17 minutesBy Canva Team

Planning a project kickoff: How-tos, templates, and tips

Dive deep into project kickoffs, their main components, and the steps to create a kickoff meeting agenda. With our tips and templates, you’ll run a kickoff that will set your project up for success.
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What is a project kickoff?

If a project ends successfully, it’s because ample preparation, a good system, and great teamwork come together from the very beginning. A project kickoff is the opportunity to do all that. After receiving a new project assignment and doing some pre-planning, a project kickoff — also known as a kickoff meeting — is the first official meeting you conduct as the project manager.

This is the first time that key players meet to align on project details like:

  • Goals
  • Timelines
  • Deliverables

It’s a crucial moment in project management because it communicates the end goal and translates the vision into actionable tasks.

Typically, you’ll only need one kickoff meeting for the entire project. But if it’s a large project divided into multiple phases, you’ll hold a kickoff at the start of every phase. In long-term projects, project managers might run a kickoff meeting whenever a new member joins or if the project heads in a new direction.

Project kickoff example

A project kickoff example.

Who should attend a project kickoff meeting?

Everyone directly involved in a project joins the kickoff meeting. Depending on the type of project, its scale, and your industry, you may have to bring in experts, as well.

The key people in a project kickoff include:

  • Project manager: The project manager is the anchor of the entire team, supervising, delegating, and ensuring everything stays on track. A project manager’s main objective is to get the job done with as little hiccups as possible.
  • Team leaders: They’re in charge of leading smaller teams within the project.
  • Team members: Team members are the ones who move the project forward with the day-to-day tasks.
  • Decision-makers and executives: If you’re working on a high-stakes project, bring in department heads and decision-makers to share the project vision.
  • Clients and stakeholders: These are the people you’re doing the project for.
  • Subject experts: If you’re working on a complex or highly technical project, experts and consultants will help put things in perspective.
Present an org chart
If the project involves a large number of people, you can use an org chart to help everyone understand their roles, relationships, and responsibilities.

Types of project kickoff meetings

Project kickoff meetings differ based on the topic and attendees. There are two main types:

  • Internal project kickoff meeting: This is a meeting with the team members and, in some cases, executives. The goal of an internal meeting is to align the team on the objectives and project scope, delegate tasks, agree on timelines, and discuss logistical issues.
  • External project kickoff meeting: These meetings include your client, where you give a more polished overview of how your team plans to execute the project. This is also the chance to manage your team and the client’s expectations.

Project kickoffs can be conducted in person, virtually, or in a hybrid setup. Depending on the project, you may need demos, presentations, and breakout rooms. Some kickoffs last an hour, while others require an entire day.

Turn a slide to a whiteboard
Meeting virtually? Convert a slide into an interactive, virtual whiteboard, so teammates can add ideas in real time. Right-click on a slide and click “Expand to Whiteboard.”

What is the purpose of a project kickoff?

There are many obstacles to running a project. Indecisive clients, unresponsive decision-makers, or unproductive team players. The good news: you can avoid all these issues in the early stages. The project just needs a solid foundation — and this can be achieved through a project kickoff.

The main purpose of a project kickoff is to launch the team in a single direction and mitigate risks, delays, and mistakes. This way, the rest of the project will be smooth-sailing. You’ll avoid getting overwhelmed, working overtime, and going over the budget.

A project kickoff meeting enables you to:

Get to know key team players

The kickoff meeting is the perfect time to introduce everyone and their roles in the project. It’s essential in projects involving different departments or first-time clients.

Use this opportunity for everyone to be familiar with each other and find out who’s in charge of each task. It’s also your chance to build rapport that empowers collaboration, so even members who prefer to keep their heads down will feel comfortable approaching anyone.

Project kickoff action items

Introduce the team players in your project as well as their roles and tasks.

Align on goals and objectives

The most important question of your kickoff meeting is, “why are we doing this project?” The kickoff communicates the end product or service, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs).

By now, you’ve done enough research to determine how this project accomplishes a goal. The goal is then distilled to specific objectives, which in turn identify actionable tasks for each team member.

Give them graphs
Use graphs to fully explain and add context to your project kickoff. From Kanban boards to project roadmaps, you can access customizable graph templates on Canva Docs.
Kickoff meeting overview doc

Align everyone on the goals and objectives of your project kickoff meeting.

Set project expectations

After knowing what the project is and why it’s necessary, the kickoff meeting then discusses how it will be executed. Some questions to explore:

  • What is the scope of the project?
  • How will you create an efficient working environment?
  • Will your team work in sprints?
  • How involved would the client be?
  • What is each member responsible for?

By the end of your project kickoff, each player should know what they have to do and what their first task is.

