How to plan & lead a project kickoff meeting

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
March 8, 2023
An image of a team in an office sitting around a table at a project kickoff meeting
How to plan & lead a project kickoff meeting
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
March 8, 2023
An image of a team in an office sitting around a table at a project kickoff meeting
How to plan & lead a project kickoff meeting
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
March 8, 2023
An image of a team in an office sitting around a table at a project kickoff meeting

With any project, it’s important to get started on the right track. The best way to do that is with a well planned project kickoff meeting. 

The kickoff meeting sets the tone for the project, establishes expectations, and helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. In this blog post, we'll discuss what a project kickoff meeting is, why it's important, common types of kickoff meetings, how to prepare for a kickoff meeting, and how to run your most successful kickoff meeting yet.

What is a project kickoff meeting?

A project kickoff meeting is the first meeting held at the beginning of a project. It's an opportunity for the project team to come together, establish goals and objectives, and set roles and expectations. The kickoff meeting is usually led by the project manager and attended by all team members, stakeholders, and any relevant outside parties.

What is the purpose of a project kickoff meeting?

The short answer is that a project kickoff meeting serves a variety of purposes, including:

  • Establish goals and objectives
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Establish expectations and timelines
  • Identify risks and challenges
  • Align stakeholders
  • Build rapport among the team

It’s a great way to build a baseline of understanding, alignment, and communication that will continue to pay off as you work together over the course of the project. 

Common types of project kickoff meetings

While every project has its own idiosyncrasies and quirks, generally speaking, there are two common types of project kickoff meetings:

Internal project kickoff meeting

An internal project kickoff meeting is held among the project team and relevant stakeholders, such as department heads or executives. This type of kickoff meeting is focused on building alignment among the team and establishing a clear plan for how the project will be executed.

External or client-facing kickoff meeting

An external or client-facing kickoff meeting is held with the client or outside parties who will be impacted by the project. This type of kickoff meeting is focused on building rapport with the client, establishing goals and objectives, and setting expectations.

Related: How to run a successful client meeting kickoff call

How to prepare for a project kickoff meeting

To prepare for a successful project kickoff meeting, follow these steps:

1. Make sure you're focused on the right problem

While it may sometimes be taken for granted, the most critical step in any project is identifying and aligning on the actual problem you're trying to solve. When managing multiple priorities, it can be easy to become fixated on aspects of a larger problem, or tangential issues that may relate to the problem, but which are not central to the solution. 

Before scheduling the kickoff meeting, make sure that everyone is aligned on the problem that the project is intended to solve. If there is any confusion or disagreement, take the time to resolve it before the kickoff meeting.

2. Identify your stakeholders and map how they'll be involved

In order to make sure you have a diverse array of perspectives, take pains to identify all stakeholders who will be involved in the project and determine how they'll be involved. 

You can do this by creating a stakeholder map that includes each stakeholder's level of involvement, communication preferences, and potential concerns. 

Pro-tip: Learn how to create a comprehensive stakeholder map with this Mural guide 

3. Create a meeting agenda

Create a detailed agenda that includes the purpose of the meeting, a list of attendees, the meeting objectives, and a timeline for the meeting. This allows everyone to complete any necessary pre-work that will inform the meeting discussion and maximize the effectiveness of your time together. 

4. Plan out what you'll cover during the kickoff meeting

In addition to the meeting agenda that you create for attendees, think through what topics you want to cover during the kickoff meeting, such as project goals, timelines, risks, and challenges. It’s also important for real-time meetings to time-box discussions, so that you can cover all the key points without rushing or rescheduling. 

Pro-tip: Tools like Mural’s timer feature help focus discussions and keep everyone up to speed on the agenda

5. Prepare with the right tools

Make sure that you have the right tools in place to facilitate the kickoff meeting, such as a slide deck, whiteboard, or collaboration software. Depending on your work environment, you may want to use one approach, or a combination of several tools to handle your collaborative work together — whether you’re working in person, in a hybrid team, or in a fully remote organization, you’ll need to carefully consider the best options to foster engagement and transparency.   

In order to facilitate better collaboration, using a shared digital space like an online whiteboard can be the best way to involve every stakeholder, giving everyone a voice and equal opportunity to provide feedback, which is invaluable as you think about crafting solutions to complex problems. 

How to run a successful project kickoff meeting

To run a successful project kickoff meeting, follow these steps:

Provide an overview of the project

Using your meeting agenda and the information from your prep work, start the meeting by providing an overview of the project, including the purpose of the project, the problem it's intended to solve, and the desired outcome.

Introduce stakeholders and how they're involved

Once you’ve set the stage, the next step is to review the stakeholder map and explain how each stakeholder will be involved in the project. This is an opportunity to identify any issues or overlaps that could hamper your progress, so it’s important to make sure every stakeholder feels empowered to contribute. 

Outline primary goals & KPIs

Establish primary project goals (these can be expressed as Objectives and Key Results, or as outcome statements) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure progress. 

Explore project goals (primary and secondary)

Engage the team and stakeholders in a collaborative discussion around project goals, both primary and secondary. Encourage team members to ask questions, share their ideas and concerns, and provide feedback.

Pro-tip: You can explore project goals in real-time or asynchronously using a framework like the Mural Project North Star template, which helps bring stakeholders together to determine goals and success metrics.

Define Success

Define what success looks like for the project and ensure that everyone is aligned on what it means. This can take the form of a mutual success plan if you’re working with clients or external stakeholders — with a success plan in place, you’ll have a living document that reflects the agreements and desired outcomes, increasing transparency and accountability. 

Related: The Mural Project Kickoff template helps walk you through each of the steps, and offers the ability to link to any supporting documents as needed. 

The bottom line: Keep your project collaborative and engaging

To sum it all up, a project kickoff meeting is a critical step in any project's success, allowing the team to establish goals and objectives, clarify roles and responsibilities, and build rapport among the team and stakeholders. 

With Mural, it’s easy to get everyone engaged and ready to collaborate. Get started today with a Free Forever account, and invite unlimited members, so that you can ensure that every voice is empowered from the very beginning of your next project. Now that you've kicked off your project, use the Mural project planning template to keep your team aligned and in-sync.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.

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