Successful kick-off meeting: tips for preparation, implementation and follow-up
Regardless of whether you use the term kick-off meeting or prefer to talk about a start date, it is always a good idea to celebrate the beginning of a project with an official meeting. Such a meeting should be a kind of cornerstone for the project for everyone involved. To ensure that the meeting is a complete success and that everyone involved in the project gets the most out of it, this article summarises some tips on how to make your next kick-off meeting a success. It includes preparation and follow-up as well as the meeting itself.
Ideally, all key project stakeholders should be invited to the kick-off meeting. Therefore, take a few minutes to carefully go through the list of stakeholders. Make sure you don't forget anyone who has an interest in the project or who will play an important role later on. Being involved in a project from the beginning has enormous advantages, including for reviewers who show up later or for decision-makers in government agencies who have to accompany and approve the project, and can make up time at the end. Experts recommend that the client open the kick-off meeting, which means they should definitely be invited. Also bring the assistant into the project early and have the forces working in the background attend the kick-off meeting as well. If there is a steering committee or an internal decision-making body, it is certainly a good idea to get these people on board from the beginning as well. If possible, have the client send out the invitation to the kick-off meeting. It will then carry a completely different weight and you will see that many find it easier to prioritise the meeting over other commitments. Another advantage is that it gives the meeting an even more official character.
Ask the client to say a few words at the beginning. It doesn't have to be anything professional or technical, a brief introduction is sufficient. After that, you as the project manager can take over and lead through the meeting. A few sentences from the client will make it clear to everyone who is in charge and who is actually being worked for. After that, make it clear that you are taking the lead and running the project for the client. This also makes the responsibility clear to everyone.
Now it's time to conduct the actual meeting. Here, you need to offer something special to the participants. You want to stand out and somehow make your own stand out among the dozens of other projects, at least for today but ideally for the entire course of the project. Coaches say that it makes sense to be "different". Neuroscience has found that humans tend to focus their attention on unusual things that are different from everyday life and routine. So, if you can make the kick-off an unusual event, chances are better that participants will remember it later and pay attention to the project in the long run. You could order expensive hors d'oeuvres or hire a clown. But that's certainly not the point. Often it helps to take the meeting a little out of the routine by using a different room than usual or choosing a different, more eye-catching presentation format instead of the usual PowerPoint presentation. For example, let participants get active on a flipchart or organise a brainstorming session on a particular topic to get everyone involved. This keeps everyone awake and stimulates discussion. Depending on how unfamiliar the participants are with each other, an original get-to-know-you game can also lighten the atmosphere and lay a good foundation for future collaboration. It is also important to create space or time for informal discussions between the participants. This can be achieved, for example, by placing the drinks centrally so that people have to go there and possibly get in touch with each other through small talk. It may even be useful to schedule a short coffee break. This will bring people closer together. With a large group, name tags or handouts can be a good idea.
Like any important meeting, a kick-off meeting needs to be minuted. You can structure the minutes of the kick-off meeting according to the agenda. It can be helpful if the participants of the meeting recognize the structure from the preparation afterwards and thus find their way around more easily. If you work with a flipchart, pinboard or whiteboard, you have the opportunity to formulate conclusions and decisions directly during the meeting. This has the advantage that everyone can see the important points and conclusions in front of them. If someone disagrees or needs further discussion, it can be clarified right in the meeting rather than after. If you can manage it, you can write the minutes parallel and have important points approved by everyone right away. However, this may not be possible for all meetings, as the person in charge of the meeting cannot do this on the side. In any case, the minutes should be sent as soon as possible so that those present can remember what was discussed when they read them.
The kick-off meeting is an indispensable step in getting a project off the ground successfully. It allows for clear communication of goals, responsibilities and expectations to all project stakeholders. The importance of the kick-off meeting should not be underestimated, and sufficient time should be allocated for good preparation, focused execution and structured follow-up. A well-prepared and effectively executed kick-off meeting lays the foundation for a smooth and successful project by motivating the team, strengthening collaboration and creating a common understanding.
Keywords: Project management, Kick-off meeting