Internal project kickoff agenda - Sample

Every project is unique, but there’s value in ensuring that we cover off some of these basics to get our team on the same page:

  1. Introductions – meet your new best buds (15 mins)
  2. Client – what’s the background? (5 mins)
  3. Project – why are we doing this? (5 mins)
  4. Scope – what are we doing? (20 mins)
  5. Approach – how are we going to make this happen? (20 mins)
  6. Roles – who is doing what? (5 mins)
  7. Teamwork – how are we going to work together? (5 mins)
  8. Kickoff – what’s the agenda for the client kickoff? (5 mins)
  9. Next – how do we keep momentum? (5 mins)
  10. Q&A – what haven’t we told you? (5 mins)
2. Client: what’s the background?

Start by scene setting to help everyone understand the sandbox you’re playing in. Sharing is caring, so don’t hoard any logins or documentation to yourself. Share everything you know with the team so they can get up to speed themselves and empower and equip your team with all the relevant information they need to digest. To keep the meeting on track, it’s probably worth delaying any Q&A until the end, otherwise, this section of the meeting can end up taking a disproportionately long length of time.

Share how you got to work on the project – was it a direct award from an existing client, is it a brand new client, or is it a friend of the CEO’s? Explain what you’ve done in the past with the client – or with different clients but similar projects and help the team understand who you’re working with.

We all know clients come in all kinds of flavours. But often, to our teams, they’re simply the people who always make bad decisions. Try to position the clients in a positive light. And to prevent any serious cases of foot-in-mouth, explain client distinctives to your team. Let them know who they are (internal/external), what we know about them, other projects they’ve worked on, and how the client likes to work.
3. Project: why are we doing this?

To further help put the project into perspective you need to help your teams understand why they’re doing the project in the first place. This means from a client perspective sharing the business drivers for initiating the project, and ensuring there’s clarity as to what success – or failure looks like.

And from a customer experience perspective, initiate the discussion with the team around how this project makes customers or citizen’s lives better and meets their needs. From the outset, maximizing the positive customer experience should be at the heart of why you’re engaged with the project. It’s the start of casting a vision for why the team should care about the project and helping everyone understands that what they’re doing is contributing to something that’s worthwhile.

Finally, from an agency perspective you need to be clear about what success means beyond simply delivering on time, on budget and to the agreed scope. How are you as an agency going to grow as a result of doing this project – will you doing develop a new capability or competency with a new technology?

4.Scope – what are we doing?

When the background is set, it’s time to get into the scope details with the team. Normally that means reviewing the timeline, estimate and SoW (statement of work) so that everyone understands the flow of the project, the activities and the outputs or deliverables. Without boring everyone to death, help everyone understand the quirks of the project, so the whole team is aware of the constraints from day one.

This is a great time to start the RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies) log. There’s nothing quite like a SoW review to get people talking about what’s going to go wrong. The sooner you know, the better. If anyone’s tried this before and failed, why was it? And how can you mitigate against it? Knowing the insider track and your team’s unique understanding of similar projects will help develop a culture of openness and ensure surprises are kept to a minimum.

5. Approach – how are we going to make this happen?

Reviewing the SoW and the proposed activities and outputs creates a great opportunity to discuss anything the team might want to change to the project process or new approaches they might want to try. Remember that new isn’t always better, and tried and tested often works just fine. So cast a vision clearly and don’t end up on a wild goose chase to the bleeding edge of technical or process idiocy.

Assuming the SoW has already been approved, remember that if you’re changing the approach you need to ensure you’re still able to meet the client’s (and agency) project goals and ensure that you’re still delivering what you promised in terms of outputs. This isn’t just an opportunity to make life easier for yourselves.

Nonetheless, cultivate ownership of the project within the team. In order for the project to be a success, the team needs to feel like it’s their project. By leaving time and space for your team to suggest ideas, challenge your plan, and come up with a better way of working you’ll end up with a much more robust approach and a much more engaged team.

6.Roles – who is doing what?

