With every project there’s a kick-off point—that time when things actually begin to happen, even if it’s just a lot of talk about what the project is expected to accomplish. But these kick-off meetings aren’t just low-priority formalities. They’re an important opportunity for PMs to begin setting expectations, gathering the kind of insight that will be crucial to the project’s ultimate success, and driving engagement and commitment from the various stakeholders.
As a PM, it’s crucial that you set the right tone for these project kick-off events. A project management consulting partner can help you shape the agenda to ensure you’re building enthusiasm and instilling confidence across your stakeholder base. Consider some of the most common questions and concerns that are likely to come up during project kick-off meetings and how you can be ready to maximize their value to everyone involved in the effort.
Team Project Kick-Off Meeting
A project kick-off meeting is a perfect opportunity to get your team excited about the project. Explain the scope and discuss any details that the full team may not already know. You don’t want to start the conversation with a Q&A session but you should be flexible enough in your presentation that questions and concerns can be discussed as they come up.
If you’ve identified potential opportunities for team members to expand their skills sets, such as the execution of niche activities or a partnership with a new type of collaborator or vendor, highlight those now. Any availability in the project team’s mentoring program should also be noted to keep interest high.
For larger groups that will be broken down into sub-teams, discuss those arrangements now. People may be assigned to cross-functional groups based on a variety of factors—discipline, skill level, activity timing, or location—so take the time to confirm everyone knows their role and their internal partnerships.
Customer Project Kick-Off meeting
Your customer base has likely already participated in a number of discussions about the project but don’t assume that everyone attending the kick-off meeting is aware of the scope, the anticipated impacts, or any other details. Provide an overview of the effort and share as many specifics as you can. If any project parameters are still under discussion, let them know what’s left to be decided and when you anticipate having that information available.
Extend the customer relationship by nailing down expectations. What will your team do for them? Describe your plan for managing communications, tell them where they can find project updates, and identify your point person for any questions customers have once the project gets underway. If you’ll hold regular meetings for stakeholders throughout the initiative’s lifecycle, let customers know the expected timing for those or how they can get on the invitation list.
Also, discuss any obligations your customers will have as the project moves forward. It’s not uncommon for end users to provide information such as maintenance logs on equipment that’s being relocated or sold, for example. Be clear about what you’ll need from them and begin building timelines for receiving that information.
If you can estimate work disruption timing at this stage, begin the discussions about how you plan to schedule, communicate, and manage those. Customers are much more amenable to dealing with interruptions if they know about them ahead of time and don’t feel they’ve been railroaded into an untenable or unproductive situation.
With a good project kick-off meeting in the books, you’re likely to get better cooperation and more open information sharing from customers and team members alike. You’ll also see more enthusiasm and better engagement from stakeholders as the project unfolds.