How To Run A Successful Kickoff Meeting

kickoff meeting
How many projects have you worked on that got derailed immediately after the kickoff meeting? It happens. A lot. And it’s not necessarily because of miscommunications during the meeting. It often has absolutely nothing to do with the actual meeting.

The kickoff meeting is the linchpin of all successful design projects, but it’s really hard to pull off effectively. Here’s a tried and true recipe to help make your next kickoff meeting a success.

Approved Projects Only

The purpose of a kickoff meeting is to officially start a project with the right people and answer any questions they may have.

But in the rush of excitement to get started, agencies will sometimes staff against a project that hasn’t been approved yet by the client.

Please don’t do this. A kickoff meeting is utterly worthless if the project has not been properly signed off.

Pre-Production Planning

Assuming you have an approved scope of work, hold a “pre-production” meeting with your tech and creative leads. This is the appropriate time to agree upon the brief and assign the project team before you assemble a larger group together.

Sending people to meetings is expensive. Taking them away from their day to day responsibilities means possible delays on other work. So it’s crucial to make sure management is aligned regarding staff allocations.

Get Everyone In The Room

For an effective kickoff meeting, all project stakeholders should be in the room. And by stakeholder, that means anyone who will touch the project, from project sponsors all the way through to creatives, and especially the tech lead. It’s just not worth it to hold a kickoff meeting without all stakeholders present.

People are busy, so they need enough lead time to block it on their calendars. A week’s notice should be plenty of time.

Personally Confirm Participation

Don’t assume that just because you sent a calendar invitation that people will respond. Depending on a person’s schedule and role, your meeting invite may be one of thousands of emails they receive each week.

So do yourself (and them) a favor and double-check that they can attend if you haven’t heard back from them within 24 hours.

Your meeting may conflict with several others on their agenda, so personally make sure everyone you need will be at your meeting.

Be Prepared

Next, make sure that you and the team are prepared. That means having a clear agenda and supporting materials to guide the discussion.

Effective support materials take time to create and produce, so give yourself enough lead time to get things together.

Meeting Flow and Agenda

Send the agenda the day before so people know what to expect. On the day of the meeting have all documentation available either on screen or as printed handouts. Being “buttoned up” like this sets the tone. It also helps people relax. Really.

Besides an agenda, typical kickoff meeting materials include a project brief and timeline. If possible, also provide a preliminary sitemap and rough wireframes. Even if they need to be revised later, these visual aids will help everyone stay on the same page.

The meeting flow is very important. Introduce your agenda and walk through everything in sequence.

Stay On Track

If an unrelated topic comes up for some reason, make a note and table it for another time. It’s important to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.

You probably won’t have all the answers at the kickoff meeting, and that’s ok. It’s one of the reasons you’re getting everyone together. Be sure to capture any open items for follow up as soon as possible.

Setting your team up for success at the very beginning will create enthusiasm and trust from the start. It will also help ensure that everyone walks away from the discussion singing the same song.

Over To You

What’s your experience with kickoff meetings? What works for you? What doesn’t? Please leave your thoughts in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!

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