10 steps to supercharge your project kickoff meeting (with Asana templates!)
You’ve put a lot of effort into getting your project off the ground, and it already seems uncertain. That’s because every project team member and stakeholder brings different knowledge, expectations, and priorities to a project. If you don’t provide a chance for them to get on the same page before the work begins, the rest of the project will be an uphill battle no matter how much you try to course correct. Luckily, there’s a better way: project kickoff meetings.
Kickoff meetings are an effective way to get the project team on the same page—before the work begins. During a kickoff, you’ll outline the project’s purpose, dive into details, and discuss next steps. That way, wherever your project plan takes you, everyone is right there with you.
What is a project kickoff meeting?
A project kickoff meeting is a chance to meet with team members and stakeholders before the project starts to align on key details and get buy-in on critical milestones. When you host a kickoff meeting, you’ll outline your project purpose, goals, plan, and more—while also making time for team members to ask questions and clarify any next steps. At the end of a kickoff meeting, the entire team should have a shared understanding about what you’re working on, why, and who will do what parts.
What is the purpose of a kickoff meeting?
Kickoff meetings are an invaluable way to communicate key project information to your team and give them an opportunity to ask questions live. Unlike sharing these details in a project plan or over email, hosting a project kickoff reduces the odds of miscommunication and ensures everyone is starting the project from the same place. Without a kickoff meeting, team members and stakeholders could have misaligned project expectations, which leads to scope creep and, in the worst-case scenario, project failure.
That doesn’t mean you need to host identical kickoff meetings for every project. Some projects, like customer-facing work or complex initiatives, will benefit from a formalized kickoff with significant prep—like a robust presentation or even a demo, depending on the project type. Other projects, like those that involve fewer stakeholders or are more straightforward, could have a less formal kickoff meeting without a deck or a presentation.
10 steps for a successful project kickoff meeting
As the project manager of a key initiative, it’s your responsibility to plan and present during the project kickoff. Similarly, if you’re running a larger program and planning a kickoff for that body of work, you’ll likely be the person driving the meeting—though you can count on the individual project leads to present their information.
If you’ve never planned a kickoff meeting—don’t worry! Here are 10 steps to hosting a successful kickoff meeting.
1. Prepare for the meeting
The first step to hosting a project kickoff meeting is to decide who needs to be there and how long the meeting should be. The level and detail of preparation will depend on how formal the kickoff meeting needs to be—are you inviting executive stakeholders or external partners? Or is this an informal kickoff with your core project team? As you prepare for the meeting:
Finalize the invite list. By now you should know what type of project kickoff meeting you’re hosting, which should inform who attends the meeting. Before you send that meeting invite, make sure to go over the attendee list one more time to ensure you’ve included all relevant project stakeholders.
Schedule a time (and duration). Make sure to save time for questions.
Assign a note taker. Make sure someone other than you is taking notes in case there are stakeholders who can’t make the meeting. If you’re meeting virtually, consider recording the meeting as well, so team members who are unable to attend can catch up later.
Create a meeting agenda. By sending out a meeting agenda ahead of time, you can ensure everyone is prepared for the project kickoff. Your meeting agenda is also a great chance to share any materials, like the project plan and timeline, that you’d like attendees to review before the meeting.
Click for a Free meeting agenda template in Asana.
2. Make introductions
If this is the first meeting with the project team, there’s a chance some people on the team haven’t worked together before. Start the meeting with some introductions or icebreaker questions to help everyone get to know each other.
3. Start with the project’s purpose
The most important thing to align on during the project kickoff meeting is what you are working towards, and why this work matters. According to a recent study, only 26% of employees have a very clear understanding of how their individual work relates to company goals. Without this clarity, team members don’t know what work to prioritize or how to manage shifting priorities.
