From 2017 to 2018, there was a 22% increase in telecommunicating employees indicating that remote work is here to stay. And according to a study by MIT Sloan “Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located,” as long as specific virtual collaboration systems are in place.
Virtual town halls and all-hands meetings are in fact an important element in the efforts to establish effective virtual collaboration amongst your remote team. These meetings play an important role in building trust amongst remote employees that don’t get much face time with the company leadership. It also serves as an opportunity to engage remote employees and renew their sense of belonging to the company through the celebration of shared values and goals.
To ensure that your virtual town halls are successful in engaging your remote workers, building trust and encouraging collaboration and teamwork, here are some best practices to follow and some bad ones to avoid:
DO: Read your commandments out loud
Make a list of things that are important to you as a company. This can include your company values, philosophies or mission. It can also be a more focused list with setting the tone and intention for your virtual town hall. Whatever you choose to put down in your list, it should make your team feel empowered and remind them of the purpose of being present in the meeting and being a part of the company.
Trello calls this their “10 commandments” where the company’s core philosophies and culture are listed. The list is read aloud by someone, usually a new hire, before each town hall. Trello sees this as an important platform to reinforce their company culture and shared values.
DO: Ice breakers
In a meeting amongst people who don’t spend every day together, a little ice breaker is definitely necessary to ease everyone into the meeting and get them in an open and participative mood.
There are different types of ice breakers that you can try to warm your employees up to the meeting. Buffer employees have a tradition of taking turns to serve as a DJ or live musician and play music while waiting for everyone to join the call. Alternatively, you also start the meeting with a trivia quiz or by getting everyone to vote on where to go for the next company offsite. Having small ice breaker activities can help to liven the mood and energise everyone for the meeting.
DO: Work(out) together
Virtual town halls usually last for at least an hour, and that’s a long time to be seated and staring at the screen, absorbing information. Introducing breaks between different presentation segments helps your audience freshen up and be able to continue paying attention. It’s even better if the break is a group activity!
Being a full-remote team, Buffer knows a great deal about running successful virtual town halls. They introduced a physical activity break in their virtual town hall where everyone stretches in front of the camera with the rest of the company. Stretches are usually guided by a volunteer yogi. After all, taking a moment to hold awkward yoga stretches and be silly together is a great way to forge bonds, even if you hardly meet in person.
DO: Celebrate successes
All successful town hall organisers swear by this: celebrate your team’s successes! And if you’re running a virtual town hall, this point becomes about 10 times more important. Why?
Statistics show that 60% of employees would like to be praised for their work more frequently. Chances are remote workers get fewer chances to be praised in front of their colleagues and get recognised for their efforts. Use your virtual town hall as an opportunity to let individual team members know how well they are doing and that their efforts are not forgotten.
Additionally, you can also include a segment in your virtual town hall where you celebrate team members reaching a career milestone, hitting a target or taking on responsibilities outside their scope. Anything that deserves appreciation should be celebrated during these sessions.
DON’T: Skip Q&A
A virtual town hall is not just an opportunity for you to discuss business updates and share upcoming goals. It’s also an opportunity for your remote employees to ask questions, especially since they don’t get frequent face time with the leadership. So, make sure you allocate sufficient time for a Q&A session.
You can also consider using a Q&A tool to crowdsource questions from your remote employees (like the above). Employees can ask questions and vote on questions that resonates with them so you can prioritise which ones to answer first. If you are unable to address all the questions during the town hall, make sure you follow up with a compiled list of answers and share it the team.
DON’T: Come unprepared for questions
This article walks you through how to prepare for questions that come up during town halls.
DON’T: Forget to send a recap
A town hall by its very nature discusses many different matters. So, it's possible that some details are missed or overlooked by your team. Always assign two or three note-takers for every virtual town hall. At the end of your town hall, send everyone a recap of everything that was discussed. You can even include answers to the questions you were not able to answer during the town hall in the recap.