Leading up to every new year there is a sense of a fresh start and optimism. It is a great time to take advantage of this positive feeling most of us have by holding an annual IT kickoff meeting.\nAn annual kickoff meeting offers many advantages that can help jump start your year on a positive note. Here are some of my favorites:\n\nRally the troops\nBuild teamwork\nShare past year accomplishments\nReinforce IT mission and the importance of IT\nFocus on new year objectives\nEducate\nSpending quality time with the staff\nHaving some fun\nShow employees you appreciate them\nRecognition time\n\nFor a group of 20 or more I like to do an all-day event. This gives us time to cover many topics, include a few guest speakers, and make it a memorable event. I also try to conduct it away from the office; offsite allows participants to focus more and deal with minimal distraction.\nHow do you make a kickoff meeting motivating?\nGreat question. Your meeting won't motivate simply because you want it to. You have to do some things that motivates an IT employee. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:\n\nMake it informative\nProvide value (training of some type can help with this)\nMake it memorable\nGet participants involved\nABOVE ALL \u2014 Make it fun\n\nAll of these help motivate an employee, but there are a couple that stand out \u2014 making the meeting memorable and having some fun.\nYou need a theme\nCreate a special theme for your kickoff meeting, something that each segment of your event and all speakers can tie into. This way, each speaker, all presentations and activities are reinforcing your theme. At the end of the day, everyone should leave the meeting understanding exactly what the theme of the day is all about and how it relates to their role in the IT organization.\nA theme makes your meeting memorable.\nHave some fun\nSomething else that makes a meeting memorable is to include some "creative fun." There is no limit to the options you have here \u2014 from skits to motivational speakers to slide shows with highly upbeat "rah rah" music.\nOne of the things I like to do to start my annual IT kickoff meeting is to turn down the lights and open the show with a creative slide show with some bold and very energetic background music like the "Theme from Rocky." The slides are photos of our employees, managers and clients doing their work, attending meetings, and participating in company functions.\nPeople like to see themselves on the big screen.\nYou might even think about having someone take photos during the meeting and show a slideshow at the end of the day that summarizes the event. With today's technology, it only takes a few minutes to put one of these together after you capture the photos.\nThe rah rah music, slide shows and other things you do during the day will make your event memorable.\nKickoff meetings can be high quality time with your team. One of the opportunities you have here is to coach and reinforce improvements needed to succeed as an IT organization. It's also an opportunity to reinforce teamwork and client service.\nI love kickoff meetings because they give our management team a tool to jump start the new year and to motivate our employees. Both are worthwhile and something you want to take advantage of.