When the team have had a chance to understand the project and begin to understand the context of how they might fit within it, it’s worth clarifying the team’s roles and responsibilities. It can be helpful if you’re able to map their roles back to the SoW and clarify the deliverables associated with each area, why they exist and what needs to happen to make them a reality.

It can be helpful to develop a matrix against the SoW to define a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) for the deliverables and the team. The RACI will help mitigate against any uncertainty of responsibility and invariably helps clarify your teams comfort levels with delivery.

7. Teamwork – how are we going to work together?

When bringing together a team that have never worked together before there’s going to be a range of understanding on how the team should work together, how collaboration should be managed, how communication should flow, when the team should meet, the tools that should be used, and which systems you’ll use to share deliverables or outline details of specific tasks or tickets. As PM’s our role is to make it simple, to put everyone at ease and get people excited about working together on the project.

Often there’s no right or wrong to these approaches, but to get buy-in from your team it can be helpful to give them as much autonomy as possible. You want them to feel like they’re masters of the project. Define your expectation and let the team agree together amongst themselves exactly how they will deliver on it. By clarifying the teamwork and agreeing the nuts and bolts part of how it’ll all get done we’re helping managing our team’s expectations on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

8.Kickoff – what’s the agenda for the client kickoff?

As a project manager, you should already have a plan in place for the client kickoff meeting – the purpose of reviewing it with your team is to get their buy in and provide a sense of context and urgency for the next steps.

If at all possible, beyond the usual discussion items that are on the kickoff agenda, discuss with your team if there are any useful exercises that can be run during the client kickoff meeting to gain some early insights or kick-start the project.

By agreeing an agenda for the meeting with your team, it can help crystalize their focus and provide a helpful context for any pre-work that is required. Planning the meeting is also a great way to review actions and decisions that were made earlier in the meeting in terms of project scope, approach, roles and teamwork as you plan how to share them with the client.

Beyond just agreeing an agenda, think about scheduling another planning meeting to rehearse what you’re going to say, who will say it, what slides you’ll show and rehearse any activities. You’d be surprised at how quickly you’re able to refine the agenda and meeting content when you rehearse it properly. This extra step will help your team feel more comfortable, will allow you to communicate clearly what you expect of them in front of the client, and empower them to deliver.
9. Next – how do we keep momentum?

The temptation can be a bit casual when starting a project – no one really knows what’s going on and it might even be that you, as the project manager, are actually the last to be brought onto the project. The way you manage the first few meetings and interactions of the project, sets the scene for the rest of the project.

To keep the momentum going in the project, be sure to be very clear about next steps, make sure everyone is clear what they need to do next, when they need to do it by, and any review milestones along the way. This is your moment to be large and in charge! At this point you need to be very clear about what need to happen to make the client kickoff meeting a success and guide your team to work back from that.

We all want great project kickoff meetings but are we doing the right groundwork with our clients so we have a better client kickoff meeting? Projects sometimes start off a bit wonky because we dive straight into the project without getting to know the client and truly understanding some of the tacit, latent, informal requirements which might not have been recorded, but without which mean we don’t fully understand what needs to be done to succeed.

Projects can unravel as early as the project kickoff meeting, when we should be still in the honeymoon phase! But there is a simple way to help improve the chances of your project kickoff meeting going well, have better client meetings, and start your project on a positive trajectory. It’s as simple as having lunch. Have a meeting with the client prior to the project kickoff meeting, grab some food, have some banter, and iron out those prickly and pesky details, that tend to derail things, ahead of time.

