Whether you’ve volunteered or went out of your way to sign up to do so, leading a training project kick-off meeting can be quite daunting. This could be for several reasons:
- It’s your first time leading a team.
- It’s your first time leading a large-sized team.
- The subject matter expert (SME) involved is “famous” within your company and industry.
- The training will be used by hundreds of employees at your company (or more).
- The outcomes of the training will be watched by senior management.
No pressure, right?
We’ve compiled a list of 7 tips to help you establish a great plan for the kick-off of your new training project. And if you’d like to hear about how to manage other aspects of training project management such as scope creep and stakeholder management, be sure to check out this on-demand webinar recording with award-winning eLearning designer, Tim Slade.
1. Establish the purpose and objectives of your kick-off meeting.
This might seem obvious, but it’s also the most important step when planning a kick-off meeting.
The first thing that the meeting needs to do is establish the purpose and objectives for both the training project that’s about to be created AND the meeting. And yes, these are two different but similar initiatives.
Here are some example training objectives that might be included:
- By when must this training be delivered? Is there an “expiration” date?
- How many employees must undergo the training? How many employees will be affected by the outcomes of the training? (These might be two different figures.)
- How will success be measured? What must the employee be able to accomplish or perform after undergoing the training?
- What content is mandatory and what is subject to discussion for possible removal?
- What assessments will be used? Is there a mandatory performance minimum or “passing grade?”
The good news is that the answers to some of these questions might already have been answered for you. With a proper training intake system, business parters requesting training have already indicated the reasons for and the impact of the proposed training.
Still, team members must come prepared for the answers to these questions, and you can decide how much of this will be covered in the kick-off meeting.
2. Select the meeting format and all collaboration tools.
It’s important to inform all meeting participants about any and all platforms used to share documents, resources, and due dates, before, during, and after the meetings.
The kick-off meeting is important, but participants should be made aware that there is “homework” to complete before the meeting. Direct them to resources as necessary and even send out reminders days before the actual kick-off to ensure that everyone has had a chance to review the project materials.
You might discover that there are so many questions about the project that the kick-off meeting needs another short administrative meeting beforehand, to let project participants know about the different documentation and support materials that exist.
3. Develop the kick-off meeting agenda.
An agenda is important, and the more detailed—perhaps even including time stamps next to each item—the better.
This serves multiple purposes: participants will realize that time is tight, and that anything not listed on the agenda cannot be discussed.
To win buy-in, keep the meeting short (every organization has its own definition of what “short” entails) and if possible, address small questions beforehand.
4. Schedule and invite the stakeholders.
Think strategically about this step before sending out your training project kick-off meeting invitation: think long and hard about who should be in the kick-off meeting and who should not.
While people’s time meet seem infinite, thanks to WFH orders, it’s more precious and valuable than ever. Rather than have just a few people do all the talking and presenting and the vast majority just sitting there nodding their heads, decide who really needs to be in the meeting.
For example, a contract visual designer might not need to be in the kick-off meeting, but the business partner who originally made the training request should most certainly be.
5. Start the kick-off meeting by stating the goals, agenda, and ground rules.
This is important so that everyone understands what will be covered, and what will not be covered.
Because you have already been communicating with the project team long before the kick-off meeting, you will have a good idea of how engaged the group will be and what questions might be asked and answered.
Explain at the start of the meeting that the agenda is the tool you will use to keep the meeting on track and that if anyone goes off-topic, you will ask them to take it offline for further discussion or to return to it after all of the other items have been discussed.
This is where your true, inner leadership skills will come to the surface and shine. You are the leader and the way you conduct this kick-off meeting will set the stage for how you conduct future meetings for this project. All eyes are on you (again, no pressure!).
6. Show empathy but still stick to the agenda.
While you want to demonstrate a bit of rigidity in sticking to the agenda, empathy is still important. You do not want to come off as intransigent and unable to budge on any instructional design decision. Take the time beforehand to fully understand the type of content to be delivered in the course, the profile of employees who will be undergoing the training, and the subject matter experts involved.
Remember, your goal is not only to lead but garner trust and buy-in. A true learning leader must be chameleon-like—able to adapt to the project and people involved. We’re all doing more with less these days and a bit of empathy will go a long way in winning people over.
7. End with next steps and due dates.
While these should be decided during the meeting, do some homework and come prepared with possible due dates for tasks for those on the call.
This will avoid any awkward silence or confusion, and even remove some stress. Even if the due date seems unreasonable to the team member, that team member will have a chance to speak up and voice concerns. (Indeed, engagement comes in many shapes and forms.)
Also, be sure to send a meeting recap to all participants, and if the meeting was recorded, send a link to the recording. This can be helpful for those who could not attend as well as for those whom you did not invite but are involved in the project.
Following these 7 tips will ensure that your kick-off meeting runs smoothly and successfully. Do your homework beforehand, keep things tight, and project a strong but empathetic tone. You’ll become a pro at training project kick-off meetings in no time at all.
Managing stakeholders can be one of the most stressful aspects of training project management. So we’ve put all the materials you’ll need together in this handy toolkit:
The Secret Formula for Working with SMEs