Kickoff meetings are the signatory start of a project. They serve as an opportunity for stakeholders to meet, for the project team to present their plan and for sponsors to share their views and goals for the project. The goal of the kickoff meeting is not to solve all of the problems that the project will face but to help establish relationships and come to a common understanding of how the project will be delivered. Here are three key elements to preparing for and running an effective kickoff meeting.
#1 – Invite the Right Stakeholders
The lifeblood of any successful project is effective communications. To help start things off on the right foot, all of the appropriate stakeholders need to be invited to the kickoff meeting. While a stakeholder is defined as ‘anyone who has a vested interest in the success (or failure) of a project’, you may not need to invite people in the hundreds but it is crucial that all key stakeholders who will have an active role in the project be involved in the kickoff meeting. Be careful not to over-invite – remember, the more attendees to a meeting mean the longer the discussions will go – plan appropriately!
#2 – Build a Strong Agenda
Like any meeting, a strong agenda is key to planning and managing your meeting. Key elements to a strong kickoff meeting agenda are:
Team introductions (including your client team)
Project purpose and objectives (often delivered by the sponsor)
Your project plan (schedule, milestones, dependencies, risks – more on this below)
Client participation expectations
#3 – Present Your Plan (and get buy-in!)
The most vital component of your agenda is the presentation of your project plan. The primary purpose of the meeting is to get your plan in front of the entire team and the client team to make sure everyone understands all the aspects of it. Your schedule will be a key component of this discussion. A good practice is to take your detailed project plan (perhaps out of MS Project) and bump it up a few levels to the point where you can explain it to a non-technical person relatively easily. Having a visual such as a timeline is a great way to visually convey your schedule. The simpler, the better – make it detailed enough to allow understanding but small/short enough to keep things interesting and your attendees engaged. Budget is often not discussed at kickoff meetings but it’s always a good practice to check with your sponsor before omitting that part of the discussion from your meeting. Your initial risk register should also be presented as part of your plan. Risks are managed ongoing through the project but to show your audience what they should be mindful of is a good practice. It may also help spur some thoughts from your stakeholders on other risks that may have not been yet considered by your team.
Kickoff meetings are exciting. They signify the beginning of a new project and the dawn of something great that your team is taking on. By running an effective kickoff meeting and providing your audience with all of the relevant details for your project, you’re starting things off on the right foot and positioning yourself for success. Good luck!
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