When you share your project purpose, take some time to explain how the project connects to broader business and organizational goals. Answer the questions “Why are we working on this?” and “What are we working towards?” Later in the meeting, you’ll have a chance to dive into project details and specific workflows, but sharing the project’s purpose at the onset of the meeting is the best way to get everyone on the same page.
Project purpose example
The purpose of this project is to increase brand awareness through a digital brand campaign in Q3.
4. Share the project plan
Ideally, you’ve already shared the project plan in the meeting agenda so team members had the chance to read it over before the meeting. During the project kickoff meeting, you don’t need to go over every little detail of the project plan—instead, focus on key information like the project timeline, important milestones, or key deliverables.
Example project plan
5. Outline the project scope
One of the most important things to discuss as a group is what’s in scope—and equally as important, what’s out of scope. Make sure everyone has the same expectations going in, so there aren’t any last-minute surprises or changing deliverables as the project goes on. Clarifying the project scope early and often is the best way to prevent scope creep, which can delay or even derail your project.
Project scope example
Project Objective: Launch display and video ads in Q3 to increase brand awareness in NAMER and EMEA.
Brand design team (six people), 15 hours per week for four weeks
$50,000 media spend budget
Landing page design
Display ads (two variations for A/B testing), sized according to display spec sheet
Video spots (6 and 30 second spots), sized according to video spec sheet
Creative requirements: Display
Shows logo and CTA throughout animation
Both static and HTML5 banners are needed
Features branding within first 5 seconds
Ads and landing page should create a consistent visual experience
Out of scope:
Translating brand campaign assets
6. Establish project roles and responsibilities
You might not have to do this for a straightforward internal project, but if your project team has never worked together before or if you’re working with an external partner, make sure everyone is aligned on roles and responsibilities. Who is the main point of contact for the project? Does this project have a sponsor or executive leader? Is there an approver—or a group of approvers?
Different stakeholders need to be looped in at different stages of the project. If your project team isn’t clear on roles and responsibilities during the kickoff meeting, consider creating and sharing a RACI chart as an action item.
Example project roles:
Responsible: Daniela Vargas
Accountable: Kabir Mandan
Consulted: Kat Mooney, Ray Brooks
Informed: Avery Lomax
7. Share where you’ll track project data and real-time updates
The average knowledge worker spends 60% of their time on work about work like chasing information and searching for documents. All of this work about work means your team has less time to focus on their high-impact work.
To reduce work about work and empower your team to be effective, make sure you have a central source of truth for all key project work. When all of your project information is in one easy-to-find place, your team can quickly locate project documents, get real-time project updates, check on relevant project milestones, and stay updated on project deliverables.
8. Make time for questions
After the kickoff, your project team may have questions about something you presented, like the scope of the project or certain task expectations. Make sure to leave plenty of time at the end of the kickoff meeting to answer any questions. Remember: the goal of the project kickoff is for everyone to leave the meeting on the same page and ready to get started.
9. Outline next steps
The last part of your project kickoff meeting should answer the question, “What comes next?” At this point, you should clarify where this work is being documented, and go over any action items that were captured in this meeting. It might also help to quickly outline what your team will be doing first.
Moving forward, clarify where and how you’ll share project status updates. Having too many meetings was one of the top three barriers to productivity in 2021. Instead of scheduling in-person or virtual status meetings, consider sharing project status reports virtually through a work management system. That way, team members can continue to efficiently align and connect over any new changes.
10. Post-meeting to-dos
Congratulations—the meeting is over! When you wrap up, ask the note taker to share any meeting notes in your shared project. If you met virtually, make sure to share the meeting recording and/or transcript as well. Finally, if there were any action items from the meeting, make sure those are captured and assigned to the relevant team member.
After the kickoff meeting... what's next?
Once you’ve held your project kickoff meeting, you’re ready to get started on your project work. The best way to maintain alignment and clarity after your project kickoff is to maintain a central source of truth and collaboration—like a work management tool. By sharing all of your work, status updates, and messages in one place, you can not only get team members on the same page—you can keep them there.
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