Project kickoff meetings are a huge opportunity to set a group of people working towards one goal on the right track (or careening down the wrong one). The best way to get everyone on the same page in this meeting? Start with a clear, concise project kickoff meeting agenda.
In this article, we’ll walk through:
- How to prepare for a kickoff meeting
- Tips for running an effective kickoff meeting
- Project kickoff meeting checklist
- What to include in your project kickoff meeting agenda
- Project kickoff meeting agenda template
How to prepare for a kickoff meeting
Before the meeting even happens, it’s important that you make it easy for everyone to show up prepared. Here are some things you’ll need to consider doing before your kickoff meeting occurs.
1. Schedule a time
Find a time that works best for everyone’s schedule. If you’re working with Google Suite, you can select your colleagues’ calendars and all events will overlay. This way, you’ll be able to see openings across everyone’s calendar.
2. Decide who needs to be involved in the kickoff meeting
Just because someone will be involved with the project at some point doesn’t mean they need to be there for the kickoff meeting. When deciding who to include in your meeting, consider the following roles:
- Key voices: People who are there to share their viewpoints and help shape decisions.
- FYIs – People who are there to listen because the decisions made will affect their day-to-day or a specific project they’re working on.
Make sure all of your stakeholders attend
If there’s one meeting you want to make sure everyone attends, it’s the project kickoff. There’s way too much valuable information being shared and discussed in a project kickoff to be missing key people.
3. Decide where to document meeting notes, tasks, and goals
Depending on how your meetings are run, it’s important that you document meeting notes, decisions, and project updates in a way that’s:
- Accessible to everyone
- Fits within everyone’s existing workflow
- Clear and easy to follow for those involved in the project but not in the meeting
Here are some tools to consider using when documenting kickoff meetings, decisions, tasks, and next steps:
- Hypercontext: To collaborate on the meeting agenda, document decisions, goals, and to ensure everyone comes to the kickoff meeting prepared.
- Trello or Jira: To lay out the project plan, tasks, and provide status updates.
- Google docs: To create and share collaborative project briefs.
4. Create an agenda
It’s critical that every kickoff meeting you run is an effective use of everyone’s time and sets the team and project up for success. So, it’s important that you not only create an agenda to keep everyone on track during the meeting but to share it with everyone in advance so that they can prepare.
“Make sure to send the agenda ahead of time so everyone can come into the meeting aligned.”– Taylor Berg, Senior SEO Manager at Talkspace
Tips for running an effective kickoff meeting
1. Share the project brief before the meeting
Whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation or a brief, make sure your project team has a stand-alone piece of collateral that outlines the project, objectives, measurable results, and more details in one brief. And…share it at least 48 hours in advance of your project kickoff meeting, just like your agenda. New information always takes more time to share than expanding on something familiar, so you’ll save time in the meeting by assigning a bit of “pre-reading.”
Make sure everyone gets a copy of the project brief with any related action items and due dates. I’m also a big proponent of buy-in: make everyone excited about the project by sharing why it mattersSamantha Finken, Marketing Manager at Designblendz
2. Do your kickoff in person when possible
This is a meeting that warrants face-to-face interaction, particularly if your project is taking a quarter or more of time. Is your team remote but within the same city? Consider arranging an offsite meeting!
3. Make it fun
Inject some fun into your project kickoffs. It might be the first opportunity you’re getting to work with some people in the group and it’s important to start on the right foot. Think about a meeting icebreaker or a short activity as a way to kick things off.
4. Use the DACI framework
When assigning roles and responsibilities for the project, consider using the DACI decision making framework: Driver, Approver, Contributors, Informed. This will be even more helpful when you’re scoping out the project into individual tasks.
Project kickoff meeting checklist
If you’re struggling to prepare for your project kickoff meeting, just follow this simple kickoff checklist:
- Create a project brief or kickoff meeting presentation
- Set a meeting time and invite stakeholders
- Share agenda and project brief 48 hours in advance of the meeting
- Meet (and take notes!)
- Share notes and action items post-meeting
- Schedule follow-up meetings
“Making agenda, outcomes, and associated docs linked in a calendar invite is so wonderful. The best part is putting all that together makes you rethink whether you’re ready for that meeting and by the time you put it together, you are.”– Brendan Hufford, Director of SEO at Directive
What to include in your project kickoff meeting agenda
1. Project brief
The first item you want to tick off your agenda is telling everyone why they’re in this meeting in the first place: what is the project? This agenda item should be accompanied by a tangible (Slideshare, doc, etc.) project brief that covers the four basic components related to any project:
- Definition: What the project is, and the value it will provide either the business or customers.
- Goals: What the project is trying to achieve in the long term and short term. Using the OKR (objectives, key results) format is helpful here. Check out over 180 goal examples here.
- SWOT: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as they relate to the project.
- Timeline: When the project should start, when it should be finished, and key milestones in-between.
2. Roles and responsibilities
Once you’ve got the team up to speed on the project, introduce the roles you’d like each stakeholder to play in the process. Consider using the RACI matrix for this, which assigns certain responsibilities to team members across every stage of the project:
Here’s what the RACI matrix would look like for an engineering team:
“It’s important that you clarify the roles and responsibilities right from your project kickoff to set better expectations throughout the entire project.”– Khaled Zaky, Director of Product Management, Public Cloud at RBC
Set some guidelines for how often you’ll meet, and how you’ll communicate on and offline. How will you share documents and progress? What medium should you use to communicate?
4. Next steps
Great, everyone is briefed in, so what’s next? Make sure everyone leaves confidently knowing what to work on and bring to the next meeting. This might mean scoping out the work required and assigning out tasks.
“By the end of the meeting, there should be a plan for the next steps with a clear timeline and tasks owners. Scheduling a follow-up meeting is also an efficient way to make sure the project moves forward.”– Adrien Lemaire, Content & PR Manager at RingCentral
Leave time in your meeting for questions. You want everyone in this meeting to have a clear idea of the project, their role, how to communicate throughout the project, and their immediate next steps.
Project kickoffs, internal or external, go a long way in determining the success of a project. Set a clear precedent in your first project meeting and that tone will carry through the rest of your project management meetings.