October 25, 2023
By Hope Salvatori

Let’s be honest: managing projects and events can be a nightmare. Without the right team, the right priorities, the right knowledge base, and a thousand other details, many projects will fail. In fact, on average, 70% of projects fail.

The key to beating the odds? A solid project management strategy and a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the same page.

What Is a Kickoff Meeting?

A kickoff meeting is a chance for team members, clients, and stakeholders to meet before a project begins to ensure everyone is aligned on critical details, including priorities and expectations, milestones, budgets, and responsibilities.

This meeting will take place after your project or event has been approved but before the work begins. This isn’t a brainstorming meeting – it’s a meeting to discuss the elements of a project that have already been established and approved. This is a chance for team members and other stakeholders to ask questions and gain an understanding of any next steps.

Kickoff Meeting Importance

The importance of a kickoff meeting can’t be stressed enough. This is a chance for project managers to ensure everyone has enough information to achieve the agreed-upon project goals, even when faced with inevitable hurdles.

Without a kickoff meeting, your team is more likely to fail. Why?

Because a kickoff meeting helps your team understand what you’re trying to achieve, why it’s important, how you plan to accomplish each goal, who is responsible for various tasks, and when certain milestones must be reached. All of this information is critical to success.

What Are the Types of Kickoff Meetings?

Kickoff meetings can take on many different forms depending on the type of project or event. For starters, kickoff meetings can be broken into two categories: internal and external kickoffs.

Internal Kickoff Meetings

Internal kickoff meetings will include only your team members who are involved in a project. These types of meetings are essential to getting your team on track by sharing project details and can help boost morale before your project begins.

Here are just a few types of internal kickoff meetings:

Sales Kickoff Meetings

Perhaps one of the most common kickoff meetings is a sales kickoff. Nearly every company with a sales team should be holding a sales kickoff at least once a year to help the team align on goals, best practices, and feedback from previous sales cycles.

It’s important to build a sales kickoff management strategy that meets the needs of your team, whether you’re hosting quarterly kickoffs, meeting annually, or onboarding new sales reps.

Departmental Kickoff Meetings

Just like the sales team, any department can benefit from kickoff meetings, whether it’s to kick off new annual goals, align on a new project, or get new team members on track.

Companywide Kickoff Meetings

Companywide events are a great way to boost employee morale and allow teams from every department to meet and align on company-wide goals.

Companywide Kickoff Attendees

Project Team Kickoff Meetings

When tackling a specific project within a team, a kickoff meeting can help ensure everyone’s aligned on priorities, roles and responsibilities, timeline, and budget.

Event Planning Kickoff Meetings

Whether you’re planning external or internal events, you might do well to hold a kickoff meeting if you’re working with a team to bring your event to life. This gives you a chance to outline each team member’s responsibilities, discuss timeline and budget considerations, and share your event goals to ensure everyone’s working to achieve them.

External Kickoff Meetings

External kickoff meetings will still include your team, but you’ll also be including external clients, contractors, or other stakeholders. These types of meetings serve several purposes: to ensure your team understands the external party’s requirements, to gather insight from your client/stakeholders, and to allow your client/stakeholders to play a more active role in the project if desired.

Here are just a few types of external kickoff meetings:

Client and Stakeholder Project Kickoff Meetings

This type of meeting is held with clients and other stakeholders to discuss project scope, milestones, deliverables, timelines, and team responsibilities. During this meeting, your internal team has a chance to collaborate with your client, ask questions, and gain insight into expectations and priorities.

Contractor Kickoff Meetings

If you are a contractor or are working with a contractor on a specific project or deliverable, a kickoff meeting is key to ensuring everything you need is delivered accurately and on time.

Vendor Kickoff Meetings

Whether you’re working with event vendors or vendors of other goods or services, a kickoff meeting with your vendors can help everyone align on expectations, priorities, budget, and timeline.

Defining Your Kickoff Meeting Purpose

Establishing your kickoff meeting purpose will help you determine the type of kickoff meeting that’s most appropriate. It may be as simple as an internal Zoom meeting or as complex as a company-wide event.

Whatever the case, be sure you outline the purpose of your meeting so that you know what you’re hoping to achieve and so your team understands the importance of the meeting.

The Importance of Project Management

Before you begin kicking off a project or event, there’s one critical component your team needs: a savvy project manager. As noted, 70% of all projects fail. To ensure you aren’t included in this statistic, start by implementing a solid project management strategy.

