Leading My First Project Kickoff

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Learning about Project Kickoffs

I did my own research into project kickoffs, but nothing tops speaking to a real researcher and learning from them. I scheduled a meeting with a Senior User Researcher on the Product Design team. He explained what usually happens during a kickoff, who should be involved, and why they’re important.

  • What do we think we know?
  • What do we want to know?
  • What will this help drive?

The Kickoff

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Learnings and Challenges

I wasn’t planning to document my experience. Then I started reflecting on the experience and realized that telling my story was a great way to showcase my learnings. Writing about my experience allowed me to think about what I’ve learned and how I can apply those skills in future projects.

Setting Goals and Objectives

I cannot stress how important it is to have clear objectives. If someone in the meeting asks you, “What do you want to get out of this meeting today?” You need to be able to answer that question clearly, otherwise you risk wasting everyone’s time. And we don’t want to do that. 🙅🏻‍♀️

You need to know why you’re doing something. Don’t do a kickoff just because you’re supposed to, or conduct interviews just because it’s the next step in the process. It’s important to be able to justify why you’re spending time and resources on something.

I now understand what senior designers were talking about when they mention how newer designers tend to just show off a checklist in their case studies. The last thing you want is to spend all that time on something only to have results that are irrelevant to what you are working on.

Providing Clear Context

I learned that setting the stage for the meeting was very important. You want your stakeholders to understand clearly why they are there, what to expect, and what your goals are.

Asking the Right Questions

I found that it was important to think about the right questions that you want answered for your project, as well as providing questions for your stakeholders to think about prior to the kickoff so that they can come prepared. These will also help you in the long run when preparing your research plan.

Knowing Who to Involve

Involving the right people in your project will give you valuable insight. They will provide you key questions to be answered, assumptions, and hypotheses that will guide you when planning the rest of your research.

How to Lead a Meeting / Public Speaking

It was very strange rewatching the meeting recording and seeing how awkward I was at some points. I made too many gestures and rephrased the same thoughts in three different ways which made me seem unprepared.

What’s Next?

After the kickoff, I had a followup meeting with the same participants. We grouped common ideas together to form common themes, assumptions, and questions.



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