Sample pre-client project kickoff agenda

Although every client meeting requires its own agenda tweaking, try and cover off these project management basics. We’ve created this sample pre-client project kickoff agenda with a rough idea of timings so you can fit this into a 60 min meeting:

  1. Introductions – some warm and fuzzy banter (5 mins)
  2. Review the project teams – who’s responsible for what? (3 mins)
  3. Approval process – the process and personnel for signing off deliverables? (3 mins)
  4. SoW Review – what are we doing, when, how, and what will we produce? (20 mins)
  5. Discuss Risk, Issue and Change Management – what’s the client’s attitude and approach to manage to risk and change? (3 mins)
  6. Reporting – how will we track and communicate project progress, and to whom? (3 mins)
  7. Collaboration – what tools will we use to work together? (3 mins)
  8. Assets – what do we need to get started? (5 mins)
  9. Kickoff agenda – what will we discuss in the client kickoff? (5 mins)
  10. AOB – anything else that we need to discuss? (5 mins)
1. Introductions – some warm and fuzzy banter (5 mins)

As long as your client hasn’t brought along the entire project team for the ride this is a chance to have a bit of a heart to heart so that you can run the project better with fewer nasty surprises. The goal here is to get to know your client outside of the context of the project and begin to develop a relationship and level of trust that develops over time and carries you through the ups and downs of the project.

2. Review the project team – who’s responsible for what? (3 mins)

In the ‘real’ kickoff meeting, there’ll be a chance to recap with the full project team on roles and responsibilities, so the purpose of discussing the project team is to try and gain and share some insight on team dynamics.

You’re trying to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on who’ll be involved in the project and to what extent. You want to know the best way of engaging with them so they’ll help to progress the project. It’s really helpful to understand who the allies or supporters of the project might be and who is most likely to cause trouble.

It’s also an opportunity to sell the resources you’ve got booked on the project so that the client has a sense of confidence in the team that’s going to be at the client kickoff meeting. By giving them a bit of a behind-the-scenes insight into your team, hopefully, your client will reciprocate and give the skinny into the personalities who could impact the project, for better or worse.

3. Approval process – the process and personnel for signing off deliverables? (3 mins)

After running through the ‘who’s who’ of the project teams and identifying the team, it’s an easy transition into governance, and who’ll need to sign of what, during the project. It’s important to clarify from the SoW what’s been assumed in terms of signoff in terms of timeline and rounds of revision

You’re trying to get and understanding from the client whether or not the process that you’ve assumed in your SoW is going to work. Is the timeline long enough? Are there enough rounds of revision accommodated for within the SoW? Are some of the team difficult to schedule for meetings or approvals? Are they off on vacation during the project?

4. SoW Review – what are we doing, when, how, and what will we produce?

Of all the items on the agenda, this is probably the most important for level-setting so it’s worth spending a significant portion of time on it. You need to go into the ‘real’ kickoff meeting having discussed this in detail so that you’re aligned with expectations.

This is an opportunity to take the client through your draft SoW in granular detail, and yes, that means that – detailing how the project will be run, what activities can be completed, and to what extent (within the proposed budget and timeline) and what the deliverables will be. It’s important that you highlight rounds of review, dependencies and assumptions so that you’re on the same page with regards to what the project will ultimately deliver.

If you leave a discussion about the SoW to the ‘real’ client kickoff meeting, it can turn ugly – the dynamics of a large client team throwing around opinions of what should be in and out of scope are never pretty. Discussions about scope are best reserved for small meetings with the client where you can have a discussion without turning it into a round table debate.

5. Discuss RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies) and change management – what’s the client’s attitude and approach to managing risk and change? (3 mins)
6. Reporting – how will we track and communicate project progress, and to whom? (3 mins)

Tracking project progress will require a status report which shows how the project is tracking on budget, timeline, tasks and milestones. Similarly to the preparation you’ll need to do for demonstrating how you’re planning to manage risk, it’s also helpful to prepare a status report that you can share with the client and so you can ensure that the format and detail works for them.

Getting the format and details right for your status report can be important because it’s usually tied to billing. You need to ensure that the client is getting the right level of ongoing detail so they don’t hold up payment of invoices. To help with that, track the budget on your status report with the upcoming invoice amount and when it will be billed.

