How to Run a Successful Client Meeting Kickoff Call
July 22, 2022
They say you only get one chance at a first impression — but when you're working with clients, I would argue that you get two. The first is during the sales process, when you initially connect with your future clients. The second "first impression" comes after the contract is signed, when it's time to get to work. This usually happens in the form of a client kickoff meeting.
In this guide for consultants, agencies, and client-facing teams, we will answer the question "How do you run a client kickoff call or meeting?"Keep reading for practical tips and templates to help you plan, facilitate, and following up after a project kickoff.
What is a client kickoff meeting?
A client kickoff meeting is held at the beginning of a new client relationship in order to set the stage for a project or initiative. Similarly, when embarking on a new project with an existing client, a project kickoff meeting is an opportunity to press pause and reset expectations.
Client kickoff meetings are an opportunity to put your best foot forward and set the tone for future collaboration. They serve a lot of different purposes and allow consultants and client-facing teams to:
Introduce your team to the client’s team 🤝
Explain your approach and how you work 📒
Build confidence in your team’s expertise 🧠
Set expectations for collaboration 👥
Open channels of communication 💬
Answer any initial questions ❓
Sometimes, however, teams find themselves simply going through the motions during these meetings. As a result, the sessions aren't as engaging and effective as they could be. Not to mention the new challenge of remote and hybrid work, which can make these meetings even more complex. Whether you’re traveling to meet with your clients in person, or you’re planning a remote kickoff call, the steps for a facilitating a successful session remain the same.
How to plan your kickoff meeting
Chances are, you already have a standard agenda that you use for all new client meetings. But when was the last time you reviewed it and identified opportunities for improvement?
Let’s consider different aspects of your client kickoff meetings that you can optimize.
Are the right people in the room (or on the call)? Make sure you’re inviting relevant stakeholders from both your organization and the client’s. Typically, this will include senior leaders from the client side and managers whose teams will be involved in the relationship.
You should also ensure that attendees from your organization have clear roles and responsibilities during the meeting. Who will be presenting content, taking notes, answering questions, and so on?
The purpose of an agenda is to set clear expectations for your meeting. You know what the call is for, but you need to make sure your clients do as well. If they know why it’s important for them to attend, they’re more likely to show up on time, excited, and ready to participate.
Always send an agenda in advance. The agenda should include the purpose of the meeting, the scope of what you'll cover, a timeline for the session, and links to any supporting resources that your clients may need.
Are you encouraging participation from attendees, or does your meeting resemble a one-way presentation? It’s common for consultants to walk through slide decks during their client kickoff meetings, but this is more out of habit than necessity.
In the remote-first era, it’s become abundantly clear that unengaging meetings are costing businesses money — and a boring kickoff call is not a great first impression. Look for opportunities to make your sessions more interactive.
One way to do this is with icebreakers and warmups. Some people groan when they hear the word icebreaker, but it doesn’t need to be that way! When done right, icebreakers and warmup activities are an excellent way to get people engaged in a meeting right off the bat. Learn more in our guide to icebreakers here.
Technology and tools
Even if you believe that everyone will be attending in person, it's a best practice to plan for distributed and remote attendees. You never know if someone will be unable to join you live, so it's best to be prepared. Even if just one person is working remotely, have everyone call into the meeting on their own devices in order to level the playing field.
Make sure you're using technology that works with you, not against you. If possible, use the video call software that your client prefers — this will minimize any technical difficulties on your kickoff call.
💡 Resource: Project Kickoff Meeting Template While client kickoff calls are a good way to hit the ground running with a new client, project kickoffs take it a step further and get into the details of your work together. Use this template to create a clear understanding of deliverables, responsibilities, and timeline for all collaborators.
Get the Client Collaboration Cheat Sheet
Today more than ever, clients have sky-high expectations of consultants and vendors. They demand highly personalized engagements that drive value quickly. They want to contribute and collaborate, but keeping everyone engaged and aligned is a challenge.
Use this cheat sheet to make your client collaboration more engaging and productive — from your kickoff call to your ongoing meetings and beyond. Download the guide now.
About the author
About the authors
Shauna Ward is a content marketing manager at MURAL. As a former remote work skeptic, she enjoys creating resources that help distributed teams make collaboration fun, easy, and effective.