Running Your Business

How to Host All-Hands Meetings That Don’t Waste Anyone’s Time

  • All-hands meetings should be taken seriously, with rehearsals if necessary

  • Speakers should be honest and answer audience questions

  • Set a clear purpose, and schedule these gatherings far in advance so employees can plan around them

Posted by November 25, 2019

Gathering all of your employees in one room, while daunting, can benefit your small business. For starters, when expertly executed, an all-hands meeting can motivate and unite your workforce, fostering a sense of shared purpose. But as your audience grows, so do the odds of something going awry.

To make the most of your all-hands meetings, it’s helpful to know what these gatherings usually entail and how to avoid wasting time.

What Is an All-Hands Meeting?

An all-hands meeting, sometimes called a town hall, can be the most important meeting that a business holds. These meetings are attended by all employees and everyone in leadership roles, either in person or via webcam. It’s a chance for leaders to discuss important company news with everyone at once.

All-hands meetings should be reserved to cover important topics, such as a company-wide policy change, quarterly or seasonal updates, a new mission or a celebration of a big milestone. It can be a key opportunity for people of all ranks to weigh in, either through a Q&A or as part of an open-question format. In short: It’s not just a regular, weekly meeting.

How to Gather All Employees for a Meeting

Ideally, you should host all of your employees in one physical location for the meeting; off-site and remote employees should also attend. If this guest list exceeds your office’s capacity, consider renting a larger venue, such as a small auditorium or large university classroom, to accommodate everyone.

Getting everyone in the same room might not be feasible. If your business has locations in opposite parts of the country, for instance, covering everyone’s travel expenses may be too costly. In those situations, one office should host the all-hands meeting, with the option for employees to attend via video conference. The other locations should also broadcast the main gathering from a central conference room.

The more employees you can gather in one space, the better. Encourage everyone in the main office to physically attend, instead of watching from their desks. Reiterate that everyone’s feedback matters, and that the more people attend, the more united your workforce stands to be.

Tips for Hosting a Successful All-Hands Meeting

When done poorly, any meeting can feel like a giant waste of time. Though perfecting your format might take a little trial and error, there are some basic do’s and don’ts for hosting an all-hands meeting.

Don’t hold them for any old reason. If all-hands are held too frequently or even start to resemble normal meetings, your employees might completely disengage.

Do have a format. Try something like this: Start by reviewing the past few months, sharing both triumphs and missteps. Talk about big upcoming milestones and important matters that everyone needs to hear. All-hands meetings are a golden opportunity to introduce new senior leadership.

Do save time for live Q&A, but make sure that leaders are prepared to answer questions honestly and transparently—never gaslight your workforce with vague answers. The meeting should also have a clear purpose and agenda. Plan them far enough in advance so that employees can schedule deadlines around them.

If the meeting is going to run long, provide food. Hungry employees will be distracted and might even tune out completely. Companies should also allow time afterward for networking, since coworkers might not frequently be together in the same place.

The best all-hands meetings are treated like theater productions, where the stage is set for stellar performances—not AV issues. As such, hosting a rehearsal is never a bad idea. If you take the event seriously and encourage your employees to do the same, you’ll pave the way for an all-hands meeting with a free flow of ideas where everyone feels appreciated and heard.

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