Agree the distribution list for the status report so that everyone who needs to be in the loop, is kept up to date with what’s happening on your project. It’s always better to distribute the report to a wider audience than strictly necessary so that in the event that something doesn’t go to plan, no one can turn around and claim they were unaware.

7. Collaboration – what tools will we use to work together? (3 mins)

Most project managers and teams will have their default collaboration toolkit defined. But whether it’s Basecamp or Jira, Trello or Kanbanize, make a plan with your team of how you’re going to work together so that you can share with the client a plan for what you’re going to use, and how you’re going to use them. Then check with the client to make sure they’re happy with the selected toolkit and are able to use that platform to share files, information, status updates and to have project conversations.

8. Assets – what do we need to get started? (5 mins)

There’s always ‘stuff’ that’s needed before projects can get started properly. Make a list of all the things you need to remember to ask the client for so that you can get started, in priority order, so they can work through the most critical items first.

  • Logins – CMS, analytics, social, image libraries
  • Brand – logos, fonts, style guides, templates
  • Repo – site files, databases
  • VPN – to access a client’s intranet
  • Invoicing – who do they need to go to? who approves them?
9. Kickoff agenda – what will we discuss in the client project kickoff? (5 mins)

This is an opportunity to run through the agenda for the ‘real’ kickoff meeting. In order for the project kickoff meeting to be valuable, the client will need to do some homework. At the very least, you’ll need to give them the good news that they’ll need to at least prepare a project background and project briefing to share in the project kickoff meeting.

I find it really useful to get the client to do this rather than trying to replay badly what you understand the brief to be. Invariably, you’ll miss something important and offend someone in the room – but if you get the client to do it instead, you’re golden!

10. AOB – anything else that we need to discuss? (5 mins)

Wrap up the conversation with some clearly defined next steps and an opportunity for the client to raise anything that they want to cover off. Often just asking; ‘Is there anything else we should know?’ will spur the clients to share things they hadn’t previously mentioned that are worth knowing.

And finally, be sure to end on a happy note. Go back to the banter you started with – it’s a chance for you to develop some rapport and get to know them better; find out what they enjoy outside of work, what they’re doing at the weekend, what they’re watching on Netflix or what sport they’re into. Do the groundwork for getting to know them as individuals and so you’ve got something to talk to them about next time you connect.

Remember to share the good news

Don’t keep all your newfound knowledge to yourself. After your meeting with the client, you’ll then need to go back to your team and bring them up to speed with your discussion so that they’re properly prepared for the kickoff meeting.

Client Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

The client project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to hear from the client and their project team as well as other stakeholders about the project and get a broader understanding of the background, business drivers that led to the project being initiated, a project briefing and discussion around making it a success.

The kickoff meeting shouldn’t be a discussion about scope but is an opportunity to level set with the stakeholders in the room expectations around milestones, rounds of review cycles, and an opportunity to streamline the approach. Try and steer it away from being purely about project management of the project – with lots of people in the room, you want to avoid any conversations where you could be pressured into extending the scope of the project.

1. Sample client project kickoff agenda

Every project is unique, but there’s value in covering off the project kickoff agenda basics to get the team and client on the same page. We’ve created this sample client project kickoff agenda with a rough idea of timings so you can fit this into a 1.5-hour meeting:

  1. Introductions – who’s working on the project, and what’s their role? (15 mins)
  2. Project background – how does this brief fit into the broader strategy and other projects? (10 mins)
  3. Project briefing – what’s the business problem and customer need? (30 mins)
  4. Success – how we will know if we’ve been successful and what’s failed before? (10 mins)
  5. Project management – review timeline, deliverables, risk, roles, reporting, estimate and change management (10 mins)
  6. AOB – what haven’t we discussed that we should? (10 mins)
  7. Next – what are the next steps to keep the project moving? (5 mins)
1. Introductions: who’s working on the project and what’s their role? (15 mins)

Naturally, at the beginning of a project kickoff meeting everyone will start introducing themselves and exchanging business cards. It’s likely that in a meeting with lots of stakeholders and a large agency team in attendance that not everyone will get a chance to connect with everyone else before the meeting starts.

