Awesome Kick-Off
February 24, 2012 5:07 AM   Subscribe

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!
posted by kaizen to Work & Money (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Prezi. The only risk is people focusing on the presentation itself instead of what it's about.
posted by signal at 5:13 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Work backward from your goal. If the purpose is to tell what the stakeholders will be getting for their investment, hand each of them a mock-stock portfolio with a representation of their "shares" and a breakdown handout of what value those shares represent after X milestone, X months/days/years from today.

"Five years and three months from now, your investment will represent 2,500 shares of stock in this company. The projected value of each of those shares will be $565.00. This is how we'll get there..."

Now the meeting is all about them (well, their money), not the presentation. Go nuts. It can be as fantasy/fantastic as you are able to put out there.

Tell them how you're going to get them there. Focus on milestones in development, vetting, Beta, and implementation. Show how good you are at shepherding all of the various elements into a comprehensive team focused on accomplishing those milestones. Identify a potential problem area, and what you would do to get around it. Make them understand that they need never worry about their investment because you are there to worry for them.

Have a friend videotape you rehearsing your presentation and weed out the stuff that isn't electrifying.

Too many fantastic presentations end with questions, and the first question is, "Well that's lovely young man/lady, but what's in it for me?" Answer well before they ask. Drive it home and make it all about them. You have about eight minutes, tops, before presentation coma sets in. Good Luck!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure at some point at the beginning you individually ask each of them why they are personally interested in the project. As you come to the end of the meeting and have outlined what the project will involve ask everyone to personally promise the success of the project, and to helping each other succeed if an element looks in trouble. Along the way check-in on their agreement with the steps involved so that everyone will be ready to make that commitment.
posted by meinvt at 6:02 AM on February 24, 2012

Look at Jobs' product launches. Don't be afraid to steal stuff.
Pick 1 killer idea, concept, etc. It has to be original and it has to be good. Focus on that.
Create your complete presentation, then go back the next day and eliminate half of the slides.
Respect your audience's intelligence, don't belabor the obvious, don't use 5 words when 1 will do. Don't be afraid to lecture them on the one topic that you're an expert on.
posted by signal at 6:16 AM on February 24, 2012

Ask questions, and listen. It's not a sales meeting, you would do well to approach it like one -- remembering that you're really selling yourself via this roleplay.

People are convinced when you address their needs (in this case, the need to see that you can coherently pull together a kickoff, and probably handle some "curveball questions" or difficult BS situation that someone will be prepared to throw at you). But, more significantly, they're impressed if you can speak to their wants -- that is, if you can figure out what these interviewers want to see, you can tailor your presentation such that you're meeting their idea of an exceptionally good project manager and colleague.

Unlike a real project with a significant discovery process up front, during which you can identify those wants, you're going to have to do it on the fly. Pay attention. If you have 30 slides prepared and they really want you to be conversational, ditch the slides for the whiteboard, lay out the schedule, and be freakin' conversational. If they're random and unfocused, and you pick up that they're testing your organizational ability, emphasize organization, schedules, and milestones. So on and so forth.
posted by ellF at 6:25 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't see a lot of presentations, but from the few that I have, the best ones tell a story where all the parts tie together. Not a disjointed series of facts. One guy who was a real master of this was Douglas Adams. I saw him give a presentation on his book Last Chance to See, and the way he tied together what up to the end had seemed like a disparate series of anecdotes was just astonishing. This may have worked better for him, because he had a rapt audience, whereas you'll have an audience that will be critical and/or bored.

Steve Jobs was mentioned upthread, and his unveiling of the iPhone clearly follows the approach of building and developing a story.

Another guy with a distinctive and effective presentation style is Lawrence Lessig.

Also: speaking fluently is hard. Really hard. If you tape yourself, you'll be appalled at how much you say "ah, um." Getting over that is huge.
posted by adamrice at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2012

Kickoffs are about winning over each person in the room by listening to them and making them feel heard. It's much less about the gimmicks and flashy presentation, and much more about building trust. I'd be sure to really take the time to understand each stakeholder's motivation, and make sure you communicate back to them that you understand that motivation, and that you look forward to the project satisfying their specific needs. All of the above information regarding presentations is useful, but a kickoff is a very specific kind of presentation - you're collaborating with a team, not presenting to an audience.
posted by judith at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

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