How to Conduct a Successful Kickoff Meeting (Your Clients Will Love)
A kickoff meeting is one of the most important events when it comes to launching a project. It is when both parties sit down together to discuss what needs to be done and agree on clear objectives and desired outcomes for the project in order to ensure all team members are happy with the deliverables (especially key in an internal corporate environment), but also to ensure that both the client and agency parties are on the same page to avoid any confusion later down the line if the meeting is conducted in a smaller creative work project situation.
Whatever the use case, the general structure of an efficient and truly effective kickoff meeting is fairly straightforward and altogether the same – the objective of the meeting is to establish the foundations on which the project will be built, and that is a key component to a successful project whatever the requirements or situation.
If done right, the kickoff meeting can set a positive tone and would greatly contribute to the success of the project for both parties. However, if the kickoff meeting is performed badly, or not at all, it can destroy any chance of success before the project has even started, killing any future opportunity for later collaborations with that client and potentially harming your brand’s image in the long run.
So, how exactly do you run successful kickoff meetings?
What’s the Kickoff Meeting’s Purpose?
Discussing the project is not the sole purpose of kickoff meetings.
It is also about inspiring creativity and relationship building between the two parties. This is the perfect (if not only) opportunity for both parties to get to know each other. Strengthening this bond in the early stages is sure to make the collaboration smooth sailing throughout the rest of the process. By the end of it, everybody should feel pumped and inspired to start working.
If you are wondering how to conduct an efficient kickoff meeting, here are some general tips:
- Maintain a casual atmosphere – Everybody should feel relaxed and unafraid to discuss their thoughts on the project openly. Make sure that everyone gets involved, that there is a clear leader defined to drive the discussion while also fostering a culture of equality and inclusivity. This is especially true for creative projects – all team members should feel welcome to explore crazy or highly creative ideas without the fear of judgment – such ideas can really hold the solution to some problems!
- Keep the business meeting short – The length of the meeting is also important because it should be long enough for the team to discuss everything without it being too much of a drag. Ideally, a good kickoff meeting lasts 2 to 3 hours, but it may be shorter for some use cases. Additionally, having a couple of breaks is recommended so everyone involved feels refreshed and ready to provide new ideas for the benefit of the team.
- Prepare beforehand – As far as running any kind of meeting whether it is a kickoff for a project or not, nothing can beat being thoroughly prepared. Make a good impression by preparing everything beforehand. Materials that are needed for the meeting such as projectors, whiteboards, paper and pens for taking notes, name cards etc. should be ready the moment everyone enters the room. Having snacks, water, coffee or tea ready also won’t hurt.
- Use the right location – If possible, you should host the meeting in your own turf. This way, it gives you more control over the client’s experience and there’s a higher probability that the client walks away impressed if the visit was planned in advance.
- Dress to impress – Dressing your best might be the last thought you will have in your mind when preparing for a kickoff meeting but it is very important to present yourself in a way that mirrors your agency’s brand.
How to Run a Project Kickoff Meeting?
There is no foolproof recipe in conducting an efficient kickoff meeting, the environment, and use case can be very different when in an internal corporate environment vs a smaller digital agency meeting with a client to discuss the initial deliverables. However, we have curated some of the most common structural elements of an effective meeting and consolidated them below:
If you are working with a large team, the meeting might be the only chance they get to know each other so naturally, the first thing you need to do is to welcome everyone and let them introduce themselves. But don’t just let them give out their names and their job titles, rather let them explain what role they play in the project. Having a senior member of staff can help here to start the introductions. This will usually set the other team members and client at ease when there is one clear authority figure that takes charge and can prevent the awkward situation of everyone sitting in a room staring at each other!
Kickoff Meeting Agenda
In any effective meeting, it is better if the participants know beforehand how it will progress. Meeting agendas help the participants stay focused because they’ll have a written reminder of what needs to be accomplished, allowing them to help drive each discussion toward the right path.
According to Liquid Planner, the meeting agenda should have the following goals.
- Present the project and team to stakeholders and each other.
- Create enthusiasm and understanding about the vision and goals of the work.
- Build credibility within the team.
- Promote communication.
- Set expectations.
- Get started.
Handing out the agenda is the best way to ensure that the meeting will be productive and successful.
Discuss the purpose, expected goals and deliverables of the project while maintaining an atmosphere of open communication before you present the project plan.
Once you’ve already set the tone, start walking the team through your plan. Keep the discussion on point and as brief as possible. Be open to ideas and the possibility of changes being made to the plan.
While the discussion is going on, it is important to insert short breaks in the schedule to help make the day feel less drawn out. This is a good way to keep ideas and perspectives fresh.
Review all the major phases and milestones to ensure that the clients are aligned with the sequencing of activities.
This is also a good time to set the expectations for communications. You can choose email or calls to keep the client in the loop with any progress but a lot of organizations use a project management tool to keep everyone focused on their tasks. If you plan to use a software, discuss how each team member will be collaborating on the platform.
Also, discuss how you are going to share information and updates with the group. According to TechRepublic, your communication plan should include the following:
- Weekly project status meetings
- Subproject planning sessions
- Project plan status updates
- Project status reports
- Senior management updates
- Use of the company intranet or other communication vehicles
Ask if anyone has a question or if there were things that were not discussed. This is also a great time to ask the client if there are ideas they would like to share. Often times the clients will share things they hadn’t previously mentioned that are worth knowing, but even if no questions do arise just giving the client this opportunity will really emphasize that you are a team or company that actually cares about their opinions and wants to work with them, not for them. Remember, when a client hires an agency or a company starts a new internal project with a dedicated team, there needs to be an environment of openness between all team members and parties to ensure a smooth project delivery, and the best way of achieving this is starting with a confident Q&A session.
Summarize the meeting and point out the items that need immediate follow-up. The meeting should end with everyone knowing what steps they should take next ensuring to keep the project moving forward.
Finally, let everybody know that you are grateful to have them onboard and that you are looking forward to what the team will produce. This ends the kickoff meeting on a positive note and will make everyone feel like they matter.
Having a project kickoff meeting is good for any type of business. It is a time for collaboration, relationship building and of course setting goals that will guide all parties in a clear direction as they work throughout the project timeline. Without a strong project kickoff, team members and, in a client scenario, the clients are likely to feel lost or unfocused on what deliverables they should be striving for.
Effective teamwork and client to business relationships are all very much about starting off on the right foot and then developing those relationships from there. So, if you aren’t starting off correctly and putting the time and effort into making that great start, the project is usually destined for failure or a long series of troubles throughout.
Max is a SaaS enthusiast and loves actionable content that provides direct value.