5 Tips for A More Successful Kickoff Meeting
Meetings are often necessary to get things done, especially in today’s distributed workforce. Unfortunately, not all meetings are productive or created equally. It’s estimated that around 35-50% of the average workweek is spent in meetings and that $37 billion per year is lost due to unproductive meetings. Yes, that’s right…$37 billion. Those facts alone suggest the business world is having a ton of meetings, but not spending all the time effectively. As the first gathering for a project, kickoff meetings often set the tone for the rest of the meetings to follow, and therefore are arguably even more important to be effective and productive. To avoid taking part in that $37 billion loss, read on to learn what makes a good kickoff meeting and kick off your next project successfully with our 5 tips.
What is a Kickoff Meeting?
Before diving into the 5 tips, let’s cover what a kickoff meeting is. A kickoff meeting is typically the first meeting at the start of a project. There are many projects that could require a kickoff depending on your organization and team; some examples include: a Sprint, developing a new product or feature, or aligning on user experience. Regardless of what the specific project at hand is, a good kickoff meeting will bring your team (or applicable stakeholders) together to make intros, provide an introduction or overview to the project, and promote an understanding of what’s being done and why. Kickoff meetings usually happen when a project is ready to move from the planning to execution phase and should include the core project team and anyone else who will be directly impacted by the project, or whose input is needed.
Voltage Control’s 5 tips for a more successful kickoff meeting
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Preparation is the difference between mundane and magical meetings. Avoid wasted time later by putting time and thought up front into the kickoff meeting preparation. Be strategic about who you invite and ensure only those that are necessary for the project are included. Creating an effective meeting agenda is also important – it should outline the key objectives you are aiming to accomplish during the meeting, along with a realistic schedule (remember to allow time at the end for questions).
Pro Tip: Check out our Meeting Mantras to learn how to avoid wasting time at meetings.
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Additionally, don’t assume everyone attending knows each other or has context on the upcoming project. Bake in time for outlining roles and responsibilities, or better yet, send out the information beforehand via email to save those precious minutes during the meeting. Since it’s a kickoff, naturally some items will need to be figured out as you go. But the kickoff meeting is a great time to get everyone on the same page regarding need-to-know details before diving into the actual project work.
2. Consider a Meeting Facilitator
A facilitator is someone who plans, designs, and leads a key group meeting or event. For more information on what a facilitator does and when you need one, see our post here. A facilitator could be a neutral leader within your organization, or you might consider bringing in an expert facilitator when dealing with larger or sensitive topics. They offer a non-biased opinion, are removed from office politics, and take care of logistics while making sure everyone stays on track. Some smaller or less complex kickoff meetings may not require a facilitator, while more complicated or larger projects may benefit. Pro tip: if your kickoff meeting supports a meeting where you need to make a big or important decision, we recommend you hire a facilitator.
Interested in become=ing a more effective facilitator yourself? Check out Facilitation Lab, our weekly virtual meetup focused on helping facilitators hone their craft to help improve the quality of meetings. Control the Room, Voltage Control’s Annual Facilitator Summit is another resource for facilitators. The summit provides facilitators with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge on how to facilitate meetings that matter and connect with other facilitation and meeting practitioners.
Interaction and collaboration make a good kickoff meeting. Utilizing tools, especially in a virtual work environment, will help keep people engaged and also help with retention and a sense of ownership. Collaborative virtual whiteboard tools like MURAL and Miro allow team members to engage and work together in real-time.
4. Make it Hybrid and/or Remote-Friendly
A successful kickoff meeting today looks a lot different than a couple of years ago, in large part due to the increasingly hybrid workplace. Many of your team members are probably not in the same location, or even if they are, may not all be coming into a physical office. Lean into this and ensure your team is set up for success by making sure you have the right tools and tech in place for hybrid or remote meetings. This will allow for a smooth start to the project and set the stage for future or ongoing meetings. For more ideas on leading effective virtual meetings, see our post here. A quality resource to explore to ensure you and your meetings are constantly improving is the Control Room app. We custom-built it for facilitators to better manage and run virtual meetings with a feature to capture feedback from participants in real-time. Try it out for your next kickoff meeting, or any future project meetings.
5. Define Success and Next Steps
Last, but certainly not least, a good kickoff meeting will define the project goals and what success looks like. Without a clear goal in mind, teams will likely be more confused and less effective. When everyone is aligned on a tangible goal, their efforts tend to be more focused. Part of a kickoff’s purpose is to communicate a clearly defined, measurable goal and how success will be measured for the project at hand. It’s okay if this changes throughout the project’s course. The most important thing is to communicate the success metrics at the beginning and then throughout (if they change) to hold all teams accountable. Finally, ensure enough time to discuss action items and next steps, and follow up with the team in writing after the kickoff meeting. That way, everyone leaves the meeting with a clear idea of what exactly they are responsible for and when they must meet deadlines
Just because so many meetings held each year are a waste of time doesn’t mean your meetings need to be. By applying these tips and tricks, your next kickoff meeting can be the first step in a successful project. We believe meetings should waste less time and be more effective. Explore how an effective meeting culture can change your organization for the better.
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