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8 Ways to Host Better Kickoff Meetings

A great kickoff meeting can prevent scope creep, clarify communication, and set the tone for your project. These eight steps can help you hit the mark.

Meetings

Distributed team collaborating on a kickoff meetingThe start of a new project is always exciting. You get to assemble a team, figure out the details, and plan for success. One way to give you a greater chance of success is to host a kickoff meeting. 

In this guide, we’ll explore:

Let’s take a closer look at kickoff meetings. 

What is a project kickoff meeting?

A kickoff meeting is the first chance for you and the rest of the project team to get together and talk about the project. It’s an opportunity to review the project scope, background, goals, milestones, and what success looks like. 

The main purpose of a kickoff meeting is to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Your goal is for everyone to start with a good understanding of the project, their role, and what the expectations are.  

At a typical kickoff meeting, you’ll: 

  • 👋 Introduce the project team members
  • 📝 Outline the project background and purpose
  • 🎤 Discuss the project scope and schedule
  • 🎯 Confirm project milestones and goals
  • 🏆 Decide what success looks like
  • 🛑 Talk through potential challenges and roadblocks
  • 💻 Agree how best to communicate throughout the project

While many project kickoff meetings are internal, sometimes it makes sense to host a meeting with your client and other project stakeholders too. Approach these the same way, but also look at them as a chance to build an amazing client relationship right from the start. 

Reasons to host a project kickoff meeting

Teams sharing ideas around the globe

If you want your project to be off to a strong start, a kickoff meeting is a must-have. Here are the top reasons why hosting a project kickoff meeting simply makes sense. At a kickoff meeting, you can:

Get to know everyone on the team

If you can get your whole project team together for a kickoff meeting, do it. It’s one of the best ways to introduce everyone to each other so they can build relationships and establish trust from the beginning. 

If your client or another key stakeholder is present, this is also your chance to understand them better. They can meet everyone on your project team, understand who the go-to person for any questions is, and feel like they’re part of the team. 

Confirm what’s in scope and what isn’t

Your project scope helps you set clear expectations with the client and the rest of the project team. Anything that’s not in the scope isn’t in consideration and needs to be accounted for and budgeted for separately. Your kickoff meeting is an opportunity to confirm the scope and move forward with shared expectations.

With an agreed upon project scope, you can be more confident about achieving your project timeline and project goals. Your team knows exactly what’s planned, budgeted for, and agreed — so they can work without distraction or worry. 

Identify early risks and challenges

Even with years of project management experience, every now and then, something will come up that you haven’t accounted for. The kickoff meeting brings everyone together in one space, so you stand a better chance of identifying roadblocks and risks that could hamper the project’s success. 

At the meeting, you might discover that you haven’t accounted for a recently discussed part of the project within the scope, or that prices have risen and you need to revisit the budget. You might also find that there’s a gap in your project team, or that you need to adapt to a new way of working with your client. Address these challenges, and address them swiftly, at your kickoff meeting. 

Agree on how to communicate

Communication is a huge factor in whether your project and team works successfully. Use your kickoff meeting as a chance to agree on your communication basics, so there’s no confusion or miscommunication.

Choose a project management tool like Asana or Jira, and talk through how you’ll use it. Agree on how to handle real-time communication between meetings — whether it’ll be through Slack, email, or another tool. Set your communication expectations too, like when you’d like responses to questions — this is especially key if you’re meeting with clients. 

To cover team updates between project meetings, try Polly. Our Slack and Microsoft Teams integrations make it easy for you to host async standup meetings, so you can capture must-have status reports from your team members when it’s convenient for everyone. 

How to run your kickoff meetings more effectively

Here’s how to make your kickoff meetings even better, so your team stands the best chance of success in each project. 

1. Create an agenda

Meeting prep template for a kickoff meetingEvery great meeting needs an agenda. Without one, it’s easy to get lost and lose track of time. An effective agenda is part of better meeting management and helps you stay focused and make decisions, so don’t be without one. 

Take some time to put together a meeting agenda template that you can reuse for future project kickoffs, and personalize the details for each meeting. 

