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9 Tips to Ace Your Next Kickoff Meeting

9 Tips to Ace Your Next Kickoff Meeting

Kickoff meetings are essential when it comes to getting started with any major project. These first meetings are an opportunity for teams to coalesce around major ideas, meet one another, decide on project timelines, and more.

For security integrators, these meetings are critical for another reason: They give integrators the opportunity to bring in-house teams and customer stakeholders together to discuss the scope of the project.

With that in mind, here are 9 tips that you can use to create success during your next external kickoff meeting.

1. Ace your internal kickoff meeting

If you’ve read our previous blog post, you already know how important it is to ace your internal kickoff meeting.

The internal meeting gives your project team a chance to coordinate initiatives and review key project details. The project manager should review the scope of work, as well as any other critical documents like bid sheets, design drawings, and a schedule of values.

The goal of the internal meeting is simply to make sure that everyone is on the same page before aligning with the customer. While the PM should run the meeting, all teams – including sales, engineering, projects, and finance – need to be involved.

While the customer won’t be present for the internal meeting, the PM has likely spoken to the customer at this point in order to set expectations around the project scope and timeline.

By planning and acing this step in the process, you’re setting your team up for success when the external kickoff meeting takes place and the customer meets the rest of the team for the first time.

2. Plan your external kickoff meeting

In many cases, kickoff meetings are the first opportunity that team members and customers have to meet one another — but that doesn’t mean that the customer should be unprepared.

Your internal team has the advantage of meeting prior to the external kickoff, but your customer won’t be a part of that. Instead, refer to the documents you used to plan previous meetings and send your customer the project details that they need to study and review.

As you plan the agenda for the external meeting, consider the key details that you’ll need to cover. This is likely to include the following:

  1. Scope of work
  2. Project schedule
  3. Team composition
  4. Main points of contact for project stakeholders
  5. Main points of contact within the projects team
  6. Special considerations and restrictions at project sites
  7. Escalation paths for questions and concerns
  8. Communication frequency and method with the customer

Determining communication frequency is one of the most important parts of the entire meeting process. Project managers often overlook defining when, where, and how often customers should expect project updates and communications after the project is underway. This leads to unscheduled communication — which always seems to happen at the worst possible moment.

As you plan your external kickoff, nail down these schedules and key issues so that you can walk into the meeting with a solution to questions that your customer never thought to ask. By doing so, you’ll let your customer know that they are in good hands.

3. Send an introductory email and customer checklist

Once everyone has finished prepping for the external kickoff, it’s time to send an introductory email to your customer. This email should include any documentation that the customer needs to review, as well as a warm welcome from the team.

You should also include a pre-kickoff checklist that customers can return to you prior to the meeting.

This checklist typically includes a communication plan (as well as plans for document storage) as well as customer points of contact for each of the following:

  1. Pilot site approvals (if a multi-site project)
  2. Submittals
  3. Approvals for access
  4. Site-specific contacts
  5. Escalations
  6. System information
  7. Invoicing and payments
  8. User access

This email is essential because it serves as both a follow-up from the customer’s previous interaction with the company (when the PM called to confirm the scope) as well as a warm up for the upcoming kickoff.

The email can also help you handle the particulars when it comes to narrowing down kickoff meeting dates, and providing insight about the project as it moves forward in the following weeks.

By being transparent about timelines and keeping this line of communication open, it’s easy to put the customer at ease during times when – from the stakeholder’s perspective  – very little seems to take place on the integrator’s end.

4. Kickoff with the customer

Once you’ve finished your internal meetings and your final prep, it’s time to actually meet with the customer!

Your kick off meeting can be structured in any number of ways, but you’ll want to take the time to confirm the scope of the project, the proposed schedule, and review any contracts. Taking time to cover site particulars such as parking, bathrooms, garbage disposal, etc., is also a great idea.

If there are important site restrictions, like working hours or out of bounds areas, it’s important to gather this information from the customer before the work begins. Hammer out those finer details now, while everyone is in the room and can contribute to the conversation.

