As part of my interview process, I have been asked to kick-off a project to a pretend client. This is for an interactive agency in LA. There will be 5 people acting as stakeholders. I really want this job and want to leave an awesome impression. What things can I do to set myself apart? What are your tips for awesome kick-off meetings? I need to demonstrate my skills as a meeting facilitator and project manager. I am looking for anything that will set me apart including handing out candy / fruit, using an awesome slide deck, or simply facilitating a awesome kick-off. Have you seen anyone do something awesome in a meeting that wasn't borderline cheesy? I need to demonstrate imagination but also an ability to drive and get things done. Links or videos appreciated as well. Help me get this job!
Avoid any risk of looking cheesy, at all costs. Avoid gimmicks and cheap tricks. That's not how you will run the project - I hope!
Enough of the things to avoid.
I suggest that you should:
- Understand who each of your stakeholders is, what each role is, and work out (if you don't already know) what they are likely to want. The financial guy will want to know how you plan to manage costs. The auditor will be interested in risks, so make sure you address that area, and so on. If the creative people will be there too, then you need to find a way of demonstrating what you can do, but don't be controversial just for the sake of it. They are business people, and you need to remember that.
- Get your team involved, and ensure that each plays to his or her strengths. If someone is a great technician but a poor communicator, try to find a way that that person can demonstrate how he or she would deal with a particular problem.
- Look out for buying signs and capitalise on them - in other words, if someone is showing an interest in something that isn't on your agenda, take a few moments to ask about it, and ask whether your approach makes your proposition a winner.
- Look out for switch-off signs: if someone looks bored and starts to lose focus - move on. Don't keep explaining deep dark technical details if the client is yawning and checking his watch.
In other words, stay alert, be aware of your client, plan your presentation from the client's perspective (ie focus on the client's needs). Make it memorable for what you will bring to the project, and stay professional.
In my experience a kick-off meeting takes place when the project preparation has been completed and the actual execution of the project is about to start. In broad terms I would suggest to go through the following with the participants (not a complete list, not in order):
- Project plan is in place and understood by all participants, in particular with a joint understanding of what the project's main objective is
- All participants understand their role in the project including responsibilities and authority
- All participants understand what they need to deliver and by when
- All risks are identified and mitigation plans are in place
- All required resource and have been secured for the project (what and when)
- All dependencies between different project parts are identified and taken care of
- Project governance has been defined and is understood by all participants including but not limited to
- Reporting, when, what, etc.
- Meetings, e.g. of project teams
There are a lot of other factors that may be relevant to a concrete project. For example an offshore drilling project is different from introducing a new accounting software. Additional factors may come in when a project team is located across multiple sites, multiple time zones. The customer type may play a role. The US department of defense is a different type of customer than an online consumer in South America.
I'm sure I have missed quite a few elements. However, maybe the above list gives you a few ideas for how to prepare for your interview. And of course you can have the kick-off off-site and package it into a party for all participants. Even better: Make sure there is also an awesome get-away after successful completion! How about a Pacific Islands? All the best for your interview!
You say you really want this job.
But why do you want this job ?
Are you convinced you are the right one for this job ?
If so, rely on your own experience. You should then know how to handle a project kick-off. And remember behind this "kick-off", the real thing is to sell you. That is what people will want to know.
If you are not fully convinced, you can still try : be honest, show you skills; the company might not find better than you.
The golden rule is that you have to do your homeworks first:
1- Read about the compagny.
2- Go on their web site.
3- Know who work there: who is responsable of what.
4- Find an organigram to know how the compagny is structured.
5- Financial informations in financial reports.
So if you know what you are talking about, they will be impressed and you will give some great answers. But you are talking about a simulation: to act as if you meet some clients (stakeholders) to kick off a project. Before beginning, set some rules with the people you are with: what role will they play exactly in your simulation, how long it will last, prepare some documents to give them; then play the game and your role in it. If you are well prepared, 75% of the job is already done before your simulation begins.