Before you meet, use our Meeting Prep polly to collect people’s thoughts on meeting topics and discussion points. This will help you build a strong agenda that leaves nothing uncovered, and gives your team members an easy way to contribute. 

2. Schedule a shorter meeting

Nobody likes to sit in a meeting for hours on end. When you’re thinking about your agenda, consider how long you really need to meet for. 

If you’re considering an hour-long meeting, cut it down to 45 minutes instead. For a 30 minute meeting, try 25 minutes. Stick to the time you had planned for, and be more productive with your time — you can always schedule another meeting to discuss any points in more detail. 

3. Send assignments in advance

Spend your time more wisely and encourage more participation by sending any paperwork ahead of the meeting. Ask your meeting participants to “do their homework” and review papers before you meet, so you can get straight to what matters. 

Most of your papers can be sent in advance for a project kickoff meeting. Send your agenda, project plan, project background information, project scope, project timeline, and other key documents by email at least a few business days before you’ll meet. This gives you more time to review, discuss, and make decisions in the meeting. 

4. Introduce your team thoroughly

Virtual team sharing icebreakersTeamwork is essential for any successful project. Foster a greater sense of belonging, trust, and participation by introducing everyone properly. Ask your guests to share their name, role, responsibility, and a few fun details about themselves. 

For any of your team members that can’t make it, ask them to share an introduction in advance. 

If you’re hosting your internal kickoff meeting online, try our fun Zoom icebreakers or our quizzes in Teams. They’re easy to set up and give you a lighthearted way to get to know each other before you start working together on the project. 

5. Outline the project clearly

Create space on your agenda to outline the project to everyone in attendance, so you can start your journey together. Highlight the purpose of the project, the teams involved, the project deliverables, and any key milestones. 

Much of this detail can be shared in advance, so you can use this space on your agenda to simply confirm what’s already been covered. Think of this as an opportunity to set the scene before you jump into the project for real.

6. Encourage engagement

Virtual kickoff meetingKickoff meetings can involve a lot of talking from the project manager, but do your best to make them as interactive as possible. Encourage your team members and stakeholders to give their thoughts and suggestions during the meeting. 

Create moments for participation by asking your guests to introduce themselves, creating space for questions and discussion, and having different team members take the lead on different sections. Do what you can so your kickoff meeting feels like an open discussion rather than a lecture.

If you want to bring more engagement to not only your project kickoff meetings but other areas, take a look at our guide to employee engagement activities. You’ll find lots of ideas on how to keep your team members actively engaged in what’s going on.

7. Take and share notes

It’s hard to remember everything that was said or agreed in a meeting, without a written record of what happened. Assign someone to be the note taker so you can capture everything and leave nothing to guesswork. 

Ask your note taker to pay special attention to action items. Record what the decision was, who it was assigned to, and any dates or deadlines. Use these notes to create an action plan that you can easily follow up from later. 

8. Follow up after the meeting

Your kickoff meeting is the first chance to build a strong team and client relationship as the project moves ahead. Use a follow-up message to continue that bond and confirm any responsibilities.

After the meeting, send a short summary of what happened, what was agreed, and the next steps. Attach a copy of the meeting notes, and let your participants know where they can find a replay or transcript of the meeting if there is one. Make a note to check in on any action points too, so you can provide an update before the next meeting. 

Once your meeting’s over, send a Meeting Feedback polly to your participants. Find out what they really thought of the meeting and if they have any suggestions so you can make your next one even better. You can even schedule this ahead of time so you don’t forget. 

Plan and host successful project kickoff meetings with Polly

A well-planned kickoff meeting gives you, your team, and your client a chance to get together and start the project with energy, enthusiasm, and confidence. Gather your team, put together an agenda, and host a meeting that introduces everyone to each other and what you’ll be working on.

Teamwork, engagement, and easy communication all help project meetings run smoother. Discover how our meeting management features can help you to run better discussions at your kickoff meetings and beyond.

 

Try Polly for free to instantly improve your employee engagement.

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