Rushing into a client kickoff meeting before prepping internally? Before you unleash anyone in front of the client, you need to have a solid plan as to what exactly you’re going to do! Going into a client kickoff meeting with an informed team and a proper plan is going to help you massively.
The internal project kickoff meeting needs to get you (and the team) to a place where everyone can confidently say, “We’ve got this!”
Every project is unique, but there’s value in covering off some of these critical things that will make your internal kickoffs a success:
#1: Make time for it—even if it means delaying the client kickoff
If the client kickoff meeting is looming and you feel like you’re not aligned internally as a team, delay the kickoff with the client! You can’t be kicking off a project with a client if the team isn’t properly on board and agreed with what’s happening.
I’ve been in far too many client kickoff meetings where members of the team start arguing with each other or with the client on the approach. It can quickly unravel the entire project before it’s started!
Even if you have to delay the client meeting, make the time to properly educate the team and develop a sense of cohesion—before finding yourselves floundering in front of a client.
#2: Do everyone a favor: write an agenda
Write an agenda, and share it with your team. Show what you’ll be covering, and make sure to include the topics mentioned in this post.
Sharing is caring—try not to hoard information to yourself. At the same time, don’t overload the team with a load of irrelevant information. The agenda should be no more than 1 page—maybe 2 if you’re including images. Your goal is to help your team get up to speed quickly.
#3: Designate time for Q&A at the end
Once the questions start flowing, an unexpected Q&A session can quickly eat up all your meeting time. These breakouts can also isolate team members who don’t have anything to do with the questions being asked, and they quickly become disengaged from the meeting in general. Set aside Q&A time at the end, and make it clear that there will be time set aside for questions at the end.
#4: Talk about WHY you’re doing the project
Help put the project into perspective. This means sharing the business drivers for the project from both a client and an agency point of view.
Talking about the business strategy also means ensuring there’s clarity as to what success and failure looks like.
#5: Talk about HOW you’re approaching the project
Talk about the approach your team will take for the project.
We want to be trying to cultivate ownership of the project from within the team. So, make a suggestion for the approach and ask for feedback. Open up the floor for your team members to pitch their ideas, propose their own alternatives to the plan, and present different ways of working.
The goal here is to make sure everyone agrees on the process and flow of the project. What we want to prevent is anyone going rogue in the client kickoff meeting and proposing an entirely different approach!
#6: Clarify roles & responsibilities
Here, we’re just trying to make sure nothing is falling in-between the gaps with anyone passing off responsibility for things.
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, and the best PM tools and systems to use. In the internal kickoff, these things must be made explicit and simple in order to enable the team to stay focused on the work.
#7: Talk about the client kickoff meeting
Next up, we want to discuss the client kickoff meeting. This is the huddle that prepares your team to go in as a cohesive unit and put their best face forward in front of the client. Provide an agenda of the client kickoff meeting and review it with your team. Do this both to get their buy-in and provide a sense of context and urgency for the next steps.
By agreeing an agenda for the meeting with your team, it’ll help them get focused on the meeting ahead and provide a helpful context for any pre-work that is required.
#8: Prepare to give your team some next steps
Finally, think about next steps—how can you keep momentum going from here?
The temptation can be a bit casual when starting a project, but remember: the way you manage the first few interactions of the project sets the scene for the rest of the project.
To keep the momentum going in the project, make sure everyone is clear on what to do next and when they need to do it by. Clarify what needs to happen to make the client kickoff meeting a success, and guide your team to work back from that.
There are many reasons why meetings fail, but often it comes down to lack of structure or preparation. When you take the time to prepare yourself for a productive, organized internal kickoff, you’ll benefit from having more aligned teams and better client kickoff meetings down the road.