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.