A company town hall is a big event. Whether it’s for a team of 50 or 50,000, a well-run town hall could boost productivity, engage employees, and craft organisational culture.
At company events like town halls, employee engagement should be your top priority. Not only does it ensure that your most talented employees stay, it also has an effect on your company’s bottom line. According to Gallup, the lack of employee engagement costs American businesses anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion a year.
Here are eight ways to turn your standard town hall meeting into an engaging company event.
1. Define and match your town hall meeting requirements
First, lock down the details of your town hall meeting, specifically your audience. Knowing who you’re reaching out to will help you decide how the meeting will be organised and what should be discussed.
a) Confirm the number of people attending
The number of people arriving could affect the way that you structure a room. With more than 50 people, it might be more suitable to have comfortable auditorium or theatre-style seating. Smaller teams may prefer a round table or boardroom setting, where attendees can see each other’s faces and engage in more natural dialogue.
The session options will also depend on the number of attendees. With smaller groups, you may prefer to have questions asked through a mic, while larger groups may prefer using an interactive tool to crowdsource questions. Smaller groups may also open up options for breakaway groups for ice breakers or discussions.
b) Adapt your town hall for both physical and remote attendees
If you have employees attending your town hall virtually, ensure that they have the same access to resources that physically present attendees do. For instance, ensure that the slides are accessible to both physical and remote attendees.
Asking questions and providing feedback should also be as easy for both physical and remote attendees. To level the playing field, try a virtual Q&A platform that comes with question voting. That way, the questions that matter to everyone (including virtual attendees) will take precedence.
c) Consider recording your town hall meeting
If you ever feel like you’re answering the exact same questions during a town hall, consider recording your next town hall meeting and making it accessible to your employees.
Creating a bank of town hall videos that is regularly accessible to employees could help make them better absorb the information provided during the meeting, either by repetitive viewing or simply a change in medium. According to Forrester Research, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than to read documents and email.
Recording town hall meetings also conveys the importance of transparency to the company. Having a video record of previous town halls means that management is staying accountable for things said during the meetings.
2. Find an event concept idea that suits your culture code
Once you’ve figured out the details of the event, it’s time to think about what the town hall meeting should convey. While long presentations and planned speeches may not be applicable for smaller companies, it’s still important to make sure that the initiatives or points being discussed, and the way they’re being discussed, lines up with the company’s culture code.
a) Align your concept to the purpose and desired outcome of the event
Locking down a concept for the town hall could help guide all your next steps, such as the sessions and activities to include, the CEO’s speech, and the poll and survey questions to ask. This includes figuring out the messaging that will best meet this desired outcome.
To help choose the topics to cover, try doing a poll before the event to get employees to vote on what concerns they want addressed.
b) Select the best speakers and moderators to help bring your concept to life
Who delivers a message to your employees matters. The person’s credibility, expertise, relationships with employees, and even tone of voice could make a difference in how your employees receive the messages said during the meeting. A CEO who’s known for being gruff and condescending towards employees, for example, is less likely to encourage frank and honest feedback than a COO who has regular catch-up meals with team leaders.
Similarly, a good moderator can make a huge difference in keeping an audience engaged and making employees feel included in the discussion. For example, if a manager is prone to rambling, a good moderator should be able to encourage shorter answers to ensure that more questions are addressed.
3. Provide a secured meeting registration process
Keep it in the family. Before engaging any tech partners or trying out new initiatives, ensure that you know where the limits lie.
a) Keeping the event employee-only to create a safe space for honest discourse
Restricting attendance is crucial especially when you are sharing sensitive information during the town hall. Keeping town halls to company employees can help provide a safe space for everyone, and encourage more employees to speak up about their concerns.
If you’ve got a large company where taking attendance may be tricky, try collecting name cards upon entry, or holding the event in a space that requires an office pass. Alternatively, you could hold a fully online town hall where access can only be given on a secure network.
b) Select technology partners that value your company’s online security
Once you’ve figured out what your security requirements are, convey them to prospective technology partners. It is essential to make sure that these technology partners are keeping your data safe, especially if they have access to sensitive company data.
