When your team is getting ready to start a new adventure, the project kickoff meeting is a critical step. It sets the ball rolling for a project and can be the first step in setting your team up for success. Managing kickoff meetings is a different story. It can be challenging, especially when it has to be done remotely. If done efficiently, project team members and key stakeholders will get the orientation they need to be most productive and shoot for success with common goals in mind.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of project kickoff meetings, and some actionable tips you can implement to achieve an expert-level remote project kickoff meeting.
The benefits of project kickoff meetings
They help you get to know the team
Like every gathering of persons to achieve a set goal, it is important to to create an avenue for team members to get acquainted with each other, at least to some degree. Knowing who you will be working with is very important if you are to achieve your set objectives. Kickoff meetings present the opportunity for you to meet and get to know the members of your team. Team members can also interact with one another, and this will help team members connect and interact as they kickoff the project.
They establish project leadership
This is all about establishing the chain of command, and it’s essential for any organization if there is to order. Questions like, who leads the team, who to meet for details on particular issues about the project, etc., need to be answered for the workflow to be seamless. Kickoff meetings present the opportunity to establish a clear leadership structure for the project, and this instils order and control for the entire lifecycle of the project.
They are your chance to assign individual roles
Projects can get quite complex, and you should break down these chunks of expectations into small actionable tasks that individuals or groups of individuals can exquickly do. Since kickoff meetings usually have all team members present, including the project manager, it’s a good opportunity for you to assign each individual’s tasks for the project, defining what role each team member will play towards realizing it.
They ensure everyone understands the project objectives, goals, and milestones
When everyone is gathered in your kickoff meeting, you get to explain the project’s purpose, project scope, project background, and project details clearly. You can present the objectives, goals, and measurable milestones for project success. And as a bonus, you get to pass this out to everyone once, which is a lot easier than having to explain to each individual member on separate occasions, sometimes multiple times to the same individual.
They allow you to discuss and agree on processes
How will tasks be done? How will results be delivered? What project management methodology will be used in executing the project? How long will each segment of the project lifecycle last? These questions trigger explanations on the processes that will be applied in realizing the project, and these can be discussed in kickoff project meetings. This is key information for internal projects and external projects alike. Everyone on the project team needs to be clear on the processes they’ll use to avoid confusion and chaos.
They’re the right time to uncover risks, assumptions, and constraints
With each project, there are associated risks. While you may have accounted for some or (hopefully) most of these risks, you may have missed out on some. You may have taken certain assumptions in the project plan or business case. In effective kickoff meetings, there is room for the entire team to analyze and expose any underlying risks associated with the project and constraints that may come into play as they carry on the project. Once these are uncovered, you can proceed to take corrective action.
They are your opportunity to set key dates and deliverables
One defining characteristic of projects is that they have a definite timeline. In kickoff meetings, all team members can agree and be bought up to speed on the project’s timeline and any important that need to be remembered, like deadlines, delivery dates, etc.
They help you uncover the team’s questions and concerns
In kickoff meetings, team members get the opoortunity to express any concerns, worries, or challenges they may have or face regarding the project. They can get their worries clarified and their questions quickly answered.
Tips for expert-level project kickoff meetings
1. Prepare ahead of time
Like with any venture in life, taking our time to prepare and plan prevents mediocracy. Similarly, to run an expert-level project kickoff meeting, you should take out time to plan for it. This includes deciding who should attend the meeting, when the meeting should occur, the goals and expectations of the meeting, and the length of the meeting.
Virtual office apps like Orbital allow you to set up your meeting area ahead of time, including seating, sticky notes for topics, whiteboards, important link references, and more collaboration tools.
2. Set a clear agenda, including breaks
If you intend for your kickoff meeting to stand out from mediocre and amateur-run meetings, then also take out time to prepare a kickoff meeting agenda which you’d follow. This agenda should be concise and pretty straightforward, showing what activity will be happening at what time in the course of the meeting. And as a pro tip, be sure to include sufficient breaks in the kickoff meeting. Long hours of intense discussions and brainstorming can prove unproductive. Planned interruptions like coffee breaks, fun group activities can be a healthy distraction to ease stress and inject new energy into the meeting.
3. Clearly define success for the project, and what you’re solving for your end users or customers
To run a project kickoff meeting like a pro, you should clearly define the standard of success for the project. Basically, how will you know when the project has been accomplished? What is the metric of measurement of success? This will guide the step-by-step realization of the project and ensure you stay on track throughout the project’s lifecycle.
Also, your project must be relevant for the end-users. What problem is the project aiming to solve for your customers? Will the product/service you’re developing be demanded by your customers? That is the ultimate measure of the success of a project. It will be futile investing all the time and effort on a project with little or no relevance for the end-users.
4. Don’t make assumptions about what everyone else understands
When it comes to running meetings that involve a group of people, you shouldn’t always assume what others have understood, and what their understanding of a particular point is. You should be careful to test the degree of understanding of each participant of the kickoff meeting before the meeting closes. You’d be amazed how easy it is for people to misunderstand what you’re saying. So, at each turn, ask clarification questions to assess what the participants have understood to ensure you’re all on the same page in the meeting.
5. Assign a facillitator and someone to take action items
In the course of your project kickoff meeting, you’ll need to assign someone to take note of the actionable items and immediately assign someone to facilitate its realization. Don’t just procrastinate on such items. Be sure to get someone on it before dismissing the meeting.
6. Don’t get distracted by details
As your project kickoff meeting, it is possible to have discussions stray off-topic, especially when you start giving a lot of attention to intricate details that can sometimes be irrelevant. While it is essential to pay attention to details, you shouldn’t get derailed with too many details. We recommend having a “Parking Lot” for discussions that start veering off-topic. Your facilitator can create a sticky note for each topic to get lost before moving the conversation forward.
We recommend having a “Parking Lot” for discussions that start veering off-topic. Your facilitator can create a sticky note for each topics so they don’t get lost, before moving the conversation forward.
7. Include time for Q&A
As the project kickoff meeting unfolds, some participants may have questions and worries about certain aspects of the project. As such, be sure to include a Q & A session at some point in the meeting, perhaps halfway through or at the end of the session. This also goes to ensure everyone is on the same page before the meeting progresses.
8. Follow up after the meeting
It is always easier to make decisions and resolutions than follow them up to ensure they’re implemented. As such, the project kickoff meeting shouldn’t be dismissed without adopting and implementing follow-up strategies to ensure decisions and strategies are implemented as discussed. Follow-up is equally as crucial as decision-making, so be sure to account for this aspect too. This often includes inputting individual tasks into a task management system.
9. Set regular checkins about the project directly after the meeting
After a successful project kickoff meeting, it is essential to establish a regular check-in system to ensure team members don’t just work in isolation but should regularly check in with team leadership and report progress on their tasks. This could be in the form of reminders for team members to check in their progress regularly.
Orbital can handle these reminders for you via the Shoutout feature. Just toggle on a weekly meeting and we’ll alert the whole team that it’s time for a catchup. You can also copy your meeting area’s direct link to include on meeting invitations.
Project kickoff meetings can prove a daunting task and an exciting challenge to run and manage. If you apply these tips, you will attain an expert-level meeting with maximum impact and productivity, get off on the right foot, and have a successful project overall!