Kickoff Meeting Management

Kickoff meetings are a team’s introduction to a proposal effort. A successful kickoff sets the stage for a successful proposal response.


A kickoff meeting is an early, major milestone in a proposal response. It is included in the proposal management plan and should take place after RFP release. Kickoff meetings should always be held, whether they last a few minutes between two people, several hours, or even a day.

They can range from large, face-to-face team gatherings to smaller, structured teleconference calls. Regardless, the meetings should be carefully planned and executed. The Bid or Proposal Manager generally leads the kickoff meeting, supported by the Opportunity/Capture Manager. Kickoff meetings set the tone for the rest of a proposal effort. Good kickoff meetings inspire teams; poor ones demoralize them.

Best Practices

1. Understand when and why to conduct kickoff meetings.

Kickoff meetings are not executed immediately upon RFP receipt. Resist the urge to have a kickoff meeting as soon as you receive the bid request. Premature kickoff meetings offer the illusion of progress and often lead to more rework and a less competitive proposal.

Instead, schedule kickoff meetings about 15 percent into the response timeframe (download sample schedules for 10-, 30-, and 60-day efforts). This allows for support materials to be developed. Preparation time will depend on draft bid request availability, your organization’s willingness to commit to opportunity planning and core team planning, and the completeness of your proposal management plan.

Kickoff meetings are fundamental to a controlled and successful proposal. Following release of the RFP, plan the meeting using available customer material, the bid plan, the proposal management plan (including roles and responsibilities), and defined expectations. The salesperson should explain customer hot buttons, sales strategy, and win themes. At this meeting, distribute a draft executive summary.

Kickoff meetings should be motivational, informative, and directive. They have the following objectives:

  • Deliver the program overview to the team
  • Deliver the draft executive summary to the team
  • Answer questions about the opportunity
  • Initiate contributors’ proposal efforts
  • Distribute content planning worksheets to authors
  • Describe the logistics of gathering responses and graphics
  • Coordinate upcoming activities
  • Create a cohesive team

A sample checklist can be used to plan a successful kickoff meeting. Figure 1 shows the main goals of a successful kickoff meeting.

Figure 1. The Goals of a Successful Kickoff Meeting.

Figure 1. The Goals of a Successful Kickoff Meeting. A successful kickoff meeting will set the stage for a productive response, as it aligns all core people with critical activities.

2. Develop necessary materials prior to a kickoff meeting.

Some critical documents must be in place in advance of a kickoff meeting:

  • Overall response bid schedule so resource requirements and activities may be agreed upon
  • Requirements checklist to ensure the whole team understands which requirements they must respond to
  • Proposal outline to demonstrate the flow of the respond document required by the customer
  • Draft executive summary to provide the overall key selling messages about why the customer should choose your organization

Executive summaries are customer-focused documents that describe the customer’s issues or hot buttons linked to the solution. Therefore, they must be available so the authors understand what to write to. In addition, the executive summary will set the tone by modeling good themes, graphics, action captions, and format.

Content plans or proposal development worksheets should also be distributed to each author with all key sections prepopulated, such as draft theme statements and value propositions, and notes on where evidence identified during proposal strategy development should appear in the proposal.

The following table lists other materials that should be included in a kickoff meeting.

Proposal Project Summary Information about the opportunity, contract type, value, official name, relevant dates, key contacts, scope, primary deliverables; all or relevant portions of the bid request
Customer Profile Customer needs, issues, hot buttons, evaluation process, and perception of your organization
Proposal Strategy Overall strategies, themes, and discriminators, including key messages and how they should be implemented in the proposal
Proposal Operations Establishes approach, formats, protocol, resources, and approaches to review
Proposal Schedule Sets dates for key milestones
Proposal Outline Defines section numbers, headings, page allocations, responsible persons, and incremental task deadlines
Writers’ Packages First page of the proposal development worksheet or content plan, which includes the writer assigned, page limits or guidelines, information from the proposal outline relevant to each writer, along with the compliance checklist items assigned to that section
Bid Request Relevant parts or pointers to an electronic source
Draft Executive Summary Summary of the customer’s needs, the proposed solution, and win strategy; models good themes, graphics, action captions, and format
Competitive Analysis Competitor profiles, integrated customer solution worksheet, bidder comparison matrix
Roles and Responsibilities Team member information, including location, contact information, role, expertise, cost center, and hours authorized
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)/WBS Dictionary Breaks the proposal work into tasks, defining the hardware and data that will be delivered and services that will be performed

3. Include all team members.

The kickoff meeting is when lines of authority are established and roles and responsibilities are defined and shared. For this reason, it is crucial that all contributors to a proposal effort attend the kickoff.

