Town hall meetings, and other company-wide all-hands discussions, are great for getting everyone in your organization together at the same time to share important business updates, strategy decisions, big customer wins and progress toward company-wide goals. But with more employees working remotely than ever before, it may be impossible to get all your staff together in the same physical place. Thankfully, video conferencing makes it relatively easy to host and run virtual town hall meetings. Employees get many of the same benefits of an in-person event, like the face-to-face interaction, with the bonus of being able to attend the town hall from anywhere in the world. Additionally, virtual town halls give you the ability to easily share content, interact with the audience in new ways and record the discussion for playback later.
Until the reopening of many offices in the United States among other countries and with the ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual town hall meetings are more important than ever. They’re a valuable way for employees to hear from leaders, create a sense of community and reinforce the company’s mission, goals, values and culture. In this post, we provide tips and suggested tools for hosting useful and engaging virtual town hall meetings.
What Are Virtual Town Hall Meetings?
A virtual town hall meeting is typically an online, company-wide event during which leadership provides employees with updates regarding big-picture news to keep everyone informed and in sync with the organization’s mission and goals. When done well, virtual town hall meetings help create a sense of community and build trust and confidence in the organization.
10 Tips for More Effective Virtual Town Hall Meetings
Research shows that employees disengage at work when they do not feel needed or connected to their organization. Productive virtual town hall meetings allow employees to hear directly from leaders to understand better how their roles contribute to the success of the company. These discussions also foster a sense of community, supplying important context about company priorities and areas of focus. Below, we’ve assembled a list of ten tips to help make your next company town hall meeting more appealing and interactive.
1. Celebrate your winners
Whether a shout-out from a colleague, a quarterly reward for exceptional performance or an acknowledgment for exhibiting company values, employee recognition is an effective way to engage employees during town hall meetings and reinforce that every person’s contributions are valued. Consider dedicating a portion of every town hall meeting to employee recognition. Peer nominations are also a great way to highlight great work in every department while also involving a larger and more diverse group of presenters.
2. Kick off a two-way conversation with ice breakers
Make sure your virtual town hall meetings are always two-way conversations between leaders and employees. Since these meetings are typically more extensive, you will need to find an efficient way to allow participation during the session. Consider sending out the meeting agenda ahead of time so people come to the meeting prepared, do quick icebreakers at the beginning of the meeting to set the mood, conduct quick polls to get real-time feedback or dedicate a portion of the meeting after each presenter to encourage questions.
3. Create a meeting agenda before the video meeting
Creating a meeting agenda is one of the most essential components of having a productive and efficient town hall. The meeting leader will use the agenda as a guide for keeping the town hall on topic and moving forward. When provided to participants in advance, a great meeting agenda also sets appropriate expectations before the town hall so that everyone has a clear understanding of the topics that are being discussed and the goals for the meeting.
4. Check your tech
One of the quickest ways to derail a virtual town hall meeting is to have technical difficulties or not know how to use various video conferencing features. Before you initiate the meeting, make sure that your video and audio are working properly, you know how to screen share and you have enough bandwidth to host or join the video call. Consider a quick dry run of the meeting in advance by calling a few employees before the start of the town hall to check video and audio quality. For more information on setting up a virtual town hall, check out our blog Video Conferencing Setup Requirements: Your Checklist for Hardware and Software.
5. Make it easy for everyone to join the video meeting
With some employees working from the office and others working remotely, you need a video conferencing solution that allows employees to easily join the virtual town hall from their smartphones, tablets, laptops or a conference room and have the same user experience across all the different devices. With Lifesize, you can simply send a URL for users to join the call; no downloads required. Any device that can access the internet or a cellular network can join the call. Ensure the meeting passcode is provided in the meeting invite so that employees and approved guests can join without extra complexity.
6. Use a moderator
For town hall meetings and other video conferences for large group discussions, assign a meeting moderator to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Moderators have advanced in-call controls, allowing them to mute or unmute individual participants as well as mute all or unmute all participants to limit background noise. This capability is particularly useful when users forget to mute themselves during the meeting. For added security, moderators can also lock or unlock the meeting, stop a participant’s presentation and remove an uninvited or disruptive individual from the call.