Also, be sure to keep in mind that if you’ve been spearheading the project, you may know all of your attendees. In this meeting, you’ll have an opportunity to build team cohesion by allowing your teams to interact with one another and with the customer. This is a major opportunity when it comes to building trust across the entire project.

5. Build a common understanding around the project

In one famous parable, three blind men try to describe an elephant based on their limited experience. Each man feels a different part of the elephant’s body — but only one part. As a result, their descriptions of the elephant are vastly different from one another.

Depending on the information your team members have been given, each attendee may have a different understanding of the project scope, the deliverables, and its lifecycle.

The purpose of a kickoff meeting is to provide clarity at a high level so that everyone is on the same page about the project and what needs to happen. If you’re in charge of the meeting, you’re essentially trying to show your project managers your “elephant.”

Even if your team regularly works on installations and designs, take some time to discuss this new project, give each manager a chance to be heard, and make sure that everyone has a clear and common understanding of the project background and how things need to come together.

6. Cover the key details

In addition to setting appropriate expectations, take some time during your kickoff meeting to discuss specific project processes that affect separate teams.

Your designers and installers need to work together with customer stakeholders in order to create the final deliverable. Teams need to know how to communicate with one another, where to find project updates, and what needs to be done in case they encounter difficulties during the installation.

Visuals can help at this step. Using project management software or a platform like SiteOwl can keep everyone on the same page. SiteOwl provides centralized access to tasks, floor plans, and camera placement – as well as a workflow that customers can follow as the project develops.

Keep in mind that it’s possible to overwhelm your audience with information, that’s why experts recommend using the Minimum Viable PowerPoint (MVP) rule when creating slide decks. The rule is simple: Select the least amount of data you need to inform or engage the group. Don’t use anything else.

7. Define what success looks like

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown points out that one of the key gaps in modern leadership is a failure to define project success. She pushes managers and team leaders to define exactly what “done” should look like.

Take time during your kickoff meeting to define what a successful project looks like for everyone involved. While it might seem very obvious (especially if you have a predefined scope of work or you’ve already made progress), help every team at your meeting figure out their own definition of success for your project.

You may need to review details in your project management software or explain the concern one team has to other project stakeholders. Before you wrap up, nail this down so that everyone has a clear understanding of success for the remainder of the project.

As an added benefit, painting a clear picture of success can help to prevent scope creep and ensure that team members understand the difference between in- and out-of-scope work.

8. Leave time for questions

You might be surprised who asks questions and what questions are asked if you open up a Q&A session.

Opening the floor for questions gives you a chance to address problematic issues at a high level. It also allows you to check for understanding before wrapping up the meeting. This is even useful on teams where everyone already knows everyone and how the other teams work.

The problem with Q&A sessions sometimes comes from quiet crowds. You ask a question, and nobody answers. If that’s a problem, you can prime your audience by asking questions about specific issues that are different from the traditional processes that the team has used in the past.

Sometimes, it only takes one question to get the ball rolling – but that doesn’t mean that the audience has to be the first to ask. You can ask your team a few questions, too.

9. Send a recap email

Confirm everything in writing that was in the kick-off meeting.

One of the most overlooked and important emails in any marketing or outreach campaign is the follow-up. Sometimes, people need an extra push in order to connect ideas and get in touch.

The same is true for meetings. After you wrap up your kickoff meeting, send out a recap email covering everything that you went over in the meeting. While you can type some of this content up beforehand, you should leave a little space at the bottom where you can recap questions and meeting-specific conversations.

Sometimes, you’ll need to deliver your kickoff meeting in two parts or to two separate teams. A recap can help make sure that everyone who misses the meeting or didn’t sit in on both meetings understands everything that is happening.

Create Successful Kickoff Meetings With SiteOwl.

From developing a kickoff meeting agenda to reviewing a project charter, it’s easy for important meeting details to fall into the weeds. SiteOwl can help. Security systems integrators using SiteOwl can find all of their project information in one place and can share that information with customers. Because SiteOwl uses drag-and-drop tools to create camera floor plans and visuals, it’s also easy to share that information with key stakeholders on your projects. Want to see how SiteOwl can help you plan your next big integration project? Click here to learn more.

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