Rather than just going around the room and have everyone say their name and their job title it’s worth spending a bit more time on introductions to make sure everyone’s clear on everyone’s roles and responsibilities and the focus that they will have on the project. Just knowing someone’s name and job title is pretty useless!

Ideally you will have connected with the client ahead of time to get a heads up on attendees a the kickoff but as you understand people’s roles It’s also important to clarify the project governance and approval process. When people have explained their role make sure you close the the discussion by getting clarity on who is the single point of contact, who is taking ownership on what deliverables, who needs to sign off on what deliverables and what other stakeholders will be involved in the process.

An output of this conversation, or even in real-time on a whiteboard in the meeting is a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) for the deliverables and the team. The RACI will help mitigate against any uncertainty of responsibility and highlight high-touch project phases which will require significant project management coordination.

2. Project background – how does this brief fit into the broader strategy and other projects? (10 mins)

This part of the kickoff meeting should be led by the client – you’ll need to give them a brief before the meeting to prepare for this. It’s a chance to get some project background, begin to uncover some success themes, understand potential challenges with overlap between projects and an opportunity to uncover potential future projects. You should ask them to cover off:

  • What’s the business’ strategic plan?
  • How does this project fit into that strategic plan?
  • What projects preceded this and what are likely to follow?
  • What other projects will be impacted by this project?
3. Project briefing – what’s the business problem and customer need? (30 mins)

Again the project briefing should be led by the client and you’ll need to give them a brief to prepare this before the meeting. It’s an opportunity for them to share data specific to the project to provide us with a richer understanding and insight into their business and the specific problem that they’re hiring us to help them solve. This is a great opportunity to be questioning the clients on how this relates to the customer need – often clients don’t factor that into their planning. You should ask them to cover off anything that they think might be helpful to us in understanding:

  • Customer research, insights & surveys
  • Analytics & data
  • Brand
  • Technology stack
4. Success – how we will know if we’ve been successful and what’s failed before? (10 mins)

In order for a project to be successful, you need to know understand success – it isn’t the same for every project, even with the same client. Delivering a project to meet time, budget and scope constraints is just the start – you need to know what success means to all stakeholders on a project.

That starts by understanding the underlying client strategy and the strategic importance of the project. Beyond just building a new app or a website, why does the client want us to do this; what are they hoping to achieve? And what did the previous agency or vendor do wrong? What are the KPI’s? Make sure there are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant goals so that we can measure against them, prove success, and quantify our value.

5. Project management – review timeline, deliverables, roles, reporting and change management (10 mins)

There are always things that are worth covering off at the beginning of the project before it’s really started, and that can then we captured in a contact report.

  • Review timeline – present a high-level project plan with major phases and milestones to ensure all the stakeholders are aligned on the sequencing of activities and any dependencies that may impact the timeline are clearly stated.
  • Review deliverables – you should have already had a discussion with the client about the SoW and aligned on activities, deliverables and any assumptions but in the meeting with the broader stakeholder group it’s worth summarising the deliverables and the milestones for those deliverables to get assurance that no one is expecting anything else.
  • Review roles & responsibilities – establish who’s the day to day contact, and who should be communicated to, for what.
  • Review client project governance – understand who will be involved in the signoff and approval process, and understand how long it’s going to take to get their approval on deliverables as this may impact the timeline.
  • Review communication plan – discuss how you’ll manage project status reporting to track the utilization of budget and impact on invoicing. (it’s worth having a sample status report to hand), how frequently you communicate project status.
  • Discuss Risk, Issue and Change Management – understand the client’s attitude to risk and discuss your approach to collaboratively manage it.
6. AOB – what haven’t we discussed that we should? (10 mins)
7. Next – what are the next steps to keep the project moving? (5 mins)

Make sure you close the meeting with clearly defined next steps and recapping exactly what the client will need to do to keep the project moving as well as what you’ll be doing to ensure you hit the project milestones.

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