Town halls. All-hands meetings. Whatever you call them, getting everybody in your organization together at the same time is a great way to inform them of your company’s latest developments, big wins, missed opportunities, and other big-picture updates.
It can also help strengthen your company culture, especially among distributed teams that may not have many opportunities to connect in person.
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But nowadays, getting all of your staff together in one physical space is nearly impossible, which is why more companies are embracing the concept of the virtual town hall meeting. With a virtual town hall, your employees get many of the benefits of an in-person event with the added bonus of being able to attend from anywhere in the world.
Of course, translating a physical meeting into a virtual event can be a little challenging. For instance, many people tend to zone out in big meetings. If you’re organizing a town hall—or perhaps even presenting in it—you might be wondering how you can make it more engaging for your employees.
That’s why we’ve compiled the following list of tips to help you make your next virtual town hall a memorable experience that your employees will love.
1. Start with an icebreaker to grab attention
When you’re hosting a virtual town hall, you want to make sure your employees aren’t just present but actively engaged and connected with your message. To grab their attention right away, start your town hall with a short icebreaker activity.
For example, you could ask a fun question like “What destination is your next vacation?” or a more work-related question like “What’s something this week that you feel proud of?” and have all participants answer in the chat.
Or introduce new hires to everyone in the company. Icebreakers like these get everybody to loosen up while also helping your employees bond with their colleagues.
2. Celebrate company wins to boost morale
Everybody wants to feel appreciated for the work they do. In fact, according to a recent Gallup workplace survey, most workers prefer public praise or recognition over a raise.
Fortunately, a town hall is a perfect opportunity to show your employees how much you value them. Acknowledging your employees’ best work in front of the entire company can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated and secure in their role with your organization.
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You could talk about employee achievements, career milestones, and company-wide wins. You could even incorporate a short awards ceremony into your next town hall to shine a spotlight on your top performers.
How you celebrate your team is completely up to you. However, we do recommend you spread out your employee recognitions throughout the meeting to keep your employees engaged from start to finish.
3. Make it super simple for employees to join the video meeting
A town hall meeting can eat up a large chunk of the workday, so you want to ensure it runs as efficiently as possible.
For example, don’t waste your employees’ already limited time by making them set up meeting apps, input login details, and wait for the virtual town hall to fill. Before you know it, the meeting ends up exceeding its intended duration and most of the participants have zoned out.
Instead, use a video meeting solution that’s quick and seamless to join. Ideally, you want to pick a platform that doesn’t require any downloads or set up to start. All your employees should have to do is click a meeting invitation link to join the conversation. Not only does this eliminate the barrier of a tedious meeting joining process but also ensures that participants join on time and the meeting starts according to plan.
4. Give department leaders a chance to speak
While it can be helpful to have your CEO kick-off the meeting and deliver key updates, having one person speak for the entire town hall is an easy way to make employees lose interest. Employees want to feel included in the meeting, and having their leaders represent them is a great way to accomplish that.
Shake things up (and also make sure that all your departments feel valued and included) by inviting people from different teams to get involved in planning and delivering your town hall. A few days before the meeting, ask leaders if they have announcements and let them present when the time comes. You might also want to consider having a facilitator. This person can greet employees as they join the call, keep an eye on the agenda, and help serve as a liaison between the speakers and attendees.
5. Incorporate breaks to reduce meeting fatigue
According to research compiled by Atlassian, 39% of workers have reportedly fallen asleep during meetings. If you don’t want your team catching some Zs during your next virtual town hall, make sure to give them plenty of breaks so they can refocus. Enforce a five-minute break for every 30 minutes so participants can go to the bathroom, drink water, stretch their legs, and come back refreshed for the next segment.
6. Use Q&A to give employees a chance to engage
Town hall meetings are a two-way street. After you share your business updates and upcoming goals, give your employees the opportunity to ask questions and connect directly with your leadership team.
Be sure to factor in some Q&A time after each speaker into your virtual team hall agenda. Also, not everybody is a fast typer or comfortable speaking up in front of their whole company, so consider giving your employees multiple options for submitting questions. For example, you could allow people to share their thoughts via video, audio, or chat. You might also want to give your employees the chance to submit questions after the town hall about any topics that came up.
The key to virtual town hall meeting success
There’s more to a virtual town hall meeting than simply sharing business and people updates. Your all-company meetings can play an integral part in building your company’s culture. You can use them to get your team aligned around company goals, celebrate their wins, and openly communicate with the entire organization at once. While it might be a little tricky to get everyone online at once, focusing on engaging your employees from start to finish will help make sure your next virtual town hall is as exciting as it is informative.
Virtual town halls should be free of obstacles and effortless for employees to join. Ideally, employees only need to click a button to join the conversation, and that starts with having video conferencing technology that’s agile and reliable.
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Originally published Apr 21, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023