Make sure your security needs are clearly conveyed and that your tech partners are totally on board. In Pigeonhole Live, security is our top priority. We have our security policy clearly stated on our website, which you can check out here.
4. Ensure your employees are well informed about the event details
Once your town hall meeting details are all firmed up, it’s time to share it with your attendees.
a) Make the invite clear and informative
When you notify employees of the upcoming town hall meeting, ensure that important information is being conveyed clearly.
This includes the event agenda, time, location, and links to any online tools to be used. Providing a clear invite ensures that everyone comes into the town hall with the right mindset and will (hopefully) come prepared with their questions.
b) Open up polls and Q&As ahead of time to kickstart employee engagement
If there is a part of the town hall that requires their active participation, notify them ahead of time. Opening up a poll or a Q&A ahead of time will serve a couple of purposes. Firstly, they would help you crowdsource sentiment ahead of time, giving you an idea of what your employees concerns are and how to prepare for it. Secondly, if you’re working with a new tech vendor, it’ll give your attendees time to familiarise themselves with the platform.
5. Keep the meeting agenda brief, short, and clear
Researchers claim that the average attention span lasts around 10 to 18 minutes, town halls take hours. Since the town halls stakes place during work hours, its content needs to be of the same value to them as the work that could have been done during that time. Which means the meeting agenda needs to be brief, short, but clear and understandable.
a) Carefully select a combination of engagement activities that will convey your intended message
You don’t have to convey a message just by talking about it. Your attendees could be better engaged if they have different sessions to participate in. Choosing a combination of engagement activities, such as taking part in an open-ended or word cloud poll, or breaking apart for a quick networking session, could make a big difference in an attendee’s takeaway from the two-hour session.
b) Use interactive technology to increase user engagement
Supplementing your presentations with interactive technology could help people absorb new information at a faster rate. If you want your employees to be up to date about new initiatives or be more familiar with the financials of the company, try using a quiz or a poll to keep employees engaged.
Participation rates for interactive sessions like quizzes and polls could also help gauge employees' engagement and even encourage higher participation rates for other sessions like Q&A and feedback.
We've got examples of town hall agendas that you can adapt for your own company event.
6. Test your event presentation and the tech tools involved in it
If you’re holding a large-scale town hall meeting, it’s important to make sure that the event runs smoothly. This is especially true if you're using technology. Whether it's a full virtual event or a simple powerpoint slide, Murphy's Law can and will affect your event.
a) Run a full-scale tech run from start to finish
While it is important to check key tech elements in an event, like the wifi and the projector display, don't stop there. Holding a full-scale test run can help highlight any potential problems that you may not be able to anticipate otherwise.
This is especially important if you have tech partners working with you on this event, because it will give you time to troubleshoot with them.
Pigeonhole also offers a test mode checklist that you can find here.
b) Try Test Mode to get ready for the event day
To help ensure the organisers are comfortable and ready for their town hall, Pigeonhole Live has Test Mode, which can be turned on anytime before your first session goes live. Test Mode allows you to test your set-up before the event, post test data via the Audience Web App, check out the display on the Projector Panel, and practise using the Moderator and Admin Panels to manage responses.
You can learn more about using Test Mode for technical runs here.
7. Use content to convey a clear message that addresses key employee concerns
For the corporate town hall content to be able to engage employees, it needs to appeal to them while being deliberate. To do so, ensure that the town hall content is able to address employee concerns.
Test a sample of the content with an independent group of people. They will be able to provide you insights that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
8. Collect feedback through a post-event survey to measure success
Each company may measure the success of a town hall differently. It may be by attendance, the number of questions asked, or even a post-event survey. No matter what method you choose to gauge your town hall’s success by, be sure to plan for it before the event.
Using a post-event survey would help ensure a higher rate of data collection. Prompting attendees to submit a post-event survey before they leave also ensures that they answer truthfully, since the discussions will be fresh in their minds.