With the COVID-19 coronavirus moving people to remote working arrangements, holding virtual all-hands meetings has become the most efficient way to touch base with employees.
While virtual meetings are meant to make your remote and global team feel included, a poorly executed one might end up alienating them altogether. On the other hand, a virtual all hands meetings can do a lot for your employee morale, even if you aren’t able to have them present at the venue.
Even if people are not in the same space, it's important to ensure that everyone shares the same feeling of ease, authenticity and welcome. Since physical luxuries are not available in virtual town halls, here are some things you can focus on doing to make your virtual audience experience an authentic and welcoming town hall:
1. Plan your virtual meeting time based on multiple time zones
Virtual town hall planners often overlook the importance of setting a convenient time for everyone. While 2.30 pm on Tuesday is the best time to schedule a meeting, not everyone can enjoy this luxury. It is still crucial that you make an effort to find a good compromise between the different time zones so your employees’ feel their time and presence is valued.
2. Involve virtual attendees in the planning process
The suggestions and ideas that come up at the planning table determine the outcome of the town hall. Hence, creating a cosy virtual town hall experience for your employees starts with planning. Get a couple of employees who will be attending the town hall online to become representatives in the planning committee.
Having these representatives in the planning committee ensures that the perspectives and limitations of your virtual audience are always represented. Things like the time of the town hall and webcast platform used may slip the mind of planners but will definitely be at the top of the virtual audience’s considerations.
3. Appoint a moderator for the town hall
No matter how large or small your town hall is, having one person acting as the moderator of the event will ensure the meeting goes smoothly. A good moderator can make a huge difference in keeping an audience engaged and making employees feel included in the discussion.
For example, if an employee raises a concern that warrants an offline conversation, the moderator can step in and bring the conversation back to the topic of the meeting. Similarly, if a manager is prone to rambling, a good moderator should be able to encourage shorter answers to ensure that more questions are addressed.
4. Appoint a “virtual representative” during the town hall
Tech slip-ups are unavoidable when using technology, so addressing it instantly is crucial. Glitchy visuals and audio can cause inconvenient delays and cause remote workers to lose out on valuable information and participation.
Try appointing a “virtual representative”, someone physically at the town hall who's connected to the video streaming platform. If there is an issue with live streaming, they can alert the AV technician on-site. This way your virtual audience is not left hanging audio-less or with a frozen screen while you carry on with the town hall.
5. Set rules to the meeting
Meeting culture, whether in person or virtual, will affect company culture. Setting rules for the meeting will not only ensure that the meeting goes smoothly, it also helps ensure that the meeting will continue to promote your company culture the way an in-person all-hands will.
To do so, 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. 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.
Rules could include:
- Never talk over anyone else. Everyone in this company has the same right to voice their opinions.
- If you want a chance at the microphone, send a message at the chat first. The moderator will queue you in.
- We will attempt to answer 10 questions, so answers will be kept short and succinct.
6. Send a meaningful invitation
Whether a virtual or physical town hall, simply sending a calendar invite requesting your employees' attendance doesn’t cut it. A meaningful invitation is one that invites them to participate in a conversation.
Firstly, attach the town hall agenda with the email invite that you send out. An agenda shows clear preparation for the town hall and informs your attendees on how they will be committing their time during those two hours. A well-crafted agenda will also encourage more people to RSVP to the town hall.
Secondly, invite questions ahead of the town hall. Crowdsourcing questions a few days before the town hall creates anticipation for your audience to attend the town hall, even if they are not present physically at the venue. Additionally, your virtual audience will also feel involved in shaping the town hall, even if they are miles away, in a different time zone.
7. Add some social to the virtual
Town halls should be anything but a one-way information dissemination session. Given the opportunity, town halls can become a social event where your employees mingle, network and renew their sense of camaraderie. While this is easier to facilitate in a physical town hall, virtual audience tend to miss out.
To add a social element for your virtual town hall audience, get a team in each of your global offices to find a location for everyone in the office to get together and watch the town hall live. Cater some refreshments to make the event cosy and welcoming.
8. Make the meeting interactive
Maintaining the connection and engagement with your virtual audience is much more difficult due to the absence in atmosphere and the increase in distractions.
Introducing interactive activities such as live polls and quizzes throughout the event keep your audience engaged and energised throughout the town hall. In the case of a virtual town hall, polls also have the power to make your virtual audience feel present and involved in the town hall, even if they are miles away.
9. Invest in the right AV resources
Nothing makes a virtual meeting less efficient than tech that doesn't work. To ensure that everything works, ensure that you either have the right equipment, or are working with tech platforms that make live streaming and audience engagement possible. Picking the right technology partners to assist you ensures that your audience doesn’t suffer the consequences of poor audio, disrupted visuals, or a messy user interface.
Here’s a list of reliable tech partners:
10. 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.
Virtual town halls are here to stay. It’s time to review how you plan and conduct town halls so you can provide the best experience for your audience.
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