Siirry sisältöön
A successful and smooth kick-off event for an international project

Arranging a kick-off event for a project is always its own kind of marathon. By predicting the different practical issues and paying attention to the participants’ varying cultural backgrounds,
unnecessary hassle can be avoided.


Nora Lappalainen

project manager
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Hannes Särkkä

projektikoordinaattori, suomen kielen asiantuntija
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 24.06.2024

Organizing a kick-off event requires a lot of work – but it’s also a significant point for the project. The shared event that starts the project creates the base for the whole project and defines the atmosphere and direction of the project. At its best, a kick-off event helps build trust between the project partners, enabling efficient work throughout the whole project.

In the kick-off it is possible to brighten the shared goals and actions of the project team. Especially in a project where the partners are from different cultural backgrounds, this phase of bridge-building benefits from careful planning.

Successful communication

Behind any smooth action there is successful communication, and arranging a kick-off event is no exception. One of the most common reasons for canceling participation for events is that the organizer hasn’t been able to hold the participants’ interest. An intriguing event programme and active, informative enough communications can increase interest in the event.

In addition to information about the event itself, it is useful to offer information about transportation and other practicalities, especially to those arriving from further away.

Controlling the number of participants and the budget

It’s crucial to predict the number of participants in advance, and to confirm binding sign-ups. This enables preparing food, participant lists and possible gifts for participants. Binding sign-ups should be required early enough as the number of participants naturally affects the costs.

During economically challenging times it might feel discouraging, if the budget won’t allow anything extra, like raising a toast for the project. However, pragmatic event organizers find their ways. When deciding how to spend the limited budget, it is good to pay attention to two things: what is so pricy, that it is worth skipping, and what brings so much smoothness to the practical organizing, that it is wort spending on.

Designing the programme

The kick-off programme is often very tight. The implementation should be well thought of. Which are the things that are crucial to have time for? Is there anything that may be handled beforehand or after the event? Participants can be part of producing the content. Staying within the given time limits can be assured by giving a ready-made base for the presentations.

It’s important to notice the points in the program, where flexibility is needed. In different cultures, the perception of time varies. As Finns, we are used to plan tight schedules, which might not leave enough time for transitions, small talk and getting to know one another. Workshops can be arranged as parallels in small groups, and possible transitions could be used for getting to know each other and orientation.

In addition to official content, a good kick-off event includes also something experiential. In our ENRICHER hubs project, the participants got to visit Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, where they got to know some sustainable tourism first-hand. The field trip was scheduled for the second of three days: after some time outdoors, everyone had new energy for workshops on the third day. Shared experiences are elemental for team spirit and how the team functions together. When the group creates memories together it creates trust, that at its best carries the whole project.

Sustainability at the basis of everything

The patners should be involved in the sustainable choices of the event, and aware of the sustainability timeline of the event. The organizer should mind how to share the well-functioning choices for future events. A feedback survey has a significant role in ensuring project quality and designing future kick-offs.

In a hybrid event, customers can be offered a chance to change their participation type (IRL/remote) up to a week before the event. This can help in ensuring the right amount of food served and in avoiding food waste. Participants can be asked in advance, not only about their diet, but also about their willingness to have meals during the event. Organizers should prefer local and plant-based food and think in advance about what to do with the leftover food.

In the ENRICHER hubs project, nine different partners’ live encounter in Helsinki was substantial in increasing understanding between different cultures. Since then, online meetings have been smoother, as we know each other and know how to better acknowledge cultural differences in ways of working.

Acknowledging one another and creating positive atmosphere within a multicultural project team is part of social sustainability. We believe this has a key role in promoting commitment and cooperation among project partners, each participant taking responsibility for their own role.

The ENRICHER hubs project team consists of nine universities from five different countries: Finland, Austria, Italy, Moldova and Georgia. The 3-year Erasmus+ (Capacity Building in Higher Education) project, coordinated by Haaga-Helia, aims to promote sustainable tourism in the target countries Moldova and Georgia by utilizing service design tools. The kick-off event in February 2024 had altogether 25 participants.

Picture: Shutterstock