Projects are 2.5 times more successful when project management practices are implemented, which means you can’t afford to neglect this critical component before kicking off a project.

Kickoff Meeting Project Manager

How to Do a Kickoff Meeting

Ready to start planning your own kickoff meeting? Here are a few considerations to get you started. Use these tips and the agenda items that follow to help you create a project kickoff template that works for your kickoff meeting.

Choose Your Team Wisely

It’s critical to consider whom you invite to your kickoff meeting. You’ll need the right mix of team members and/or external stakeholders to ensure everyone critical to the project is present. Avoid inviting those who don’t need to be at the meeting to ensure you stay on task, but also make sure you aren’t leaving out anyone who needs insight into the project!

Have the Details Ready and Approved

Your project should be fully fleshed out and approved before your kickoff meeting. That means your project priorities, timelines, budget, team roles, challenges, etc. will be established before your entire team is assembled, and you will have approval for every decision made so far.

Establish a Way to Track Progress

If you’ll be assigning different tasks with different timelines to various team members or groups, you’ll need a way to track everyone’s progress toward individual goals. Establish this process in advance so your team knows what to expect and so nothing falls through the cracks.

Develop a Risk Management Strategy

Every project has its ups and downs, and while some challenges are predictable, others seem to come out of nowhere. To prepare yourself for inevitable unexpected hurdles, design and implement a risk management strategy that considers as many scenarios as possible.

10 Steps to Build Your Kickoff Meeting Agenda

Ready to set up your kickoff meeting? Follow these steps to build your kickoff meeting agenda!

1. Set and Share the Agenda in Advance

To keep your kickoff meeting on track and avoid wasting time, send a clear meeting agenda to all participants in advance of your meeting. That way, there are no surprises, and you can keep team members on task without needing multiple meetings to get through your agenda.

2. Introduce the Team

Whether you have new team members, are working with an external team, or are working with teams who have not met one another, be sure you introduce the various stakeholders and team members to get everyone comfortable and understand who’s involved in the project.

Team Introductions

3. Define the Project’s Purpose

Team members need to understand what they’re working toward and why to fully commit to a project and understand what to prioritise. Take this opportunity to explain how the project aligns with broader business and team goals.

4. Share the High-Level Project Plan

Here’s where you get into some of the project details. You don’t want to overwhelm your team with details, but you want to make sure they have an understanding of the general project plan, including key details like the overall timeline, critical milestones, major deliverables, and anticipated challenges.

5. Outline the Scope of the Project

Now that your team understands the general plan, it’s time to dig into the finer details and requirements. Here, you’ll discuss items like your specific objective, any resources and budget available to you, specific deliverables and requirements, and even items that are outside the project scope to help everyone understand what you are trying to achieve and what you aren’t.

6. Allocate Team Responsibilities

Whether it’s an internal or external project, you’ll want to break down individual roles and responsibilities. This could mean breaking teams into working groups, assigning tasks to individual team members, and outlining internal vs. external responsibilities.

Here, you’ll establish details like the main point of contact for key deliverables, who will approve different areas of the project, etc. Keep in mind, if you’re assigning responsibilities to groups, you might only be assigning group managers at this stage who will assign responsibilities to their teams separately.

7. Share Your Progress with a Tracking System

Your entire team will need a way to track progress – not just the project manager. Whether you’re using the same tracking system for everyone or using various methods to alert team members to progress and deadline, have this system established in advance and be able to demonstrate how the system will work for everyone.

8. Discuss Next Steps

If your team walks away from your kickoff meeting asking, “What do I do now?”, you’ve missed a critical step. Be sure to discuss the next steps for each group or team member, including how they can keep track of their to-do list for the project going forward.

9. Leave Time for Q&A

It would be a mistake to set up your kickoff meeting without factoring in time for Q&A. This gives everyone a chance to clarify project details, ask questions about their responsibilities, and ensure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear sense of what comes next and how to move forward.

10. Send a Follow-Up Recap and To-Do List

You’ll be covering a LOT in your kickoff meeting, so sending a follow-up email that includes meeting minutes and everyone’s next steps is crucial. Even better? Record the meeting and send out the recording or transcript in your follow-up email so your team can reference it later on.

Building a comprehensive kickoff strategy for your team? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Internal Events.

Hope Swedeen

Hope Salvatori

Hope is a Senior Content Marketing Associate who has been with Cvent for more than two years. She has 8 years of experience producing content for corporations, small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content professional, she has created content for a wide range of industries, including meetings and events, government and defense, education, health, and more.

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