By Natalie Berkiw-Scenna, PMP
July 27, 2022
What could be more exciting than engaging in a brand-new project? As a project manager, I’ve found over the years that I thrive on the pure anticipation of what’s to come, and I immediately begin to think about setting this initiative up for success.
With each new project, we are presented with an ideal opportunity to truly kickstart the planning, gain strategic or operational alignment, and communicate a common message to all our key stakeholders. With a well-designed and organized kick-off meeting, we can accomplish all these important goals, and gain that necessary momentum to set us on the right path.
Together, let’s explore some fundamental considerations when you’re launching your next project.
First, let’s start with some level-setting and ask the question: What is a kick-off meeting? This initial, introductory session provides the perfect occasion to bring everyone together that have some level of interest (or “stake”) in the development or outcome of a new project. This first meeting is a powerful way to gain interest and curiosity, communicate key information and messaging, and engage our stakeholders in dialogue to define our next steps. We are essentially announcing that this important work is kicking off and informing others how they can support the overall success of the new project.
There are several important considerations when you’re looking to plan your next kick-off meeting. These can include seven key elements:
- Defining your meeting purpose
- Setting clear objectives and expected outcomes
- Identifying your meeting participants
- Finalizing your meeting logistics
- Defining your key messages
- Developing a well-structured kick-off meeting agenda
- Preparing your participants for the discussion
1) Define Your Meeting Purpose
While the purpose may initially seem clear (you are bringing people together to launch your new project), I invite you to think further about why you want to engage this group of key stakeholders during this valuable time together. Will you use this meeting as a platform for information-sharing only? Or can you build in an element of planning, brainstorming, and decision-making? Consider how you can best leverage this opportunity and collect as many perspectives as possible into the necessary tasks and activities, key metrics, and team membership, etc.
2) Set Clear Objectives and Expected Outcomes
3) Identify Your Meeting Participants
4) Finalize Your Meeting Logistics
5) Define Your Key Messages
- Who – Who will be impacted by this new project? Who needs to be involved? Who are the key decision-makers? Who will be involved in the project planning?
- What – What is this project about? What information can you share? What information is not yet known that the project team will need to determine? What do you need from each of these key stakeholders?
- Where – Where will this new initiative be implemented? Where might we see the impacts of the project outcomes?
- When – When do you expect planning to start? When will the project team and steering committee meetings be booked? When might the project go-live?
- Why – Why is this work important? Why are the meeting participants critical to the success of this new project?
- How – How will you get this started? How will people be engaged going forward? How will your meeting participants hear about progress?
6) Develop a Well-Structured Kick-Off Meeting Agenda
7) Prepare Your Participants for the Discussion
Consultant and Trainer, International Institute for Learning
With well over 20 exciting years of project management experience, Natalie Berkiw-Scenna brings her passion and guidance to support other project managers to grow their careers through mentorship, coaching and education.
She brings her wealth of knowledge and expertise from her PMP and Lean designations, and years of leading complex, strategic projects. Her book, Unleash Your Meeting Potential™, can be found in retailers around the world. She also launched this material as an online course after teaching this valuable content to several MBA programs and at various educational events and symposiums including IIL’s 2021 International Project Management Day.
Natalie has international project experience in both Canada and the United States, and has worked primarily in the healthcare and non-profit sectors. She currently provides her expertise to Beaumont Health in Michigan. In her spare time, she focuses on training and coaching others to build their confidence and credibility to take their careers to the next level.
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.