Project Kickoff Meeting

two people at table having a project kickoff meeting

What is a project kickoff meeting?

A project kickoff meeting is the first time you and your team meet with the client, stakeholder, or sponsor of a new project. It is also known as an external project kickoff meeting, and is a critical part of the project initiation phase. Project managers often hold an internal kickoff meeting with their team before the external meeting that includes the client.

Well-run and productive kickoff meetings are informative, set the right tone, and establish common goals for the successful completion of the project.

The purpose of a kickoff meeting.

The primary purpose of a project kickoff meeting is to get everyone on the same page and off to a great start. It is an opportunity to introduce the team and increase understanding of the project so that work can begin as soon as possible.

Preparing for the meeting.

The key to an effective project kickoff meeting is preparation. Holding an internal kickoff meeting before meeting with the client is often necessary to establish the project’s scope and vision. It is also a chance to get the team’s input and give them the information they need to succeed.

At an internal project kickoff meeting, you will:

  • Identify and introduce team members

  • Assign team member roles and responsibilities

  • Discuss communication logistics

  • Explain client and project background information

  • Set project goals and objectives

  • Detail expectations for success

  • Create a project timeline with a completion date

  • Identify possible problems

  • Answer any concerns or questions

  • Finalize the details for the client kickoff meeting

A thorough internal kickoff meeting prepares you and your team for the client meeting. It helps you form a solid plan and instills confidence in the team.

The next step is to set a specific agenda for the external project kickoff meeting. Send it to all meeting attendees beforehand so they will know what to expect and how best to prepare themselves. Take time to prepare your presentation in advance and print out any necessary handouts, too.

Project kickoff meeting agenda.

A project kickoff meeting agenda prepares attendees, guides the meeting, and keeps everyone on topic. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts of setting this type of agenda.

Do:

  • Make time for introductions to warm up the room

  • Allot an amount of time for each item to keep the meeting on track

  • Organize items in a logical way for better discussion flow

  • Keep things high-level to avoid getting bogged down in the details

Don’t:

  • Dominate the agenda so that you do the majority of the talking

  • Forget to run it by your team for their input

  • Send it out without proofreading it first

  • Try to cover too many items in one meeting

You shouldn’t get into too many details at this point in the project’s life cycle. The project kickoff meeting should be thorough but also as short and as simple as possible. Address additional items during the project with others as needed or at a follow-up meeting.

Questions to ask yourself when setting a project kickoff meeting agenda.

Setting an agenda is easier once you determine what needs to be communicated and decide who needs to communicate it. Draft your project kickoff meeting agenda by asking yourself questions, such as:

  • Who needs to attend the meeting, and what is their role?

  • How much time do you have for the meeting?

  • What is the main objective of the project?

  • What do you need to communicate with the client?

  • What do you need to communicate with the team?

  • Who is responsible for talking about each item?

  • How much time should you allot for each item?

  • Are there any questions that you need to answer at the meeting?

  • How will the team and client communicate from this point forward?

  • When and where will you hold a follow-up meeting?

During the meeting.

Your team receives a lot of key information needed to start the project at the kickoff meeting. Use an internal kickoff meeting to get your team organized and excited about the new project. This preparation will carry over to and positively affect the client meeting. The client’s confidence in your team grows as you show enthusiasm for and understanding of their goals.

What do effective project kickoff meetings look like?

An effective meeting is a productive meeting. After making introductions, review the project’s purpose and general objectives. Discuss what you expect the team to deliver and how you will measure success. Review everyone’s roles and responsibilities, provide details about the project’s timeline, and discuss communication logistics. A productive meeting leaves your team and the client happy and hopeful about the project and its completion.

Effective meeting tips.

Thoughtful planning makes it easier to run the client kickoff meeting. Preparation also helps you and your team answer questions the client may have at the meeting. When you show confidence about the project, the client feels confident they have picked the right team. 

Set people at ease by keeping the tone personable and upbeat as you direct the meeting from your agenda. Find a way to steer the conversation back on the topic gently should it stray. Everyone should leave a project kickoff meeting feeling energized and knowing their part in the project’s life cycle. 

An effective kickoff meeting is important because people are happy when it goes well. It’s a simple fact that when team morale is high, their productivity soars. Prepare your team and ensure they have all the information and tools they need to succeed.

After the meeting.

After the kickoff meeting, it is necessary to follow up with those who attended the meeting. Following up ensures that all questions and concerns have been heard and answered. It also allows you to share any additional information or further details the team needs to succeed.

What following up looks like.

Send a group email as a follow-up to the kickoff meeting. Include items such as your presentation, handouts, meeting minutes, and contact information. Repeat that you’re available to answer any further questions or concerns. You may want to schedule an internal follow-up meeting with your team a day or two after meeting with the client to discuss the meeting and the project. Schedule a client follow-up meeting with your team to review progress made since the initial kickoff meeting.

A good project kickoff meeting determines success.

Setting the tone from the beginning can make or break a project. A successful project kickoff meeting ensures that stakeholders are on the same page and have a common understanding of the project objectives to help them work more effectively as a team.

See Workfront in action

In this interactive tour, you will get hands-on experience using Workfront. You will learn how Workfront enables the enterprise to:

  • Connect strategy to delivery
  • Iteratively plan and prioritize work
  • Collaborate across teams and divisions to get work done
  • Streamline and optimize processes
  • Measure and report on progress
  • Deliver against your strategy