This includes the champion C-level executive who will drive the response and all the subcontractors and teammates (excluding those who have not yet signed a teaming agreement). Even remote participants should attend this initial effort to be there, meet the team members, and get a clear understanding of responsibilities and timeframes.

Create a list of attendees and send out invites. Allow travel time as necessary.

4. Stick to a schedule.

Keep your kickoff meeting short, informative, and professional. Focus on being instructive over being inspirational. Excuse people early who do not need to hear sensitive information or details about the solution, individual assignments, or daily team management.

If participants will be attending the meeting by phone, publish the meeting notice, including the time, location, and purpose of the meeting, as far in advance as possible. If possible, hold the kickoff meeting in the war room or another dedicated room for proposal-related meetings. Because war rooms are secure, content plans and other supporting documents can be posted on the wall for team members to review and refer to throughout the project.

Allow about 4 hours for the meeting (although you may not need that much time). Structure the meeting in two parts: an overview of the effort and the logistics of the response. Slides are commonly used to present kickoff information. Email the presentation to remote participants so they can follow along in case of any IT issues.

The first part of the kickoff meeting is an overview of the program. The first presenter should be a corporate-level sponsor who delivers the corporate support presentation. It is crucial that all team members know they have support at this level. Following this presentation, the Opportunity/Capture Manager walks the team through the various parts of the response, including the technical solution(s), the management approach, cost-volume considerations, past performances, teaming, and partnerships.

The Bid or Proposal Manager delivers the second half of the kickoff meeting. This covers the logistics of the response. The Bid or Proposal Manager presents the schedule for all team members to agree upon, and then delivers the response outline and compliance matrix. He or she presents content plans, which should be ready to hand off to the authors. The Bid or Proposal Manager also discusses IT parameters, including the server ID and remote access.

Participants should walk away from this meeting with a complete understanding of the timeframe and how this response will be completed. A sample kickoff meeting agenda with roles and responsibilities is shown below.

5 Bid or Proposal Manager Welcome everyone and introduce participants
5 Senior Manager Deliver motivational remarks and indicate organizational commitment
10 Sales, Opportunity/Capture Manager or Marketing Lead Give background on the customer and the opportunity
45 Bid or Proposal Manager Distribute and discuss the proposal management plan, including outline, executive summary, WBS, writers’ packages, and content plans (when used)
10 Break
5 Technical Volume Manager Outline technical approach
5 Management Volume Manager Outline management approach
5 Cost Volume Manager Outline costing approach
15 Bid or Proposal Manager Discuss daily proposal operations and schedule
15 Bid or Proposal Manager Answer contributors’ questions and dismiss meeting

5. Adjust operating procedures for virtual kickoff meetings.

Face-to-face kickoff meetings are not always a viable option. However, a well-planned and executed virtual kickoff can be done by adjusting the procedures and taking extra care in confirming communications. Many of these tactics apply both to face-to-face and virtual kickoffs but are especially important in virtual environments:

  • Pay additional attention to planning the kickoff call. Get the core team (Bid and/or Proposal Manager, Opportunity/Capture Manager, Solution Lead) involved ahead of time in making critical decisions. Focus on providing instructions rather than making decisions.
  • Distribute the schedule and kickoff packages before the call so participants can prepare and have questions ready
  • Confirm understanding and commitment with the team after each agenda item. Be sure every participant understands his or her role and tasks.
  • Check progress more frequently than you would with a co-located team. You need to replace your physical presence with both individual and group support. Use emails, calls, and quick check-ins. Your collaboration system can give you alerts but will not provide the coaching and hands-on support needed to keep morale high and fix issues.

Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

Confusing the kickoff meeting with the initial planning meeting

The kickoff meeting should not be confused with the initial planning meeting. An initial planning meeting should be an internal meeting with core team members immediately after the RFP is released. The outcomes and directions of this initial planning meeting are the inputs to the kickoff meeting.

Not allowing sufficient time to plan a kickoff

Considerable time needs to be spent preparing for the kickoff. Having a kickoff meeting as quickly as possible after the release of the catalyst documents can set the team up for failure if key information and guidance is missing. Take the time to prepare and plan. Ensure that all fundamental documents are in place prior to the kickoff meeting.


  • A successful kickoff meeting is the cornerstone for a successful proposal response.
  • Kickoff meetings are a team’s introduction to a project. They provide team members an overview of the solution(s), strategies to accomplish the mission, and an infrastructure for efficiency in sharing content.
  • All proposal contributors, including a C-level sponsor, should attend kickoff meetings.
  • During the kickoff meeting, several key documents should be shared and presented, allowing all members to start from the same page.

Terms to Know