What’s a Kick Off Meeting: What is the Purpose? How do I Nail It?
Every collaborative project should begin with a Kick Off meeting. Kick Off meetings are a critical point in the potential success of any project, not to mention that they set the tone for all future project meetings.
Some of your team may not have previously worked together, so a Kick Off meeting is an opportunity to get everyone acquainted before work commences. It ensures everybody starts with the same level of information and understanding of the project, something that a Team Meeting doesn’t quite grasp. If there is a customer/client involved in the project, this is your opportunity to introduce them to your team and vice versa. A Kick Off meeting signifies the official start of a project. From this point onwards, your team’s main objective should be the project.
The Main Purposes of a Kick Off meeting
- Formally meet with your client/customer – This is your team’s best opportunity to understand the client’s objectives, way of thinking & expectations. It’s important to listen to what they say and what they don’t say.
- Understand the background of a project – You should provide context as to why this project is relevant and why it’s worth undertaking.
- Understand what success looks like – The overall goal of the project should be set during the Kick Off meeting. Provide a target or goal in the early stages of the project.
- Establish what needs to be done – After the Kick Off meeting, everyone present should have a complete understanding of what needs to be accomplished in order to achieve success.
- Create a common understanding of roles – Your team should have a mutual understanding of each other’s responsibilities within the project.
- Agree on how to work together effectively – Your team should establish effective means of collaboration to remove any potential barriers to success.
- Set the tone for the rest of the project – Start as you mean to go on. Establish the approach of all future meetings.
- Set expectations – Illustrate to your team the realistic measures of success to be anticipated along the way.
- Minimise potential surprises – Anticipate any issues or unexpected delays that may occur, acknowledge them and set a contingency plan in the case of each.
- Size up each other’s strengths and weaknesses – Know where your team is at their best and worst. Plan accordingly and establish means of utilising each individual’s best skills.
- Generate enthusiasm and inspire confidence in your client/customer – Ensure that your client/customer leaves the meeting feeling invigorated by the level of commitment and enthusiasm from your team.
Format of a Kick Off Meeting
- Welcome message – Thank everybody for coming and provide short introductions to improve familiarity among the team.
- Discuss the agenda – Take a moment to discuss the desired order of business for your Kick Off meeting. To save time, we recommend printing agendas that you can distribute at the beginning of the meeting. Because we are really nice, here is a template you can adapt to your meeting.
- Ice breaking games – If your team are unfamiliar with each other or have never worked together before, it might be advised to introduce an icebreaker game to develop a team mentality.
- Background of the project – Explain why you feel this project is worthy of company time. Provide context on how the project came to fruition.
- Analyse the project charter – Discuss the scope, objectives, and participants of the project. The project charter serves as a reference of authority for the future of the project.
- Discuss the roles & responsibilities involved – Consider the RACI Index (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed), which defines the participation of the various roles in completing tasks for projects.
- Timelines – Review the timeline for the project. Present a plan with milestones and various phases of the project laid out. Ensure everyone is aligned with the timeline and define any events that may impact it, e.g. delays in approvals, indecisiveness, legal issues etc.
- Assess Risks – Prepare a list of potential risks prior to your Kick Off meeting. Run through this list as part of your discussion and identify ways of minimising these risks.
- Establish rules for future communication and meetings – Address the means for any future communication in your team. Arrange project meetings periodically along your timeline and establish grounds for requesting any non-prescribed meetings.
Level of Engagement in a Kick Off Meeting
Depending on the overall goal of your project, a Kick Off meeting doesn’t require a lot of engagement from your team.
- In an internal Kick Off meeting, you may utilise discussions or brainstorming sessions to generate ideas.
- If this is an agency Kick Off meeting and there is a client present, it’s best to finalise any discussions and ideas prior to the meeting.
At the very end of your Kick Off meeting, open the floor up to a Q&A session. Try to encourage questions relating to the project and the team avoiding any specific discussions about tasks that will end up in a one on one discussion.
Ideation During a Kick Off Meeting
Like the level of engagement required in a meeting, ideation should be strictly limited to an internal Kick Off meeting. At no point should you discuss potential ideas and contradicting opinions in front of clients or customers. For an Internal Kick Off meeting, here are a few tips on getting the ball rolling.
- If your team are unfamiliar with one another, try some icebreaker games to remove any tension. Try exercises that promote teamwork, communication, and problem-solving.
- Try to keep a casual atmosphere but remain focused and on-topic.
- Create a fake final press-release for your project or product and distribute it to your team. Open the floor to a discussion on the press-release. This should help construct a clear image of what the finalised version of the project should look like.
- Finish your meeting with a debrief and reflect on any decisions made. Open the floor to a Q&A session.
Best Time & Day for a Kick Off Meeting
We recommend hosting your Kick Off meeting early in the week. This allows enough time for your team to begin engaging with the project before the weekend break. After the weekend, your team should have a strong foot-hold on the early stages of the project. Check out our blog on the best time to host a meeting for further insights!
Due to the low-level of engagement in a Kick Off meeting, your team doesn’t necessarily have to be at their sharpest. For this reason, we recommend hosting your Kick Off meeting around the 9/10 AM time slot. Provide refreshments for your team and wrap things up prior to lunch. If needs be, you can continue your meeting after everyone has had something to eat. Don’t let your meeting run into designated break times, nothing will wither away your team’s motivation faster than hunger.
All of the people who will work on the project should be in attendance. If you have a large project, it may be unfeasible to include everyone involved. In this case, limit invitations to teammates who will be responsible for those working on the project.
Remote Meeting Tool
If you are dealing with a client or team member who is remotely based, utilise Video Conferencing technology or Web Conferencing if you have a presentation to share. During a Kick Off meeting it’s better to see everyone involved in the project as opposed to dealing with audio alone.
Kick Off meetings are quite different from project or problem-solving meetings which most people are familiar with. They should focus solely on information sharing and setting the tone for the rest of the project. Kick Off’s shouldn’t be the place for dealing with problems in your project. If you identify any, acknowledge them and deal with them during a problem solving or project meeting.