What is a kickoff meeting?
A kickoff meeting is a gathering of employees who will contribute to an upcoming project. In the meeting, attendees review the purpose of the project and explain who’s in charge of certain tasks. The purpose of the kickoff meeting is to introduce the project to team members and inform them of any important upcoming dates or deadlines.
Some kickoff meetings involve the clients as well if you’re working in an agency setting or if the clients are completing key tasks for the project. Though most kickoff meetings are held primarily for upcoming projects, some sales teams also hold kickoff meetings to introduce new sales team members, identify upcoming sales quotas or share any important company or product announcements.
What should be included in a kickoff meeting?
A kickoff meeting is a starting point and introduction to an upcoming product launch. It’s important to provide your team with enough background information about what they’ll be working on over the upcoming weeks or months. This helps them understand their roles and responsibilities for the project. Key elements to include in a project kickoff meeting are:
- Overview of the project: To ensure you don’t overwhelm team members with an overload of project details, try to provide high-level information about the project. Give a brief overview of what the project is, why you’re implementing it and the key roles and responsibilities involved. Try to focus most on the “why” behind the project to give employees more of a purpose and motivation when working on it.
- Team member introductions: Go around the meeting room and provide a high-level description of what each person is contributing to the project. This gives everyone a clear idea of who to approach with any questions about specific phases of the project. Try to keep these introductions general and refrain from giving details about certain tasks.
- Explanation of how you’ll complete the project: This is a brief overview of your plan for completing this project. Consider providing a schedule with an overview of certain stages of the project you aim to have finished by specific dates. Share what team management tool you’ll use to track progress and hold members accountable.
- Important upcoming dates: Build a calendar with upcoming project meetings and other key dates. It must list your projected timeline and share milestones you’d like to reach by certain deadlines. Include your proposed dates for follow-up meetings once you’ve completed certain phases. Make sure everyone knows these dates are tentative and encourage them to express their opinions and potential schedule concerns so you can make necessary adjustments.
- Additional time for employees to ask questions: Right before you wrap up the meeting, ask employees if they have any questions about their tasks or the project. These questions will provide additional clarity and rid team members of any potential project confusions. If they have any questions about their specific tasks, encourage them to email you.
- Action items and tasks going forward: Give everyone a clear understanding of what they need to do next to get a strong start on the project. Provide each person with a task they must complete and provide deadlines to finish that item.
- Recap of the meeting in a follow-up email: Write a brief email for all meeting attendees and people who were unable to attend. Briefly review what was mentioned in the meeting and list out any action items or upcoming deadlines covered in the meeting for team members to reference when needed.
Steps to planning a kickoff meeting
When managing your kickoff meeting, there are certain materials you must prepare to ensure you have enough information for attendees to clearly understand your project goals. Follow these five steps to plan and implement a successful kickoff meeting:
1. Establish your goals and vision for the project
List out the goals and final product you envision for your project to help you build clear steps to reach them. Having clear goals to work toward and a strong understanding of the project makes employees more motivated to complete their tasks to get there. Clearly communicate these goals and how your project will benefit your company or clients. This gets employees excited and enthusiastic about contributing their time and skills toward the upcoming project.
2. Determine which employees will be on your team
Being a project manager means delegating certain tasks to the right employees. Meet with department managers beforehand to ask who you should assign to certain responsibilities. They’ll help you gain a better understanding of employees’ skill levels and who has available time to work on your tasks. Make a list of these employees with a high-level description of the job they’ll complete for your project.
3. Build your deadlines for each task
Since you’ll end your meeting with action items, create a list of the first few tasks you’ll need completed. Then, build your timeline for when you’d like each team member to submit these tasks. It’s also helpful to make a tentative timeline for when you’d like each milestone to be met. Create a meeting schedule as well to check in on employees’ progress for each stage of the process. Make a large calendar that’s easy for team members to read during the meeting.
4. Pick a project and team management tool to use
To ensure you’re updated on your team members’ progress on their tasks, consider using a team management tool. Most applications allow you to create a section for your specific project, then assign tasks to each employee with deadlines for each one. This makes their progress for each task visible to you. Consider using a business communication platform as well. Invite everyone to join a group for your project and use it to collaborate by asking each other quick questions or sharing ideas.
5. Find a venue and time for the meeting
Ask for access to your team members’ calendars and find a date and time for a kickoff meeting that works with everyone’s schedules.. Try to find a meeting room large enough for the number of attendees and book it in advance before adding the meeting to your calendar. If you’re video chatting with remote employees, make sure the meeting room has the audio and visual technology capabilities to handle it.
As you prepare for your meeting, build an agenda that lists what you’ll be discussing and how much time is allotted for each meeting item. This helps you look prepared and keeps the meeting on track. Provide enough time for your employees to ask questions or brainstorm any potential project ideas.