Leading a training project can be scary, but I’ve got 10 tips to lead a training project kick off like a boss that can make it less daunting.
When you volunteer to lead or are told to lead a training project, you most likely want the project outcome to be a success. I know I do. Your name is attached to the project, so not only will the project’s success be evaluated, but so will your leadership skills.
If leading a project is new for you, this can be an especially anxious period in your career. You’ve now become the point of contact for upper leadership, subject matter experts, the training team, and all other stakeholders involved in the training project. Serving in this position can get overwhelming pretty quick if you don’t set the tone with a great kick off meeting before the process starts.
The list of tips below is a sure-fire way to lay down a great plan for the successful kick off of your newly assigned training project.
#1 Establish the purpose and objectives of the kick off meeting.
At the point of setting up the kick off meeting, you should have a general idea of why the course is needed, which can be used to sketch out a few high-level learning objectives as well as the purpose and objective of the training project kick off meeting.
You will want to identify what information you need to walk away with once the meeting is over, which means you really need to know what answers and information you will need to gather during the meeting before setting the meeting up.
Here are a handful of things I consider before setting up the kick off meeting:
- What KPI will this training impact?
- What must the learner be able to do after completing the training?
- When does the training need to be delivered?
- Who are the subject matter experts?
- Is there anything specific that must be included?
- Is there a quiz? Passing rate?
You don’t need to have the answers to these questions before the meeting. You just need to let your attendees know what information you will need to collect during the meeting prior to the kick off meeting so that they come prepared with the right type of information.
#2 Select a meeting format that fosters collaboration.
Having everyone in the same room for this kick off meeting would be the best-case scenario, but that isn’t always possible with travel schedules and remote working.
The good news is that video conferences can be just as effective and collaborative. I’ve been in and facilitated hundreds of online meetings that were just as effective as in person, face-to-face meetings.
In fact, I worked remotely for four years and led a team remotely, so I know it’s possible. Some people may say that virtual meetings aren’t as effective, but I would argue that the efficacy of a virtual meeting is dependent on the expectations that are set and how the meeting is facilitated.
For example, I asked every team member to turn on their camera for meetings. Seeing faces and facial expressions can help with communication, understanding, and team building.
Whatever setting you decide to use – live or virtual – just make sure the meeting format is set up to invite collaboration from the other attendees.
To ensure your meeting is set up for success, use the meeting invite to let the attendees know how they are expected to participate and prepare for the meeting.
Things to consider:
- Is the meeting a brainstorming session or a fact-finding session?
- How will you facilitate collaboration during the meeting?
- Who needs to be invited and why?
- How will you involve others in achieving the purpose and objectives of the meeting?
- What questions will need to be asked?
#3 Prepare the meeting agenda.
Once you have the purpose, objectives of the training, and the format of the meeting decided, you can set the meeting agenda.
The meeting agenda should include the purpose and objectives of the meeting, ground rules for the meeting, assigned responsibilities, the questions you want to get answers to, and anything else that needs to be covered during the meeting.
The agenda can be a useful tool to keep conversations on track during the meeting. If it isn’t on the agenda, it shouldn’t be covered during the meeting.
#4 Schedule and invite stakeholders, SMEs, and everyone who will participate in the development of the training.
Don’t invite people to meetings for the sake of inviting people. Only invite people who need to participate in the meeting, unless someone asks to be kept in the loop. I truly hate feeling obligated to attend a meeting that I am not needed for.
Have you ever been in a meeting with 15 people and 3 or 4 of them do all of the talking and decision making while everyone else is on their laptops or cell phones completely disengaged? I know you have, and I would argue that might be a sign that people were invited for the sake of being invited.
When you know who to invite, use your calendaring tool to choose a time that is best for everyone, attach the meeting agenda, include the questions you want to answer during the meeting in the body of the email just in case they don’t open the agenda until moments before the meeting, and include any other additional resources or pre-read material that is important to the project.
There’s no guarantee that everyone will show up prepared, but you will have your bases covered, if you follow these tips. Being overly prepared can help calm your nerves when leading the meeting, too!