Mitigate risks

It’s rare for a project to run a perfect marathon. Unforeseen events are inevitable, but you can reduce the chances of roadblocks as early as now.

Foresight is key. Take a look at past similar projects and share concrete ways to avoid mistakes. During the kickoff meeting, you can discuss proactive measures like:

  • Setting weekly check-ins
  • Looking into outsourced help
  • Having a centralized storage for all relevant documents

You can also ask your team about possible obstacles related to their individual tasks. With everyone together, a kickoff is the perfect time to address a problem, before it becomes a problem.

Comment in a Project Kickoff doc

Keep track of your project by outlining milestones and timelines that your team agrees with.

Open lines of communication

During the project kickoff, you’ll have to agree on communication channels. It ensures your client knows how and when to reach you. It’s also a chance to share the contact details of key players so members know whom they’re accountable to and who they should approach for a specific issue.

One final thing: a project kickoff meeting isn’t just for a project manager to relay information; it’s also an opportunity for the team to ask questions and discuss ideas. After all, each person is there because they contribute to the project. A healthy, collaborative, and enthusiastic environment is vital.

What to include in a project kickoff?

Ready to kickoff the project with your team? You’ll need a structured meeting agenda to help you stick to the topic and make productive use of your time. Whether you’re meeting in person, virtually, or in a hybrid setup, here are essential items you should include in the meeting agenda for your project kickoff:

Website Kickoff meeting doc example

An example of a project kickoff for a new website.

The meeting details include the meeting title, date, time, and venue for proper archiving. Often, the date of the meeting establishes the official launch of the project and consequently, the official billing period.

This is a list of everyone who confirmed or is expected to attend the kickoff. It includes their roles and indicates if they're a team member, team leader, client, or executive.

The project background lists the main discussion points during the kickoff meeting. It courses through the project brief and purpose.

Project scope sets the boundaries of the project and strictly defines what is and isn’t expected from it. Risks, meanwhile, identify possible roadblocks and their solutions.

The project deliverable is the expected output, tangible or intangible, of the project. A deliverable may be a product, document, or service.

Milestones are key events that signify the end of one project phase and the start of another. A timeline, meanwhile, displays these events chronologically and determines the length of the entire project.

Tools and documentation include administrative and logistical protocols, communication channels, file access, and invoicing procedures.

The Q&A session offers clarity to members. It’s a time to raise concerns, lay down requests, or discuss unfamiliar processes.

How to kickoff a project?

No matter how big or small your project is, the project kickoff is extremely important. After all, it’s not just any meeting — it’s your official project launch. So follow these steps to run an effective project kickoff meeting that covers every item on the agenda.

How to kickoff a project

If you’re the project manager, you’re among the first to receive initial details about the project. You might even have been involved in the early planning stages. Now that the project is about to kick off, you’ll have to communicate the critical details to everyone. If there’s missing information, actively involve the team or check in with the client to clarify the vague items.

Before you create the project kickoff agenda, check if you have the answers to the following:

  • Who is the client?
  • What is the purpose of this project?
  • What is the expected output?
  • What resources (workforce, tools, software, and services) are needed to execute the project?
Organize ideas on a mind map
Feeling overwhelmed with information? Use a mind map to dump all your ideas and sort your thoughts to bring clarity.

Once you have all the info at your fingertips, prepare the agenda for the kickoff meeting. To make things easier, start with a customizable project kickoff template. Using Canva Docs, you can personalize the layout of the agenda doc to meet your requirements. For example:

  • Add a checklist to your agenda doc to tick items off as you’re running the meeting
  • Use a timeline or Gantt chart to represent project duration
  • Use tables to categorize agenda items

You can also share your draft agenda doc with a core team to get their insights. In addition, a meeting agenda template will be useful throughout the project. With a uniform document layout, it will be easier to browse past documents, compare their contents, and archive past agenda.

Once you’ve finalized the agenda for the kickoff, prepare the main discussion points. Write a brief project background and identify the purpose, scope, risks, and deliverables. Use these questions as a guide:

  • What is the project about?
  • Why are we doing this project?
  • What problem are we addressing?
  • Who is it for?
  • What is the scope of the project? What will it cover, and what will it not cover?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How will the project be implemented?

Hone in on the project’s goals and ensure the kickoff meeting will focus on solutions and processes. As you write your overview, consider any potential questions your team or client may have and add them to your discussion points.

Your client and team should be able to understand how much time this project will fill their calendars, and the project kickoff is the time for them to bring up any scheduling conflicts. Keep this in mind as you plan the meeting.

In addition, the kickoff meeting is a chance to discuss how the timeline may be divided. For example, your team may work in sprints or phases. Remember, too, that you’ll likely have internal deadlines apart from your deadlines to the client.

