Project kickoff meetings are a vital part of the success of your project. The groundwork you lay during this critical event will help set the stage for the remainder of the project. Many of the topics we will discuss in this article can be applied to non-remote project managers as well, but we will emphasize specifics that are vital for remote project managers.
In many cases, we may know many of the members on the project team, but this is not always the case especially when your project has hundreds of team members or if team members are located around the globe. The number of team members will dictate how introductions will occur since you won’t have time to introduce everyone if you have a large team. However, with a small team, you will likely have time to make proper introductions. When conducting introductions, we like to make it a little personal and ask the team members to share a few things about themselves. Fun personal topics include their hobbies, the last movie they watched, what is under their bed and three people they would like to have dinner with and why. If you do ask them to share something personal, to help keep it interesting, you can provide a few topic options and allow the team members to choose what one they may want to answer. Whatever you do, make sure introductions are kept short though. One way to do this is to inform the team members of what should be shared as part of their introductions ahead of the meeting.
Pro Tip: Remote project managers likely use web conferencing tools. If bandwidth allows when someone is introducing themselves ask them to turn on their video. When bandwidth does not allow, you can substitute video with a picture of the team member. Being able to put a face to a name and voice can help team members feel more connected to each other.
Project meeting ground rules
After we complete introductions, it is time to cover the ground rules. Ground rules are an important topic to cover with your team. During the ground rule agenda topic, you will communicate with your team the rules of how meetings will be conducted. The ground rules will cover important meeting etiquette like when it is ok to ask questions, how to ask questions, how and when to respond during a discussion and how to will handle conflict.
Pro Tip: If you are leveraging a web conferencing tool, there are likely some built-in tools that can be leveraged during your meetings. For example, some web conferencing tools have a function allowing participants to raise their hand. This can allow people to request to speak without interrupting the active speaker during a long pause. The moderator can call on the person with their hand up once the speaker is done talking. Another feature of some web conferencing solutions you could try to incorporate is the question and answer functionality. This allows participants to post their questions and a moderator can facilitate.
Communication plan and how to work together
While every agenda item during the project kickoff meeting should be important, the one that may be of most importance for remote project management is the topic of how to work together on the project. This topic is critical to ensuring our team members know how they will get information about the project, how project team members should communicate with the team and what tools should be used for collaboration. For example, are you using a project site or third-party cloud storage for posting project status reports or other project documentation like contracts and deliverables? How will you communicate with your team? Does your site have built-in communication tools or do you have to use a third party solution? Regardless of which tools are used, your team must know what tool to use and when it is appropriate to use them.
Pro Tip: minimize the number of tools your team must use. The more tools that are needed, the more confusion as to what to use and when it occurs.
We hope these tips will help your next project kickoff meeting be a great success. In the comments below, please share some of your tips for project kickoffs.