Review the plan before the meeting: Make sure you’ve reviewed these items with the team before this meeting. You don’t want surprises here. You don’t want someone seeing this for the first time in this meeting and hijack with a long discussion contrary to your plan. This may mean simply sending the documents to each sub-team and having a call to answer their questions. If they are onsite with you, this might mean sharing the information and stopping by their desk to ensure understanding and buy-in. This will look different depending on your environment, so do what works for you.

During the Meeting

Set the tone: Show appreciation and enthusiasm. As I stated above, this is a great opportunity to set a tone of excitement and purpose going forward. The team has likely put a lot of effort into planning. This is a chance to share it with everyone and ensure that all are moving forward with the same understanding. Set the tone by thanking everyone for all their hard work in putting together the plan. This was a team effort, and you want them to know that you appreciate it.

Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

Include these items in your project kickoff meeting agenda:

Introductions:  This might be the first time you’re bringing the whole project team together.  Make sure that you start with introductions if there are attendees present who don’t know everyone. Have them give their name and their role in the project.

Scope, goals, and deliverables: The scope document addresses not only what is in scope, but also what is out of scope. (Your project Charter lays much of this out. For more on the Project Charter, see my post The Project Charter)

Schedule / Milestones: Project schedules can be tedious and very detailed. You may want to cover in-depth only milestones, critical interdependencies, and points along the critical path. Make sure that everyone knows about critical dates and dependencies in the schedule. (For more on creating your project schedule from the WBS, check out my post Basics of the Work Breakdown Structure)

Issue / Risk Plan: All projects have some level of risk and you can’t anticipate them all. But make sure you’ve worked with the team to identify potential risks, and identified mitigation plans. When you share this in your kickoff meeting, you’ll ensure that everyone is aware of what’s been identified and considered.

Communication Plan: Creating a communication plan helps you think through who you need to communicate with, how, and when. Sharing the communication plan with the team at the kickoff meeting gives them confidence that you’ve thought this through. Your communication plan lays out clearly how you’ll communicate with the team throughout the project execution. Additionally, you want to ensure that others know you are the main point-person for project communications.

 – Questions / Other: You’ll be covering a lot of information in this meeting. However, you do want to allow time at the end for any additional questions that may come up.

Note about Budget: Depending on your environment, you may or may not want to include the project budget as part of your agenda. I’ve worked in environments where PMs included budget review as part of the kickoff meeting and others where it was not appropriate.  Find out from your management team if reviewing the budget is appropriate for your team. For more on the project budget, check this post: How to Create Your IT Project Budget

Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda – Template

You can build your Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda from the items listed above, or use the download I’ve provided here.

Click Here to Download the Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

 

If you liked this post, you might also like Meeting Notes Made Simple

Let me know if you have questions – I’m happy to answer them!

2 Comments

  1. Olga August 4, 2016
    • Leigh Espy August 5, 2016

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