Connected Culture, Curated Communications, Internal Communications

10 ways to make sure your all-hands meetings don’t suck

All Hands meetings that don't suck

An all-hands is your company’s most expensive meeting by a wide margin, so it’s critical to make it count. Unfortunately, many companies have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to optimizing their most significant opportunity to rally their team and build a fantastic work culture. So what creates a less-than-stellar all-hands experience?

When you really take a second to look closely at the faces in the digital room and you see eyes glazing over or people shutting off the video as the CEO talks about organizational metrics with no big picture context that every employee can relate to. When there’s no open dialogue, employees feel like they’re being talked at instead of engaged with. Or, have you ever attended a meeting that feels like it has no agenda? When there’s no clear story arc with action items for your team, people walk away feeling like they wasted their time. That’s the absolute last thing you want to happen after an all-hands.

The good news is you can avoid falling victim to these all-hands atrocities. Use these ten tips to build fun and energizing all-hands meetings that your team will look forward to attending.

Tip 1 – Share the mic.

Diversify your presenters to keep your meetings interesting. Sure, give each C-suite executive their time at the podium. But then, highlight a new department or initiative lead at each meeting. Also, consider giving your lower level managers some time on the mic. This can be a great way to elevate and help prepare mid-level leaders for a future in a higher position.

Tip 2 – Templatize a dynamic meeting deck.

Re-inventing the all-hands deck every time you have a meeting is a waste of precious time. Have your design team create a solid template that includes a variety of slide styles and infuses the brand and cultural elements. Then, a week or two before your meeting, task key stakeholders with updating their portion of the deck. Be sure to incorporate components of the meeting that occur each month in the template. Doing so helps establish a routine meeting agenda and makes it easier for leaders to analyze data and show progress over time.

Tip 3 – Communicate at the right level.

Department leads often make the mistake of getting too deep into the weeds when they’re providing a high-level update. When this happens, attendees across the organization get lost. Presenters who need to deep dive into a complex topic should always provide basic context first. That way, employees who don’t speak fluent marketing or engineering understand what the heck the presenter is talking about and how it relates to them. Make sure nothing gets lost in translation. A good frame of reference for anyone presenting is to think back to their first day on the job and address the audience the same way they were addressed at that career stage.

Tip 4 – Prioritize engagement.

An optimal all-hands serves as a representation of the entire company. To make sure yours is hitting the mark, it’s essential to try and build an event that provides value for everyone. Start by surveying your team to find out what standing day and time works best for the most people on your team so you can get as many live attendees in the digital or physical room as possible.

Then, crowd-source your agenda and gather questions ahead of time. If you have remote, hybrid, or international teams, prioritize structuring your all-hands meetings in a “digital room” that allows all team members to participate, including asynchronously. Some employees may need to watch the event after it happens – but they should still have an opportunity to engage and ask clarifying questions in the digital room, before, during or after the live event.

Tip 5 – Give a voice to all employees.

Don’t fall into the trap where one person in the company always asks questions. Instead, make your all-hands all-inclusive by ensuring that all employees – including the introverts, new hires, and front-row-hand-raisers – have an opportunity to influence what’s addressed during the meeting. This will help you create a transparent culture where employees at all levels feel heard and involved, regardless of whether they’re international, remote, hybrid, or in-office

Utilize tools that allow you to accept questions anonymously to make sure all your employees feel comfortable speaking up. Then, make an effort to address as many of the most important questions as you can during the meeting. Ideally, you should make the most of the live meeting time and build a minimum of 15 minutes that’s exclusively dedicated to Q&A. Having an ongoing digital room helps provide a place to continually engage and build trust and transparency even after the live meeting.

Great remote all hands meetings
Tip 6 – Run a tight ship with your meeting agenda.

Keep your meeting super focused and optimize it around the most important and impactful discussion areas you have to share. Don’t get sucked into housekeeping or let speakers go down a rabbit hole when they present. To avoid this, have a trusted MC identified who can jump in and take the mic back if things start to wander. Also, have the MC write down questions that come up intermittently throughout the meeting so you can stay focused, then address them during your dedicated Q&A.

Tip 7 – Incorporate rituals that reinforce your team culture.

Take advantage of the opportunity of having everyone in the same room by building rituals into your all-hands. Welcome new employees, recognize birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions, milestones – whatever feels right for your culture. Building recognition into your all-hands helps you create a sense of belonging across your organization.

Tip 8 – Don’t be afraid to have fun with it!

Make a diligent effort to make your all-hands something employees look forward to. Incorporate icebreakers or quizzes at the beginning to set the tone for fun. Run engaging team contests and award prizes. Take time to do badge recognition. Or even set up a quarterly all-hands social event! Be creative and make it memorable.

Tip 9 – Ensure “equity” and provide access to meetings in your company history archive.

Get in the habit of automatically recording your all-hands meetings and sharing the link out with your team as quickly as you can after it concludes. You can even use a platform like Cleary to capture live Q&A and notes for added historical context to build a documented company history.

A well-constructed archive is super helpful to have when you’re onboarding a new team member. This tip is also particularly important for globally distributed teams where not everyone can be at the live meeting. It keeps everyone up-to-date on what’s going on and helps to reinforce a concept of “equity” across remote, hybrid, and in-person individuals.

Tip 10 – Survey your audience to see how you did.

One of the biggest areas of opportunity for improving all-hands meetings that companies are missing is a very simple one. Ask! After your meeting is over, present viewers with an automated, super quick, anonymous survey that captures their overall sentiment and gives them the opportunity to comment on the meeting. Capturing employee feedback while it’s fresh in their mind gives you the power to gauge – nearly in real-time – how well your event was received. Use any feedback you capture to improve as you go.

Bonus tip – Be human first, always.

Address things happening outside the office that are impacting people’s lives. We’ve all been forced to do this to some degree thanks to COVID, but it shouldn’t stop there. If there’s a regional natural disaster, a human rights movement, or a major historical event happening that has the potential to have a major impact on members of your team – talk about it.

Share resources available to employees who may need extra support. Encourage employees to build peer groups. And above all, acknowledge that important life events can and should come first. We’re all human, and making it clear that your leadership team understands that will help you build trust and loyalty across all levels of your organization.

There you have it! Now you’re armed with all the information you need to architect and execute an inclusive, engaging, informative all-hands with your remote or distributed team.

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Cleary is the best all-hands solution for a distributed workforce.

Empower your team to put the “all” in all hands with our transparent, inclusive, connected solution.

  • Collect questions before the meeting starts and make sure everyone’s voice is heard by using anonymous question tools.
  • Get the conversation started in a transparent forum with built-in moderation controls.
  • Give leadership the power to save valuable time by answering quick questions in writing in your virtual meeting space.
  • Incorporate icebreakers to set the tone and keep things fun.
  • Provide a permanent link to your meeting, which includes pre-meeting forum conversations and Q&A, that can be searched when the all-hands concludes.
  • Then, use polls to capture employee feedback on your all-hands experience and ask what they’d change to develop a community-driven agenda.
  • Simply incorporate the tips listed above (and more!) into all your future all-hands.
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