Meeting a new client in person for the first time always makes me a bit anxious. While I am confident in my preparation, I cannot seem to ignore the thousands of thoughts of how things could go wrong racing through my head.
More often than not, everything turns out as planned, and I can once again breathe (insert deep sigh of relief here).
Two weeks ago I returned from what I considered to be one of the most productive new client kick-off meetings I've had yet. If you find yourself wondering what made this meeting rank No. 1 on my list, I encourage you to read on and see how you can apply these findings to your own client kick-off preparations.
As with all new clients, we sent over our standard questionnaire and agenda one week before the meeting. What we did differently this time was reviewed the agenda with our main point of contact. We explained the goals of each session and then collaboratively decided which members of the client's team should be part of each discussion based on their involvement with the project. This information not only helped us prepare specific questions for each person, but also helped us better plan our internal team resources.
Lesson Learned: Collaboratively decide which key players from both teams will be present for each planned discussion ahead of time.
Throughout the two-day meeting, we met and interviewed team members at all levels, from the CEO to front-line customer support. The insight gained from speaking with such a wide variety of individual roles was priceless. Typically, clients reserve these planning/strategy meetings for the leadership team. But having team members from all levels participate increased buy-in and ownership of the project's success.
Additionally rather than meeting as one large group, we separated into smaller groups for the most efficient use of time: Our Directory of Technology met with members of their IT team while our Brand Journalist interviewed internal thought leaders.
Our last item on the agenda was to collaboratively develop a high-level action plan and KPIs. During this session, we discussed approval processes and set realistic goals for achieving key milestones, which will help all members of the team as we begin producing deliverables.
Lesson Learned: Planning/strategy sessions are more effective when team members from multiple levels are involved, as it helps gain buy-in across the organization.
Upon returning to the office, our team regrouped and shared what we had learned from each meeting. We then developed a summary report of our findings and a detailed action plan taking into account the approval processes discussed during our session with the client. Both documents were reviewed with the client during our next conference call and the action plan was approved.
Lesson Learned: Regroup with your internal team as soon as possible to compare notes and develop a detailed action plan.
So now that I've shared some of my kick off meeting secrets with you, do you have any you would like to share? If so, please post them to the comments section.