7. Have a clear leader
While the meeting moderator is responsible for making sure the town hall runs smoothly behind the scenes, the meeting leader, or meeting host, is the face of the meeting. This person plays a critical role in keeping the town hall on track and on time. Duties of the meeting leader include kicking off the town hall, explaining the agenda, introducing speakers, transitioning between speakers, managing Q&A and audience feedback, as well as closing out the meeting. A great meeting leader should work closely with presenters to ensure content is aligned to the meeting objectives and keep speakers accountable to the time allotted to them, giving reminders as needed when it’s time to wrap up their presentation.
8. Use a variety of speakers
Always using the same speaker in every town hall is predictable and monotonous. To spice things up, use a variety of presenters from different departments and management levels. Try to include at least one new speaker at every company-wide town hall gathering. Not only does this allow different perspectives to be represented, but it also creates a truer sense of what’s going on across the entire organization.
9. Don’t be shy about what isn’t working
No organization is flawless, and ignoring opportunities for improvement undermines your ability to motivate employees to strive for their stretch goals. Publicly addressing your hiccups and giving people a chance to voice issues they see in the office creates learning opportunities and humanizes the company.
10. KISS: Keep it simple, stupid
There’s nothing worse than going to a meeting and not being able to understand a word anyone is saying. Whether it’s too much business jargon or eye-straining slides, try to avoid overly complicated topics for your all-hands meetings and keep the message simple, understandable and to the point.
4 Key Tools to Incorporate in Your Virtual Town Hall Meetings
Too many times, all-hands meetings lapse into a dull, one-way experience. When employees feel like they do not have an active role in a meeting, they’ll check out and complete other tasks while the virtual town hall plays in the background. To pull off a successful virtual town hall meeting, you need to have the right tools in place to host and run the meeting. Here are four tools to incorporate in your next virtual town hall to make the meeting more engaging and interactive.
Screen sharing can completely transform your town hall from a monotonous meeting to a genuinely interactive all-hands session. From sharing your laptop screen to playing full-motion videos to driving a presentation right from your mobile phone, Lifesize gives you a lot of flexibility in how you wirelessly present. For more information on screen sharing, check out our blog How to Screen Share in 4 Easy Steps with Lifesize Share.
Getting quick feedback from all your employees during a virtual town hall can be difficult and time-consuming. With Lifesize’s raise hands feature, employees can click a button to show a thumbs up or raised hand to indicate whether they support a proposal. Silently polling your employees with the raise hand feature is far better than 100+ people interjecting at once. Additionally, during the Q&A portion of the town hall, you can ask employees to virtually raise their hands to indicate that they have questions. This keeps the meeting moving forward, and lets the meeting moderator call on each employee individually.
When you get into the hundreds or thousands of meeting attendees, live streaming lets you further extend the experience. Broadcasting a video stream to up to 10,000 participants is as simple as sending out a link that viewers can connect to from their web browsers. You can also enable text-based questions during the live stream so call participants can type their questions instead of interrupting the presenter. To learn more, check out our blog How to Live Stream: Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting and Recording Live Streams.
Record and share
Finding the perfect meeting time when every employee is available may be impossible, especially for companies with remote offices and employees scattered across multiple time zones. For employees who were not able to attend the live town hall, you can simply record the meeting and share a link after the event is over. With Lifesize Record and Share, videos are automatically encrypted, indexed and easily sharable internally or for public viewing (as needed) outside of your organization.
Using Lifesize for Your Next Virtual Town Hall Meeting
The worst thing that can happen to a company-wide virtual meeting is to run into technical difficulties. With Lifesize, our systems are built with simplicity in mind so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff and can instead focus on the message you’re trying to spread. The Lifesize® Icon™ 800 series is specially made for large audiences as its rack-mountable design easily fits a podium or server enclosure, and it offers multiple audio and video inputs to effortlessly mic up multiple speakers. Lifesize® Live Stream makes it easy to stream company meetings to up to 10,000 attendees, and our recording and sharing add-on lets you record all-hands sessions to share with anyone who couldn’t make the live event.
There’s more to a virtual town hall meeting than simply sharing company-wide updates and news. Your all-hands meetings can play an integral part in building and strengthening your company’s culture. You can use these meetings to get your employees excited about the company’s mission and goals and to celebrate their wins and accomplishments. With the right tools and strategies, you can make your next virtual town hall meeting as exciting as it is informative and keep your employees engaged from start to finish.