4 tips (and two freebies) to just ROCK a kickoff meeting

Setting up a kickoff meeting is HARD.

Or better said, it’s a pain… I mean think about it:

Did you ever enjoy setting up a kickoff meeting? I thought so…

Well, in this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to rock a project kickoff meeting. I will give you a sample walkthrough, tips and caveats and a timeline.

And at the end, of the post, you’ll even find a free project kickoff meeting agenda template you can use for your next project.

So, let’s get started!


What do I talk about at a project kickoff meeting?

Preparing a project kickoff meeting 

Let’s make one thing clear:

as a coordinator, your goal is not to create content for a project kickoff meeting, your goal is to manage the partners for the meeting.

In other words, you don’t have to write up and present all the tasks (ok, you do need to say SOMETHING), but you don’t have to do the work for them!

Your project meeting is a success if at the end everyone:

  1. delivers what their results;
  2. knows what they and the others have to do;
  3. knows who they need input from and who they need to give input to.

First of all, you need to get the timing right, so make sure you take a look at my Excel Gantt Chart to build yourself an idea of who needs to to what and when.

Done? Good, let’s dive in then!


Project kickoff meeting agenda


Say you are meeting for a project with 5 tasks, go for something like this:

  • Welcome and intro round (15 min)
  • General introduction to the project (goal, tasks, duration, 20 min)
  • Presentation of Task 1 (45-60 min)
  • Presentation of Task 2 (45-60 min)
  • Presentation of Task 3 (45-60 min)
  • Presentation of Task 4 (45-60 min)
  • Presentation of Task 5 (45-60 min)
  • Administrative issues (intellectual property, conflict management, 30-45 min)
  • Financial issues (payment regulations, claims, 30-45 min)
  • Next steps and conclusion (20 min)

Remember to take into account at least two coffee breaks and a lunch break… meeting for a whole day is bad enough, don’t make it worse please!

I will give you a free project kickoff meeting agenda with a checklist in this post, but before we get to that, I want to give you four tips that may change your life in a meeting.


4 Tips for a successful project kickoff meeting

 Project kickoff meeting

Right, so far this was common sense, I’m pretty sure you had it already figured out.


What is the difference though between pulling through a project kickoff meeting and acing a project kickoff meeting?

There is no single trick unfortunately… but there are several, which might be even better! 😉


1 – Know what you need


We know why project kickoff meetings are important, but why do you, as a project coordinator, need this specific meeting?

Look at what is coming to you:

Is it a detailed project timeline?

Do you have to build up a website for the project?

Use the discussion in the project kickoff meeting to build material for what comes immediately after.

Say you need to build a project website right after the meeting – you might want to ask each partner to come to the kickoff meeting directly with their logo, photographs and outline of their task, ready to be uploaded. Also, you might want to assign in front of everyone responsibilities for the site.

Do you need to follow up with a report? Same thing: gear the meeting so that it can also give you content.

At this point, you may also be tempted to be a good project manager and involve all your partners in deciding the agenda. That would be the single largest mistake you could ever do for a kickoff meeting.

For two reasons:

1 – because YOU are the one responsible for choosing the content and guiding the partners, not vice versa;

2 – because Brainstorming does not work. I explain why in this article.


2 – Use a presentation template


There is honestly nothing I hate more than pointless, long presentations in kick-off meetings.

I could not care less for 10 slides full of empty, ego-boosting stuff.

If it were for me I would actually eradicate Power Point from the face of the Earth, but that’s just me… the harsh truth is that YES, WE ALL NEED POWER POINT, and whether you love it or hate it, you are stuck with it.  

So, instead of suffering through a boring presentation, give a standard template to the partners: shape it to what you need (see above) and request that all the partners respect it.

An example for your next kick-off meeting? Sure!

  1. Title: date, name, title, project name;
  2. Company presentation (ONE SLIDE ONLY, make this clear);
  3. One slide per project ask, showing:
    1. who is responsible for the task
    2. who is responsible for giving the task leader the necessary information;
    3. who the task leader should give task results to;
    4. what the task results / deliverables are.

CLICK HERE to download the kick-off meeting presentation template.


3 – Make the partners aware


How many kick-off meetings have you done? Was everyone always ready and prepared for the meeting?

If you said yes… you have been very, very lucky my friend!

Do not ever expect that the partners will come prepared to the kick-off meeting.

I am not trying to belittle or insult anyone, but the reality is that you are expected, as a project leader, to guide everyone – and if you don’t it is only your fault.

Nothing to worry about though, just make sure that communication is clear and you tell well in advance to each partner what they have to prepare and how.

The project kick-off meeting timeline below will help you on this.



4 – Anticipate questions (Ben Duffies)


If you’ve ever been under a rapid-fire of questions…

I feel your pain!

Answering every single detail during a presentation is pointless and painstaking.

But in this section, I will show you exactly how to avoid this in your next kick-off meeting.

Just two words: Ben Duffies.

Ben Duffies are an old marketing technique. You must have heard salesmen saying “maybe you’re wondering why…” and then going on to answering that question. 

This little technique gets you two massive wins:

  • you avoid other, less-relevant questions
  • you and answer and focus on only the most important points.

Long story short, lose the noise, figure out where questions will come from and answer them before they are asked.

Maybe you’re wondering if you could have an example of frequent kick-off meeting questions. Usually everyone asks about money and payments, so just include a section on financials in the agenda and you’re done. Oh and btw, yes this was a Ben Duffy right here ;-).


Project kickoff Meeting Timeline

 Kickoff meeting agenda

As promised, here is your kickoff meeting agenda template. You can also download a pdf version by clicking here.

Start well in advance:

  • 8 weeks before the meeting: set the date and location – communicate to all partners, request confirmation and number of participants – ask for any special requirements (i.e. disabilities, special diets, travel requirements…);
  • 6 weeks before: contact catering with total number of participants and order food and coffee.
  • 4 weeks before: conference call with all partners to present agenda, presentation templates and to-do list for the meeting. compile report of the call and send to everyone with the presentation template and specific instructions (e.g. how to get to the meeting room from the airport)
  • 2 weeks before: collect presentations and review them
  • 1 week before: finalisation of presentations

Leave the last week for last-minute travel arrangements or just to leave you some leeway if anything goes wrong.

And just to make sure you have everything planned out, make sure you take a look at my Excel Gantt Chart to absolutely NAIL your timing!

And since we’re at it, take a look at my book as well!




What will YOU do now?

Now I want to give this to you.

I want to hear from you how you are going to use this post.

So take ONE TOOL I have given you and write this in the comments:

“In my next kickoff meeting, I want to use ____________ because _________”

And if you have any question, write it in the comments and I promise to give you an answer right here.


Leading Creative Teams

Leading Creative Teams

The first thing we need to look at when talking about leading creative teams is what a “creative team” actually…
Leading Creative Teams

Leading Creative Teams

The first thing we need to look at when talking about leading creative teams is what a “creative team” actually…
Leadership for new work

Leadership for New Work

Let’s start from what we know: We know that work is changing. We know that there are technological processes taking…
Team Building Games 1

9 Unique Team Building Games For Meetings

This is a collection of fun team building games that any HR manager or Team Leader can apply before a…
Conflict resolution

A Conflict Resolution One-Liner for Leaders (and how to apply it)

Conflicts are annoying and dangerous, especially at work and especially when they escalate. From the outside, you need to see…