Is your town hall a town hell? How to engage your staff in meetings

Humor, video, instant-feedback application and varied speakers make employees feel that attending a large-scale gathering is worth their time.

When you think “town hall meeting,” what comes to mind?

A PowerPoint presentation? A CEO rattling off a list of talking points? A boatload of financial statistics that only a fraction of the attendees understand?

Those are all realities of many companywide town halls, but they don’t have to be that way, internal communicators say.

“It’s very difficult to stay engaged when you’re sitting and listening,” says Jennifer Graybeal, an internal communicator with Aviat Networks. “You want to think about breaking it up, getting people thinking and asking them for input.”

Input is a huge part of making a town hall tolerable or even enjoyable, Graybeal and others say, whether it’s through employees’ contributing videos, anonymous feedback or in-person participation.

Using video

“Videos are, by their nature, more engaging than a talking head or a PowerPoint,” says Katrina Olson of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications, who is also an instructor at the University of Illinois. “It doesn’t even have to be something you produce. It can be something that already exists.”

Olson suggests using YouTube or staff-produced videos to introduce specific topics and bring humor into the meeting.

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