What is the Power of a Town Hall Meeting?
The roots of corporate town hall meetings go deep into the early colonial era in New England. These kinds of meetings were a public event organized to encourage dialogue between town officials and citizens.
Nowadays a town hall opens up the lines of communication between top management and employees. They give executives an opportunity to share business results, company initiatives, and personnel changes.
What is exactly a town hall style meeting? How should we run it? Here we share some theory and essential tips to keep in mind.
What is a Town Hall Meeting in a Company?
A town hall meeting is an organization-wide business meeting where an executive report is made and employees have a chance to ask questions and engage with the executives. These meetings can be held in-person in conference rooms, business halls, in cafes, or run virtually across many continents and time zones.
Virtual town hall meetings have become especially popular with the increasing role of remote work and distance collaboration caused by the COVID-19 virus. They can be held with both presenters and participants at their homes. It is easy to implement today with good planning, technical execution, and online remote collaboration tools.
Any effective town hall style meeting typically begins with a “State of Affairs” presentation. It requires considerable time for questions and answers.
The corporate town hall meeting can be often titled an all-hands meeting. However, there is a difference: the first meeting is more question and answer based while the second one is generally more focused on conveying a message and making a core presentation with no questions and answers.
What is the potential of effective town hall meetings?
When town halls are well organized, they provide employees with the opportunity to closely interact with team leaders. It boosts trust and confidence.
During the town hall, you can share content your team members can’t hear anywhere else. These events bring people together to create a sense of community.
In order to tap into the potential to make town hall style meetings as effective as possible, you should start with this premise – a town hall is a single event, not a series of presentations.
The main idea is participation. Thousand years ago, the Greeks invented the town hall. They called it an “assembly”. Its aim was to give citizens a voice and a role in government.
Nowadays, the town hall meeting should be run not just as a way to share information but as an engaging experience.
What is the purpose of a town hall meeting?
Any company that wants to run effective town hall meetings should fulfill the following objectives:
- Align everyone in the company to the same goals.
- Minimize or eliminate the gap between management and employees.
- Improve company culture and team spirit.
How to Plan and Run a Meaningful Town Hall Business Meeting? 5 Steps to Consider
1. Start with clear objectives
Many companies organize town halls as a routine, so they run almost on automatic pilot. Responsible managers schedule sessions months in advance and, a few weeks before the town hall meeting, they start to work on content the meeting will cover.
To be prepared for the town hall, you may ask the following questions to the leaders:
- What are the outcomes we are striving to get during this town hall?
- What do we want employees to know and do as a result of participating?
Having the answers, you will be able to create focused objectives that will build a strong foundation for planning your town hall business meeting.
Here are some of the objectives you may outline:
- Increasing confidence in the company
- Motivating participants
- Learning about an issue that’s vital to the organization
- Preparing employees to take action, etc.
2. Set your focus
Including too many topics into the agenda of a town hall style meeting is a common mistake. It is a good idea to collect topics from key stakeholders.
Your key focus should be connected with the idea of how you can put this meeting together to raise employees’ energy and leave them feeling more motivated. Consider structuring the session to engage employees’ emotions, choosing the topics that will boost energy and will lift people up.
Try to plan your town hall imagining that you are surrounded by television cameras. Start with a strong opening and energizing your colleagues. Give them a chance to participate throughout the meeting, not just at the end. Try to compose a compelling story that will bring the issue to life.
3. Arrange the physical space
Rearrange the way the room is set up – this can make a big difference. Some companies arrange the chairs in a theater-style (semicircular rows of chairs facing a stage). However, this style communicates to people that their role is to observe and listen but not to participate.
Try to set up the room with round tables, letting employees sit in a semi-circle around one side of each table (to face leaders). This approach will signal to employees that they get a chance to work together to participate.
4. Make sure your content is fresh and updated
Old news is boring. However, sometimes during the town hall business meeting, you will share the info that employees already know.
Do not forget to create content that’s fresh and unexpected. Ask the Chief Financial to share what analysts are most concerned about instead of rehashing the quarterly financial report. Focus on the most relevant strategy’s point instead of reiterating all 5 strategic initiatives. Ask an internal expert to explain what it means.
The main idea is to explore new ways to engage your audience instead of repeating any existing content.
5. Think out the box and go beyond Q&As
During the town hall meeting, you’ll not be able to avoid the moments of silence that comes when a leader utters the words: “Are there any questions?”
People often avoid making eye contact until some brave person raises his/her hand and everyone starts breathing again.
Town hall participation is not about constraint or discomfort. Allow plenty of time, take a vote, let leaders pose questions instead of calling for them.
Do not rush to make all these changes at once. Even a simple step can make a difference in improving the experience of your town hall business meeting.
What are the advantages of corporate town hall meetings?
- Essential news and updates are shared firsthand. Thanks to the innovative technologies, even remote teams can listen and take part in town halls and all-hands meetings. If the entire team participates at the same time, they will hear firsthand about important updates. This is rather important as all we all know what misunderstandings can occur when information is shared secondhand among team members.
- Reinforced values. Regular meetings provide chances to reinforce the company’s culture and values. You can use town halls as an educational opportunity to reinforce the things that your colleagues should know.
- Visible leadership. Any communication act delivered in-person from the director will have more impact than one delivered by email.
- Collaboration and teamwork promotion. Gathering in the same room encourages people to mingle. It also helps distributed workers to feel connected to the whole.
- Employees’ engagement. Everyone during the all-hands business gathering may feel part of the decision making process.
- Unfiltered feedback. Leaders will hear honest and unfiltered feedback from employees. This actually differs from how information usually reaches senior leaders. Often the messages are being adjusted each time it moves up a level of management.
Are town hall meetings effective? We hope that this article has fully answered this question.
Now you know what a town hall means and what should be done to make this event efficient. Corporate town halls serve 3 main purposes:
- They allow team leaders to share important info.
- They allow employees to ask questions.
- They ensure everyone understands the company’s goals.
What is your experience of participating in town hall meetings? Have you anything to add? Please share your thoughts below.