How to make the most of your town hall meetings

These are the best ways to keep all-hands gatherings productive.

In a time when more workplaces are geographically dispersed than ever before, most communicators already understand that town hall meetings serve a multifunction purpose They allow leadership to update employees on news and notes relevant to their roles, to collect feedback, and to speak a single source of truth for guiding the organization forward.

That said, many employees have also told Ragan that they believe often town hall meetings aren’t being planned or run as efficiently as they possibly could be. According to Janine Narvali, head of business development at Appspace, this possibility (and unfortunate reality for many organizations) isn’t insurmountable, It can be overcome with creative planning and emphasis on people.

Combatting inefficiencies

Yes, town halls can be a great time for leadership to catch employees up on the goings-on at the organization. But according to Narvali, treating them as solely an opportunity for information dumps from the top might not be the most efficient use of time.

“Some of the pitfalls in the past with town halls have had a lot to do with inefficiencies, particularly with regard to inclusivity of employees that might do a certain job function or be in a certain location,” she said.

One of the biggest keys to making town halls more efficient centers on productive two-way communication between employees and company leaders.

Narvali added that these inefficiencies are often rooted in poor communication, little transparency, and a lack of the right tools and technologies to really help communication not only flow from the top to the bottom but to do the same in reverse with feedback.”

Leadership doing the work

It’s easy to say that we want our town hall meetings to be a truly open forum with open two-way communication, but how exactly can communicators implement such a flow? It comes down to leaders running town halls themselves.

“I think the most effective town halls are guided by strong leadership that’s directly involved,” said Narvali, “rather than just ticking boxes on topics and letting some committee run the show.”

Since town hall meetings are usually a big exchange of pertinent company information, it’s also on leaders to ensure that the language they use in these events is accessible to everyone, regardless of job function or geographic location.

“Leaders need to be involved and speak the language of their employees,” Narvali said. “They can do that well by being consistent in their communications and building trust.”

Tailoring the meeting for your people

One of the biggest complaints we hear surrounding town hall meetings has to do with the relevance of the information being shared at the event. If the content you’re sharing isn’t relevant or resonating with your employees, you’re a lot less likely to have town hall meetings that are productive.

You can keep your employees’ attention by delivering updates about them during town halls, placing emphasis on employee achievements and milestones.

“Whether it’s highlighting a member of the team’s talents, awards they’ve earned, or just a simple kudos for being a great employee, getting the people on the ground really involved is a great way to make these meetings relevant for everyone,” said Narvali.

The perfect mix

All told a good town hall meeting needs three critical elements — strong leadership, strong internal communication, and strong tools—to be successful. If one of these components is missing or weak, the town hall stands to be less effective.

“You need each component to really make your town halls work well,” Narvali said. “If you don’t have each of these three elements thriving, you’re just ticking a box.”

Next time you’re thinking about putting a town hall on your organizational calendar, take a moment to consider if you’ve got all the right elements in place. Doing so will help you make all hands time as strong as it can be.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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