12 steps to run a productive and positive all-hands meeting
All-hands meetings are company-wide gatherings where your entire team meets with the leadership team for updates, questions, and more. Here’s how to run one.
By Darcy Hogendorn in
The idea of organizing an all-hands meeting can be intimidating. There are many details to tend to, from speakers, videos, and topics of discussion, to making sure the timing aligns with everyone’s schedules (and time zones).
All-hands meetings are valuable tools with many advantages, so it’s worthwhile to make sure they’re done right. These meetings keep everyone aligned on goals, progress, and company updates, and provide a platform for team members to voice their opinions and be heard. They’re also an excellent opportunity to celebrate successes and publicly recognize teams (or even individual team members) who have knocked it out of the park lately, which makes them a prime avenue for fostering a positive, encouraging company culture.
Although all-hands meetings are important, they don’t need to feel intimidating. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the advantages of all-hands meetings and provide you with 12 actionable steps to help you plan a meeting that goes off without a hitch.
The name comes from nautical lingo “all hands on deck,” shortened to “all hands.” An all-hands meeting is a company-wide meeting in which everyone (from leaders to team members and stakeholders) gathers to talk about big picture things relevant to the entire company. They’re sometimes also called town hall meetings.
Most types of meetings are beneficial for a variety of reasons — but an all-hands meeting has some unique advantages that you won’t get with team meetings or other types of smaller gatherings. We’ve outlined some of the most significant advantages below.
When we speak of goals, keep in mind that this is in the context of a company-wide meeting. In other words, these meetings aren’t the time to talk about goals relevant to smaller groups — like the engineering team’s project goals.
Rather, all-hands meetings are the time to talk about things that affect the entire organization — like key metrics, which include sales goals, customer retention targets, revenue targets, and so on. Use these meetings to update everyone on progress toward those goals, offer congratulations if you’re ahead of targets, or if necessary, discuss what can be done to get back on track.
An all-hands meeting also serves as a great opportunity for a Q&A session. While you can collect questions prior to the meeting, it’s also a good idea to welcome impromptu questions, too (even if they’re tough questions). Not only does this give team members a chance to ask questions and get clarifications, but it also speaks of leadership who is willing to foster a culture of transparency.
One of the wonderful things about an all-hands meeting is that no matter the reason to hold one, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build and reinforce your organization’s culture. Everything from the icebreakers that you use to the values and ideals expressed is a chance to build an atmosphere of positivity and collectivity.
Now that more workplaces are adopting hybrid and remote models, this benefit is larger than ever. Working remotely can be very isolating — and in fact, loneliness and isolation are some of the biggest concerns reported by remote workers.
All-hands meetings bring everyone together, even if you’re hosting virtual meetings through a video conferencing tool. Believe it or not, these meetings are one of the best tools you’ve got to build a sense of community among remote employees.
Now that we’ve covered the advantages of all-hands company meetings, it’s time to talk about how to create meetings that accomplish goals while reinforcing company culture. Use the steps below to build better meetings or improve the ones you’re already hosting.
As far as frequency, everyone does it differently. Smaller organizations might host weekly all-hands meetings that also double as brainstorming or collaboration sessions, but big organizations might schedule these events quarterly with the intent of keeping everyone updated on financials and other major metrics.
Either way, make it a tradition, create a long-term schedule, and stick with it. Send out invites for these meetings as early as you can — at the beginning of the week for Friday meetings, for example, or the start of the new quarter for meetings at the end of the quarter. This helps everyone get used to the schedule and allows time for team members to plan their projects and time off around the meeting.
One surefire way for an all-hands meeting to go sideways is hosting it without a plan.
Create an agenda that outlines all of the key elements that need to be covered. It should include all of the following details about the meeting:
- Date and time
- Anticipated length of the meeting
- Location (or links for joining webinars and Zoom calls)
- Topics of discussion
- Speakers — and the times they’ll be speaking
- Events like games or team building exercises
- Food options (if provided)
Providing all of this information up front ensures that everyone knows the where, what, when, and how. Then, they can plan their schedules accordingly — and they can even plan around things like food, just in case they have dietary restrictions.
You’ve probably attended meetings where the first 15 or 20 minutes are devoted to the presenter standing around a projector or laptop, trying to get things to work. Not only does this type of thing speak of disorganization, but it also nearly guarantees that the meeting will run past its allotted time — which is disrespectful of your attendees’ schedules.
A day or two before for meetings involving a lot of complicated tech (or an hour or two prior for simpler meetings), make sure to test everything out. Get sound systems working, projection systems up and running, and make sure that the videos or slideshows that you’ll be presenting are organized and ready to go.
If you plan to record and sync your meetings, double-check your software integrations, particularly if you’re using a new setup. If you’re using something like Slack, Zoom, or a virtual conferencing platform, then run a test meeting so that the leadership team and anyone else who will be speaking knows how to connect.
