Dos and Don’ts of Hosting an Effective All-Hands Meeting

Hosting all-hands meetings gives modern organizations an opportunity to get everyone on the same page. It’s the ultimate way to touch base because it literally breaks down barriers between individuals, teams, departments and locations—it establishes a tangible sense of community in an increasingly hectic business landscape.

A well-organized, effective all-hands meeting can work wonders when it comes to making company culture more collaborative and communicative. However, a poorly organized event tends to leave attendees feeling like they wasted time they could have otherwise been doing, well, anything else. The last thing you want is for people to feel distanced following an event that’s meant to bring people together.

Here are a few key dos and don’ts of hosting an effective all-hands meeting.

Don’t: Depend on Passing the Microphone

The old-school method of passing the microphone during a question and answer session encourages a certain type of employee to speak up: The most “extroverted and risk-tolerant.” But the purpose of an all-hands meeting is to solicit feedback from all levels and types of participants. Your organization will miss out on valuable input if communicating it requires impromptu public speaking. Some people will also hold back if they’re required to attach their identity to their feedback for fear of facing professional or personal consequences.

Do: Allow Anonymous Participation

Instead, focus on facilitating honest feedback from employees of all personalities and backgrounds at your next all-hands meeting. How? Start by allowing audience members to submit anonymous questions and answers. This simple allowance tends to empower employees to say what’s really on their mind, meaning the feedback you’re collecting is ultimately more accurate and relevant. These days, all someone needs to contribute to an anonymous poll is a mobile device like a smartphone, so your company doesn’t even need to invest in expensive equipment to host an effective Q&A session.

Don’t: Risk Technology Troubles

Whatever technology you’re running at your all-hands meeting—including teleconferencing software for remote participants, online polling, presentation software, etc.—don’t wait until the last minute to take it for a test run. Nothing interrupts the flow of a meeting quicker than unruly technology; you want employees to stay engaged from start to finish.

As one CEO notes, a poor connection can “take the meeting from a 10 to a 1.”

Do: Test Your Tech Ahead of Time

So, do your due diligence and make sure your tech is up and running well before the actual start time. Have your leadership and IT teams compare tech options to make sure you’re using the best solution for your company’s needs. Ask for feedback following large group events so you can make necessary adjustments before the next session.

Don’t: Deliver a One-Way Flow of Information

The last thing you want a town-hall style meeting to feel like is an introductory college lecture. Avoid bombarding attendees with an uninterrupted one-way flow of information. Although it’s important to deliver important updates and share data, there’s a way to do so without turning your audience into a passive entity.

Do: Create a Space for Community Conversation

Strive to hold a conversation. As Harvard Business Review cites, a famous German philosopher once said: “You only have a conversation when you don’t know the outcome at the beginning.” Leave room for true give-and-take during all-hands meetings. Make sure speakers aim to bring their audience into the proceedings. Foster a sense of community. Demonstrate to employees their attention and feedback is highly valued.

These dos and don’ts of hosting an effective all-hands meeting will help you open up the lines of communication in a truly productive way.