Even though remote working has provided greater flexibility, it’s still almost impossible to gather all staff in one place at the same time.
Diaries are booked up with meeting after meeting, and there’s always one person who’s on annual leave.
It’s a tricky situation, especially when trying to provide important company updates to the entire workforce.
Which is why many organisations are starting to embrace virtual town hall-style meetings.
The difference between a normal event and a virtual town hall meeting is that it typically features company-wide leadership teams who provide the entire workforce with big picture updates to keep everyone up-to-date and in the know.
With a virtual town hall meeting, employees get many of the benefits of an in-person event with the added bonus of being able to attend from anywhere in the world.
They’re also a great tool to reinforce company culture, increase team bonding, and keep everyone aligned to the organisation’s vision.
However, maintaining engagement over a virtual event can be challenging, especially if it’s a full-day affair and with many people feeling burnt out from constant video conference meetings.
So, with 55 percent of remote workers currently feel less connected to their business and 69 percent experiencing burnout, here are my top tips for event organisers to make their virtual town hall meetings more engaging.
Set the mood
Play some music in the background as your colleagues slowly start dialing in. It can take a while until everyone’s connected and you can set the mood while the others are waiting.
Not only does this set the mood, it’s a great ice breaker, as it’s usually a nice and an unexpected surprise to most!
Celebrate your successes
What better way to boost staff morale than to kick things off with a celebration?
Employee recognition is an effective way to drive engagement, and town hall meetings are the perfect way to reinforce that every single person’s contribution is valued.
It could be an employee of the month award, but it can also be as simple as a shout out from another colleague, a reward for exceptional performance, or an acknowledgment for demonstrating company values.
Research even shows that workers prefer public praise or recognition over a raise, so don’t be afraid to dish out some much earned recognition.
Keep it short and focused
There’s so much you’d like to tell your colleagues, but so little time.
With everyone’s schedules being busy as it is, you don’t want to overstretch their attention.
Keep it short, with a clear and realistic agenda and no more than 4 topics. And even in these topics, try and avoid going too much into detail.
Make sure you bring the bigger message across and that it sticks. Giving too much detail only waters down the message and you risk losing your colleagues attention.
Give everyone a chance to speak
Always using the same speakers, or even just the one host, in every town hall is predictable and monotonous. Why not offer the mic out to someone else to share their views?
Better yet, spice things up by using a variety of presenters from different departments and management levels. Some organisations have even gone one step further, booking guest and motivational speakers to join their calls.
But consider including at least one new speaker at every company-wide town hall gathering as well as offering the chance for employees to be heard. Not only does this allow different perspectives to be represented, but it also creates a truer sense of what’s going on across the entire organization.
Give people a break
The average human attention span is around 8 seconds, so keeping things short, punchy and to the point is key to keeping people engaged.
Shorter events, no longer than one hour, typically receive the best engagement rates among audience members, as the longer it goes on the higher the chance there is for people to get distracted and lose focus.
Break-out sessions are also a great way to maintain concentration, as is allowing for time at the end of each presentation or section for Q&As. By trimming the fat and keeping slots to digestible lengths, audience attention is far less likely to waver.
Use polls and gamification to get the engagement started
Engage your colleagues by having a poll or simple game in some of your agenda topics. There’s no simpler way to engage than one single click, yet it creates quick connection.
Employees are craving new ways to engage with each other and a chance from the stereotypical video conference meeting, so get creative.
Meetings don’t even have to take place inside of the four walls of the office any more. Encourage employees to go on a walk every now and then while still dialling in from their smartphones.
Not every idea has to be a great idea. Variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Make sure to get feedback from your team and adjust your approach whenever needed to keep engagement at a consistent level.
Fill the language gaps
Online town hall meetings make it easier than ever to bring people from all corners of the world together. The problem is, not everyone speaks the same language.
In order for people of different nationalities and backgrounds to engage with each other in real-time, they require intuitive tools and software that offers seamless interpretation while the event unfolds.
Real-time translation tools like the Interprefy platform adds live native language interpreting for multinational events of all sizes while helping organizations promote inclusivity and break down language barriers.
Being able to enjoy an event in your native tongue is arguably the most effective way of creating an engaged audience experience that everyone can join in on.
Flip the tables on your Q&A section
Once you have shared your business updates and upcoming goals, ensure your employees have the chance to ask questions and connect directly with your leadership team.
Consider factoring some Q&A time after each speaker in your virtual town hall agenda.
But even in the most open and supportive culture, asking a question to the management in front of the whole company can be intimidating.
Employees may refrain from it out of fear of exposing potential ignorance. But if a leader stands up and asks a question, employees have an opportunity to participate from a position of strength.
Keep it simple!
There’s nothing worse than going to a meeting and not being able to understand a word anyone is saying. Only bring in financials, if you can bring them to life and make them relatable to what the company needs to focus on next.
Whether it’s too much business jargon or eye-straining slides, aim to avoid overly complicated topics for your all-hands meetings and keep the message simple, understandable and to the point.
Town hall meetings a two-way street
Town hall meetings are much more than just a company exec presenting a presentation to a crowd of people.
These all-encompassing events can play a vital part in boosting employee morale, drive organisational direction and, importantly, keep everyone engaged.
While it may still be tricky to get the entire workforce on one call, maintaining engagement on these calls from the very start is a sure fire way to make your meetings as fun as they are educational.
About the author
Born and studied in Germany, Annett Polaszewski-Plath has spent many years living and working in the United Kingdom and United States, and has recently relocated to Zurich, Switzerland, where she lives with her family. Annett has held multiple commercial leadership roles in global tech companies like eBay and PayPal and most recently led the DACH division of global ticketing and event tech platform Eventbrite, where she served as Managing Director.
Interprefy provides remote language interpreting for events and meetings. The cloud-based platform revolutionises simultaneous interpreting by replacing old hardware, enabling interpreters to deliver their services without needing to be on-site. Event and meeting participants simply listen to the language of their choice through their smart devices.