The start of the first project with a new client can feel like a blind date. Everyone is tribal, and no one wants to let their guard down. Kickoff meetings are the icebreaker that should get all assumptions out of the way and open the door for stakeholders to become team members. 

These meetings should have senior representation from the agency and the client, but an account executive or project manager will run it. Ultimately, it is going to be the PM and account manager who will be interacting with the client most of the time and this is a perfect opportunity to let these folks shine. 

A well crafted presentation deck should have an agenda, an objective, assumptions, challenges to be solved, activities, team members, timeline and next steps. 

I like to list the agenda items so everyone can keep track of progress throughout the meeting. It also allows senior stakeholders to come and go as needed. 

You can’t overstate the importance of why you’ll be devoting weeks and months of your life to this project. The objective is the guiding principle when things get confusing. 

Getting assumptions out at this stage will help clear up misunderstandings that can wreck a well underway project. Then, at the very least, the project team can develop risk mitigation plans to deal with any issues in the kickoff meetings itself.

It is essential to get the client to confirm the challenges that have been identified to date. This knowledge can help the project team prioritize during the discovery and beyond. 

The agency should reaffirm the activities needed by the team to keep the project progressing. (e.g.having a weekly status meeting.) 

Projects are made up of people, not resources; make sure both the client and the agency have a clear understanding of the roles and who will be filling each one. 

Even at this early stage, the agency should have a timeline or key milestones identified to track dependencies.

As the kick-off meeting purpose is winding down, don’t forget to leave time for a 15min question and answer period. There are often valuable nuggets of information that surfaces during this period. Finally, close out with next steps for both parties to take up the meeting. 

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