#5 Kick off the meeting with meeting goals, objectives, agenda, and ground rules.
At the start of every meeting, it’s important to review the purpose, goals, and objectives of the meeting to ensure everyone is aligned. There will be some people who will show up with their own agenda, so it is important to review your agenda and the ground rules for the meeting at the start of the meeting.
For example, you might state 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 invite them to take that topic off-line for further discussion or come back to it after all agenda items have been covered.
As the leader of the meeting, you have a job to do and information to collect so it is important that you set the tone and objectives for the meeting early on.
#6 Establish the scope of the training.
You will find that without establishing clear parameters (i.e. the scope), there is a tendency to cover everything related to a topic, which can become unwieldily and overwhelming.
Establishing the scope can help keep the conversations on topic, the meeting on track, and keep the focus on what you are trying to accomplish.
So, what does it mean to establish the scope of the meeting? It means that you:
- Get specific in what the course is about
- Define the course outcomes and learning objectives
- Determine what will be included in the training
- Decide whether the course will be digital or live
- Determine the output (PPT, Captivate, Articulate, Video, etc.)
There is much more to address in defining the scope of a training than these points above. Check out the Training Analysis template for Instructional Designers below for more information.
#7 Define what success will look like.
Effective training leaders know evaluation is a huge part of determining the success of a course and defining success upfront can ensure training courses are designed with the end in mind.
Generally, someone above you will be looking at the data to see if training is moving the needle. That means courses need to be defined with targets in mind and those metrics should be established prior to the development of the training.
Why? If metrics are set after the course is developed, the content may or may not be set up to achieve those targets. When the target is established in advance, the instructional designer can write content that enables the learner to perform in a way that helps the company achieve the desired outcomes.
Defining what success looks like upfront will make it easier to track the ROI of the training initiative as well as evaluate whether or not the training achieved what it was designed to achieve.
#8 Keep all conversations focused on goals and objectives of the training.
Squirrel! AKA keep the meeting from going off track. A couple of squirrel conversations is natural. They happen. And sometimes they’re needed to build rapport and relationships. Just keep the overall focus on the training project agenda.
At the start of any project, it’s critical to establish the purpose and objectives of the training to make sure the project is in alignment with organizational goals. All company training programs should cascade up to one of the company’s goals, usually through departmental goals.
If the course doesn’t cascade up, then you need to question what value the training will bring to the company.
Ensuring there is alignment between the purpose and objectives of the course and the company’s goals, ensures that everyone in the company is ultimately working towards the same goals.
Putting organizational alignment aside, the course purpose and objectives also serve as guide posts throughout the training and in every SME and stakeholder discussion, including the kick off meeting.
All content should connect to one or more of the objectives. If you or the SME can’t connect the content to an objective, then the content may not be “need to know” information that should be included in the course.
Having the objectives and purpose in place can be a powerful tool in guiding content discussions. As requests come in to add specific pieces of information to the course, you can ask how the content relates to the objectives. If no one can make a strong link to an objective, the content is out.
#9 Agree on all due dates.
You never want to end a project kick off meeting feeling like you don’t know what’s next. Always be clear and restate any established due dates so everyone is aligned with the same expectations.
If you aren’t ready to commit to a delivery due date for the final project, you can offer a due date for when you will provide the project timeline instead.
If you are working in a true Agile environment, you won’t have due dates, but you might be able to share which sprint you might be able to start work in.
In my experience, training project management is typically a hybrid of Waterfall and Agile (a.k.a. W-Agile). Meaning, we get a due date and then plan the sprints that lead up to that due date.
Of course, if you are handed a due date which is unrealistic, you need to address that as soon as possible! Avoid over committing to unrealistic deadlines.
#10 End with a recap and go over next steps.
Sum up what was discussed during the meeting, including the established due dates, who is responsible for what, and next steps.
After the meeting, send out a meeting recap with this same information to limit confusion.
Utilizing these 10 tips can help you kick off any training project like a boss and lay the groundwork for a successful implementation of the training.
My Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.