  • For deadlines within the team: Prepare to check in with team leaders and approvers to find out how much time they need for approvals. You’ll also discover that some tasks overlap or have dependencies, so it’s best to raise them with the team and make the adjustments right away.
  • For external deadlines: Prepare to consult with the client about their expectations for the deliverables. For instance, do they require a specific file format? How much time will they need to review the output? How many approvers do they have?

Timelines come in a variety of formats. You have the standard monthly calendar, while others prefer a table showing the date, deliverable, person in charge, and approver. There are also Gantt charts to visualize task dependencies.

Good teamwork comes from efficient communication. Whether you have five or 50 people on your team, the kickoff lets you decide on communication channels for seamless collaboration. During the meeting, agree on a tool or system that encourages everyone to stay aligned and on track. These communication and collaboration tools will be used for:

  • Real-time project status tracking
  • Daily communication among the team members
  • Important announcements
  • A central storage platform for accessing files
  • Method of submitting deliverables
  • Availability in case of emergency

If you’re using a new platform, allot time during the kickoff meeting to give a walkthrough of the system.

Now that you've laid out all the information you need to communicate to your team, you can start arranging the logistics of the project kickoff. Key tasks include:

  • Decide on the length of your meeting, making sure to allot time for icebreakers and Q&As
  • Identify the list of people who need to attend (representatives from the client side, department heads and decision makers, team leaders, and your team members)
  • Find a common date and time for everyone, then book the venue if you're meeting in person, or set up a virtual room link.

It might be difficult for you to take the minutes of the meeting while facilitating, so assign a notetaker.

Polish your kickoff agenda doc and attach it with your invite to send to all the attendees. Include other important documents for pre-reading, such as the project charter or project scope. If your attendees can study the project before the kickoff meeting, you’ll maximize efficiency and cover all topics. They can prepare their questions, too.

Use an enthusiastic tone in your meeting invite; in some cases, this is the first time your team will hear from someone from the project team, so this is your chance to make a great first impression.

You’ve covered all the big items, so it’s time to get to the particulars. After all, the small details make all the difference in a professional setting. Think whether your attendees have everything they need. For instance:

  • Will the attendees need parking slots at the venue?
  • If your session will last the whole day, have you ordered enough food and considered dietary restrictions?
  • Did you test the tech tools you’ll use?
  • Do you have enough copies printed?
  • Do you have a backup of your presentation?
  • If you’re conducting a virtual session, have you set up an online whiteboard for brainstorming?

If you’re meeting in person, be at the venue at least half an hour early to set up. If you’re meeting virtually, enter the room five to ten minutes before to test your audio, video, and screen sharing.

Start with a proper welcome. Introduce yourself with enthusiasm to set the tone for the rest of the meeting. Then, follow the structure of your agenda, which may include:

  • Announcing reminders: Go over the house rules, like breaks and Q&A participation. Distribute the handouts, if you have any.
  • Making introductions: Have everyone introduce themselves and their roles. You can also ask them about their expectations to drum up excitement.
  • Discussing the main agenda: Go over the project background, deliverables, milestones and timeline, and each person’s responsibilities.
  • Taking notes: Even if you assigned a notetaker, you can also take down notes and flag items for further discussion.
  • Explaining the tools: Share the links to the platforms you’ll use for communication and collaboration.
  • Opening the floor for questions: You might have questions, and the team may clarify some items. The experts and decision-makers may also have insights to share.

Once everything’s been covered, summarize the kickoff. For pending issues, let the attendees know when they can expect to hear from you.

Wrap up the project kickoff positively. By the end of the meeting, everyone should be clear about what they have to do next. Lastly, thank your attendees for their time.

You’ve successfully conducted your project kickoff - congratulations! But the work isn't over yet. Review the agenda after the meeting and make sure you covered all bases. Send the minutes of the meeting to your team. If the virtual meeting was recorded, send a link to the recording, as well as the transcript. Also, follow through on issues that were raised.

Ideally, your team should be able to begin working on the project right away. Now that the project kickoff meeting is done, the real work is about to begin.

Get inspired with project kickoff templates

Structure your session with these project kickoff meeting agenda templates, which can be customized to suit the needs of your project. You can add project details, upload photos, put graphs and tables, and share the doc with all team members. Choose a layout and easily edit it on Canva Docs.

All you need in a project kickoff meeting agenda maker

Go beyond the usual word processor and create a kickoff meeting agenda with beautiful graphics, photos, tables, and collaborative features. Canva Docs makes it easy to visualize project details for a seamless kickoff. Plus, you can quickly share the doc with the rest of the team for greater visibility.

