Prepare Kick-off Meeting

1. Welcome and start by the project manager

As the project manager, you host the kick-off meeting. You personally greet your employees and stakeholders and demonstrate who is in charge. This also sends important signals to your client, because he perceives you as a manager.

Start the kick-off meeting with introductory words and assume that your auditorium will not immediately follow your thoughts. First of all, its attention lies in your external appearance. During the first few sentences of your speech, the audience will notice your gestures and facial expressions. It may assess your clothes and research what kind of person you are. So leave your jeans and t-shirt at home and wear a suit and tie on this special day.

Start your speech with a small scene that you experienced during the preparation of the kick-off meeting. Or with an incident during your arrival if the content is right. In short: Smalltalk is the order of the day in the first minute or two.


2. Present the agenda

When you have the full attention of your team, present the agenda: 

  • Welcome by the Project Manager
  • Keynote from a member of the executive board
  • Information about content, time, money, risk and quality
  • Cooperation model
  • Presentation of the sub-projects
  • Next Steps

Open discussion with questions and answers
If there are no questions about the process, hand the word over to the client of the project or to a member of the executive board.


3. Introductory speech by the client of the project

If you as the project manager have all the important information about the project and you are optimistic about all the figures, data and facts, you can ask your client to prepare an introductory speech for the kick-off meeting. The main focus of the speech should be the commitment of the project team to the distant goal. The client's words should kindle the team's fire for the project and motivate them to be there with all their strength.

Therefore the client focuses on the core message: What is the mission of the project? How is the big picture composed? The client explains the background to where the project can be found in the corporate strategy.

In addition to the strategic classification, he focuses his speech on emotions by giving the audience the feeling of being able to participate in a special and unique project. His keynote hovers over the details. He takes up overarching issues such as personal commitment, optimism and team cohesion. He ignites the eagerness to get started with strength and confidence and appeals to not give up during (inevitable) dry spells. In short: it motivates and signals appreciation. “The project is important to me. You are important to me and I have complete confidence in the skills of my project manager. ”


4. Involve members of the project team

At the kick-off meeting, the team expects you to receive specific project information. Present numbers, data and facts, but avoid a cold and impersonal language from the process and technology world. Instead, speak figuratively. Braid short stories, but don't drift. For example, show a video about a pit stop at Formula One when you talk about teamwork. [Nbsp]

Demonstrate constructive collaboration from the start. Invite members of your core team to the stage one by one so that they can present their sub-projects. Name a risk manager to report on his first risk assessment. Emphasize the specialist know-how of the individual and explain why you chose this or that colleague for the project - honestly, convincingly and without being too hard-working.


5. Contents of the kick-off meeting

In the kick-off meeting, the team members are attuned to the project. In order for team members to feel well informed, you should address the following points.

Project content
The linchpin of every project is the content. Specify what belongs to your order and what does not.
Who is part of the team?
Only mention the names of the colleagues from whom you have received approval to work on the project from the line manager.
Time, money, quality and risk
Inform about the current planning status. Sketch the next steps for the entire team.
Which reports have to be created in the project? Who are the recipients? 
Process model
Should it be a traditional or agile approach?
Are there legal requirements that restrict the project? Which interfaces have to be operated? Which dependencies to other projects have to be considered?
Incentive systems
Maybe you can establish a reward system? Make sure that particularly motivated and capable employees are given responsible tasks.
Prize competition
You could possibly host a competition. Who designs the most attractive project logo? Who creates the best project slogan?


5. Finally, a question and answer session

Schedule a question and answer session at the end of the event. But clarify controversial issues - as far as possible - in advance. Nothing is more damaging to the project than a negative public discussion.

In a classic question and answer session, questions about resources, such as time and money, await you. In this way, the questioners want to know how the project management acts in the event of a delay. Or if additional costs arise, for example through language courses in international projects. A reference to the work breakdown structure helps here. Motivate your team to develop this plan in as much detail as possible. It provides the basis for costs and schedules and shows you what is really important in the project and what is not. It is often asked who is responsible for what. Put on the organization chart that you have coordinated with the line managers.

In this early phase of the project, however, it is impossible to answer all questions satisfactorily. Therefore, identify the “white spots” on the project map in advance and mark them as unresolved positions.

Offer to develop solution options together. Point out the value of realistic risk management. Emphasize the importance of a risk register that contains all known risks including their avoidance strategies. Basically the following applies: Let your team, the client and the stakeholders know that you take all questions seriously and will take care of the answers.


6. Prepare for project opponents

There may be people affected by the meeting who are negative about the project. Every project has its opponents who are interested in its failure. They aim to spread bad mood. You want to win comrades-in-arms to develop a pull effect. The first official meeting is an ideal stage for this. Project opponents ask provocative questions with a destructive character.

Don't be surprised as a project manager. Therefore, determine the attitudes of the most influential stakeholders on the project before the kick-off meeting. Investigate their arguments in personal discussions. Then prepare yourself with arguments, numbers, data and facts for possible disruptive fires in the kick-off meeting. But always stay calm and relaxed. Let others finish and do not launch personal attacks. Inform your client in advance of the kick-off meeting whether you expect headwinds and from which direction. In this way, you can also defuse dangerous situations in the last part of the kick-off meeting.