Meetings featuring multiple speakers often mean multiple slideshows. Even in the most well-organized all-hands meetings, this can lead to hiccups if you have to pause between speakers to locate and load new slideshows.
The better option is to collect everyone’s slides beforehand and create one larger, master slide deck that includes every speaker’s presentation in one. This minimizes technical difficulties and allows things to flow much more smoothly.
Think that since everyone knows their roles at the upcoming meeting, you don’t need a moderator? Think again. Moderators serve several important functions apart from kicking off the meeting or cuing the next speaker. They can:
- Help with setup.
- Greet people as they join a virtual conference room.
- Kick off the meeting.
- Introduce speakers.
- Prompt discussions.
- Request questions for a Q&A session.
Appoint one person for this task — and make sure it’s their only task so that they’re not juggling moderation with a presentation of their own. It’ll ensure that your meeting flows seamlessly.
An all-hands meeting shouldn’t just be bland talk about company initiatives, OKRs, and KPIs. Build employee engagement by including a fun element. Give a shout out to the new hires or celebrate major milestones and anniversaries with a catered lunch and a fun game. Create word cloud polls or play a game designed to build trust.
There are lots of options. Include one or more to spice things up and get team members looking forward to the next meeting.
If you’re doing a remote video conference, then your video conference tool should give you the option to record the meeting. If it’s hosted in one location with distributed team members joining from their home offices, it’s wise to set up a camera in the back of the room to capture footage.
Why? Two reasons. First, you can use the footage to create notes or a recap to remind everyone about key points. Second, if someone was unable to attend your meeting in real time due to time zone differences or other scheduling conflicts, they can watch the video at their convenience. Rewatch is a video platform that helps organizations do just that — record and store all-hands meetings so that your team members can catch up later if they weren’t able to attend the live session. It’s an easy way to make meetings available after the fact, and features like transcription and search make it an accessible and convenient option for team members. Get started with Rewatch today.
Bigger meetings can be exclusive by their very nature. It’s tough, if not impossible, to let dozens of people have a chance to talk within a limited time frame. Creating breakout rooms using virtual tools is a great way to get around this. It lets the teams within an organization chat about whatever you’ve discussed at the meeting or about their own most pressing topics — all in an environment that is smaller and thus much more inclusive.
This is a big one — and it’s one that leadership sometimes overlooks. But in order to foster an environment that is all about open communication, it’s crucial to make the meeting about more than company goals or other big picture items. Reserve some time toward the end of the meeting (and before you break up for breakout rooms) for a Q&A session that allows team members to ask questions. Be prepared to handle even the toughest questions to create an atmosphere of transparency.
Who doesn’t love free food? When you can provide it, this is a great way to boost morale and make everyone feel a little more at home during office days in a hybrid work setting. You don’t have to go all out, but some pizza or a company barbecue can go a long way for those in the office that day. Just make sure to keep it inclusive by asking about dietary concerns so that you can provide something for everyone.
And for fully remote work environments, consider sending out food and drink gift cards ahead of the meeting — then giving everyone the opportunity to order or prepare what they like in advance. Enjoying food as part of a virtual conference is a fun way to make it feel a little less isolating.
Every all-hands meeting agenda should end with actionable next steps. Those next steps can vary — maybe you want to boost social media engagement, or pursue new, even greater targets.
Whatever your organizational goals may be, an all-hands meeting is the perfect time to announce them and give clear steps for how to attain them. This helps get everyone in the organization on the same page, pursuing the same objectives.
Here are some facts for you: More than a third of employees see unproductive meetings as the highest cost to their organization, and 35% agree that they waste between two and five hours each week on meetings. So, what’s the absolute best way to avoid leaving people feeling like a meeting was a waste of their time?
Ask for feedback — and use it.
At the end of your all-hands meeting, be sure to send out a survey. Don’t just ask questions: Make sure that you also include spaces for people to leave their opinions. Keep the surveys anonymous, too. Some people may be reluctant to express frustrations for fear of repercussion — but anonymity helps ease that fear.
Once you have the feedback, analyze it and put it to work. For instance, if several surveys remark that the information delivered at the meeting could have been sent in an email, then you’ve got some work to do in figuring out how to provide more value in the next meeting.
Also keep in mind that improvement is a continuous process. Follow up every meeting with a survey, and use the answers you get to keep on making things even better. Team members will appreciate your efforts — and watching leadership enact the changes they suggested helps employees feel appreciated and builds a greater sense of loyalty.
Recording and reviewing all-hands meetings is an important part of the process so that you can create notes, share them with team members, and of course, include those who weren’t able to attend. Rewatch can help with all of that. Our platform integrates with popular video conferencing platforms so that recorded videos are automatically cataloged in your Rewatch library. To learn more about these features and others, book a personalized demo!.
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