  • Great on any device

    Great on any device

    With responsive Docs, create, view, and edit your doc on any device. Perfect for when you're on the go.

  • Visual library for visual Docs

    Visual library for visual Docs

    Seamlessly add visuals like graphs, tables, images, videos, graphics, and more, all available within your doc.

  • Collaborate in real-time

    Collaborate in real-time

    Work with teams and build on ideas with comments and emoji reactions. Keep sync sessions on track with a timer.

  • Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Beat writer's block and skip ahead to your first draft with a single text prompt on Magic Write.

  • Share your work effortlessly

    Share your work effortlessly

    Share a link to your doc and control your team’s access. Track activity, views, and comments via Insights (Pro).

  • Turn Docs to Decks

    Turn Docs to Decks

    Instantly convert your document to a fully customizable Canva presentation with Docs to Decks.

Project kickoff best practices

Take control of the wheel during the kickoff meeting and avoid going off-course. Follow these best practices to craft a good meeting agenda for the project kickoff, facilitate a smooth-sailing kickoff, and lead the team to a successful project launch.

Stay curious

Although you’re on top of the project, you’re not expected to know all the answers. While preparing for your kickoff, ask your clients and experts questions to achieve complete clarity on the project. Similarly, consult the team members about processes, tools, and timelines. Ask questions like:

  • “Would you be amenable to a three-day review period?”
  • “Can the team leaders send status reports every Friday?”
  • “How much time do you need to deliver this task?”

Give your team and clients space to share their thoughts so the project kickoff could be a dialogue.

Comment in a Project tracker doc

Leave comments and tag team members with ease on Canva Docs.

Set the tone for the project

First impressions last. The kickoff meeting will put a spotlight on how you work and what the work environment would be like. So take this opportunity to exude positivity and optimism right off the bat.

  • Start with an icebreaker or a quick catch-up: Build rapport among everyone by making each person feel heard. Take a look at icebreaker activities as a fun way to make introductions.
  • Find a middle ground: A team has different personalities and work habits. It’s up to the project manager and team leaders to find a healthy middle ground that accommodates everyone without sacrificing the project’s success.
  • Be professional and act confidently: Put your foot down when needed, especially when communicating the project’s expectations and scope.

Set clear house rules

There’s a lot at stake in this single project. Set expectations about how the team should work to keep the project on track. Some items to think about:

  • Do you have specific instructions on document submission?
  • Does the team need to show their availability in a shared calendar?
  • What are the consequences of delays?

Setting client expectations is also important. They might go off-course midway through the project and ask for things that weren’t initially discussed. During the project kickoff, it helps to clarify how much change your team can accommodate without exceeding the timeline and budget your client has agreed on.

Service agreements and contracts are essential at this point. Documentation that your clients and team agreed upon specific items is part of risk management and will help you avoid internal problems.

Create visual roadmaps

Your projects may have overlapping milestones. Some deliverables may depend on another; that is, you can’t start one without finishing the other.

Rather than just providing a list of dates, create a visual roadmap and present it during the project kickoff meeting. This will help your team and clients visualize how the project progresses. Try using a process chart, Kanban board, retrospective(opens in a new tab or window), or design a custom roadmap using our templates.

An illustration of a visual roadmap doc

An example of a project kickoff with a yellow and black color scheme.

Project kickoff FAQs

The project kickoff is the initial meeting for the team and key players of a project. During this meeting, the project manager relays all the pertinent information about the project so the team can begin executing their tasks to achieve the project goals. Expect to have discussions about the project scope, timelines, milestones, processes, roadmaps(opens in a new tab or window), and outcomes.

A lot of pre-work goes into a kickoff meeting. Clients and stakeholders decide on critical project elements. Project managers then receive this information and lay the groundwork for the specific details. Team members study the project brief so they can come prepared with questions.

Because a kickoff meeting signals the launch of the project, contracts and invoicing procedures are usually drafted or prepared before the kickoff.

Meetings have different objectives and attendees. A kickoff meeting is conducted only once — at the very beginning of the project. It launches the project and involves all team members who play a role in the project. All vital information is relayed and discussed during a project kickoff.

In contrast, teams can have other kinds of meetings (alignments, updates, check-ins, etc.) during the project execution to make sure everyone is on track.

Yes, Canva Docs is free to use, which means you can create all types of documents needed for an effective project kickoff, like the meeting agenda. There are, however, additional features that you can access with a paid subscription.

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Set a course for success with a project kickoff

With Canva Docs, you’ll conduct an effective project kickoff and steer your team in the right direction. Check out our free project kickoff meeting agenda templates and start planning your kickoff.
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