Football on 50yd line

How to Run a Project Kickoff Like a Pro

By Chris Pantaenius

You don’t see it too often, but when you do, it brings you to your feet. I’m talking about a rare moment in football: the kickoff return for a touchdown. For the offense, it’s an immediate taste of victory that can carry them all the way through to the win. For the defense, it’s about the worst possible way to start a game. (The word that comes to mind is “deflating.” Forgive the pun.)

The kickoff can set the tone for an entire football game. And the same is true in the business world where a project kickoff can set you up for success or constant struggle.

Whether you deliver consulting services for your clients or you’re managing an internal project for your company, starting a project on the right foot is essential. Here are a few “Rules of the Game” that we follow at Onspring:

1. Set Your Game Plan

You never want to get out on the field without knowing the play. Before a kickoff meeting, learn as much as you can about the stakeholders, their requirements and their expectations for the project. This will help you set an appropriate agenda, ask meaningful questions and begin to define a path forward.

2. Assemble the Right Team

It’s critical that all relevant stakeholders participate in the project kickoff. If people can’t (or won’t) make time for it, perhaps they’re not the right people. Do everything you can to build a team that has a vested interest in the project’s successful outcome. This doesn’t mean you won’t have conflicts, but it does mean you’ll have commitment to see the project through.

3. Don’t Fumble the Meeting

Send a kickoff agenda in advance so participants can be prepared to make progress. The kickoff meeting should never be a “meet and greet” or a recitation of project goals that everyone already knows. The kickoff should be a highly productive discussion that results in clear actions owned by specific individuals. In other words, kick off your project with a bang, not a whimper.

4. Follow Through

After the kickoff is over, follow up quickly (in writing) to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Keep the meeting notes brief, factual and action-oriented—concise bulleted lists work well. If you agreed on ownership and deadlines in the meeting, make sure those items are clearly documented. Your goal is to keep momentum strong and lines of communication open.

If this seems like common sense, you’re right. It is. But we’ve all seen project kickoffs that went horribly wrong, resulting in a rocky beginning (at best) or a project that was dead before it began.

You want momentum on your side. You want a taste of victory right from the beginning. It all starts with a great kickoff.


Are you gearing up for a project and looking for some help? The Onspring team is here for you. We specialize in empowering business people to solve complex problems with technology. Contact us if we can be of service to you.

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