What is a project kickoff meeting? (+ free template)

Project kickoff meetings and a free-to-use template
February 4, 2022
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In football or soccer, the kickoff puts the ball in play, signaling the start of game-time action.

Similarly, when it comes to getting projects up and running, a meeting brings together team members to collaborate on shared goals towards a common purpose. It helps establish expectations and gather requirements before the project begins unfolding.

A well-executed kickoff meeting keeps all stakeholders informed, motivated, and focused. Start on the right foot, and you are all set for a win.

What is a project kickoff meeting?

The kickoff meeting is like the team briefing in the dressing room before players embark on the field, and is your best bet to have your entire team on the same page and moving in the right direction from the start. It is set up before executing the project officially, and it typically signifies the end of the planning phase in the project lifecycle. Being the project's first meeting, it lays down the foundation for a successful project. It gathers everyone from management and designers to marketing and sales to align project goals and timelines. And by formally introducing the project to the team, it provides them with an understanding of all that is expected of them and ensures everyone takes up the responsibility for their roles.

The meeting host is usually the project manager, who gives an overview of the team members' project goals, schedules, and responsibilities. The kickoff meeting thus orients the team about the project mission statement, project objectives, and customer requirements. Accordingly, team members owe their roles and schedule their work for upcoming weeks to share progress. During this kickoff phase, everyone involved gets a clear understanding of their tasks and what defines success.

Why should a project kickoff be planned?

Well, skipping the kickoff meeting could get you into a ton of trouble. The success of any project can be directly proportional to how thorough and clear the kickoff meeting is. It is the best time to set expectations and foster strong team morale, as teams are all ready and raring to go.

A kickoff meeting also creates the space for anyone to speak up about potential blind spots or hurdles. It goes a long way in establishing open channels for communication and a positive working relationship among teams. Finally, a kickoff meeting serves to build consensus and excitement around the core aspects of your project.

When is the perfect time to hold a Kickoff meeting?

A kickoff meeting may occur as soon as contracts are signed and there is an agreement on the statement of work and budget in project management. Or, for smaller projects, it could be scheduled right after the project initiation. Conversely, in projects that span multiple phases, a kickoff meeting could happen at the beginning of a new phase.

Whenever a kickoff meeting is scheduled, it is usually preceded by a labor-intensive stage; wherein a project charter is created with outlines of the purpose and scope of the project. The project is then adequately planned, staffed, and budgeted before kickoff.

With increasing remote work today, virtual kickoff meetings have become the norm. Project teams ensure meeting goals are met using a collaborative online board and template to host and communicate the agenda.

No matter who you are working with or when your kickoff meeting is being held, your project's success will come down to more than just reading out of static presentations and checklists. You will need to be prepared to answer questions, keep everyone on track, and inspire teams and stakeholders alike to give it their very best.

Running a kickoff meeting for customer onboarding projects

How to nail your kickoff meeting?

Every project kickoff meeting needs to cover a few specifics. It can be quite tempting to jump right into the details, but context is always king when it comes to preparing for your kickoff meeting. While the specifics of each may vary depending on the type, reason, and deliverables, it is imperative to make sure that everyone is attending with the same level of information.

Ideally, kickoff meetings are to be accompanied by well-planned presentations which are concise yet detailed.

Before launching the meeting, it is fitting to build a relaxed room with icebreakers and fun introductions. Work off an agenda that lists all critical aspects of the project discussed and presented for the meeting.

Project Summary or Overview: Begin by providing a quick overview of the basics of the project to the audience.

  • While introducing the project and the key persons involved, briefly cover the what, when, where, why, and how.
  • Include information about the background of the customer and the project during this part of the meeting.
  • Jot down the goals that you aim to achieve.
  • Distinctly define objectives and avoid being generic at best. Make sure to measure these objectives with exact figures from time to time to ensure you always stay on track.
  • Discuss how the project is funded and the budget constraints under each phase.
  • Describe the in scope and out scope extent of work that will and will not be covered during the project.

Timelines, schedules, milestones, and deliverables: Each deliverable can be split into smaller milestones with target start and end dates to keep teams motivated. Mention the different project phases and the time span within which they are to be completed.

Roles and responsibilities: Map each member's roles and responsibilities to the statement of work and the scope document. Try developing a RACI chart (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) or DACI (driver, approver, contributor, informed) matrix to assign roles and help understand the task breakdown.

Risk & mitigation plan and communication plan: One of the greatest challenges of project management is keeping everyone informed and on the same page all the time. Discuss how risks and changes will be identified, tracked, and managed. Moot about when and how progress updates will be shared and how to communicate as a group moving forward. Ensure content is centralized and is easily accessible to all those involved.

What's next and a quick Q&A: No matter how detailed the kickoff presentation has been, there are bound to be questions. Allow for team members to voice out concerns and other specific questions. Add any tasks that need to be completed or follow-up items in this section. Conclude by annotating what is to come next and sharing access to the software used, documents, and other relevant resources. Every person in the room must leave with the clarity of what they need to do to get started.  

Tips and tricks on what to do and what not to do before, during, and after a kickoff meeting

Preparing and running a kickoff meeting would typically include the following.

1. The scheduling phase

  1. Send out the invites well in advance.
  2. Make sure to reserve a suitably sized conference room to accommodate all those who have blocked a slot on their calendars for attending.
  3. Plan the kickoff to be for a maximum of 1.5-2 hours.
  4. Try to schedule a separate mini-kickoff with those who cannot attend the meeting and ensure they get the same information as the rest of the team.

2. The prepping phase

  1. A kickoff meeting should never be an information dump or broadcast.
  2. Actively involve team members and all those involved.
  3. Configure an agenda to keep the meeting streamlined and efficient.
  4. Prepare answers for questions that you think the participants may have at the end of the session.
  5. Structure the meeting with key elements, including the 5Ws, of who, what, where, when, why, and how.
  6. Convey what is expected of each member and how they should go about with their work. Remember not to make it complex.

3. Conducting the meeting

  1. It's your big day! Run a mock session a few minutes before to ensure everything is working fine and all equipment and connections are in place.
  2. Don't jump right into the hard facts. Instead, work your way through the room and make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed. You want to make them open up so that the kickoff becomes a positive and exciting experience for one and all.
  3. Engagingly present your information and always maintain eye contact.
  4. See to it that you pause between presenting important information to make sure nobody is lost and everyone understands what you want to convey.
  5. In the end, throw open the floor for any questions.
  6. Encourage and motivate teams to come forward and voice  any concerns or queries.
  7. Thank everyone for attending, and express your gratitude for working with such a great, high-performing team.

4. After the meeting

  1. Check the minutes and the presentation before sending them to all attendees and non-attendees.
  2. Make sure to mention in the email that you will be ready to answer any further questions, if any.

Now that you have all the specifics to a kickoff meeting, here's a structured, simple, and fully customizable template to help you get the ball rolling. What are you waiting for? Customize, kickoff and begin the project in style!

Kickoff Meetings for Customer Onboarding Projects: Planning and Prepping

More resources

  1. Project Management Basics: Risk Management
  2. Project Management Basics: Innovation Management
  3. Getting to the root cause of problems in project management
  4. 10 Project Management Tools You Can Use for Customer Onboarding
  5. Customer onboarding templates for every stage of your onboarding journey

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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