An all-hands meeting, sometimes known as a town hall, is no ordinary meeting. It is the meeting.
Done right, a regular all-hands meeting will drive transparency and alignment within your team and foster your company culture. Done badly, it will be just a waste of time.
If you’re new to the concept, or you’re in the discovery phase of how to improve your all-hands meetings, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to cover the all-hands basics. By the end, you’ll learn:
- What is an all-hands meeting?
- Why you should run all-hands meetings
- Things to know before organizing your first all-hands meeting
Ready when you are. Let’s dive right in.
What is an all-hands meeting?
An all-hands meeting is a regular, company-wide gathering where all employees meet with leadership to discuss company matters (hence, the name all-hands – coming from the phrase ‘all hands on deck’.)
The goal of an all-hands meeting is to:
- share business updates of the past month, quarter or season
- drive alignment around company mission and strategy
- celebrate milestones and the people who made them possible
- give everyone a chance to ask questions
It’s never too early to start running all-hands meetings. You’ll know it’s time, as soon as it gets difficult to keep everyone in the company on the same page.
At Slido, for example, we started running our own all-company meetings when our team was about 40 in size and since then, they have become a permanent fixture in our calendars.
Depending on the size of your company, you might choose to run your all-hands meetings on a departmental or regional level. This creates a space to go deeper into topics that might be too granular for the entire company.
Why you should run all-hands meetings
Regardless of the scope and level of your all-hands meetings, the benefits of running them regularly are incalculable.
Here are 5 main benefits of adding all-hands meetings into your company calendar:
- Keep your team updated and reach alignment
- Celebrate people and uplift team spirit
- Give a voice to everyone
- Foster your company culture
- Connect HQ with remote teams
Keep your team updated and reach alignment
All-hands meetings provide you with a unique opportunity to keep all your team members in the picture of everything that is business-related. For example, at our monthly all-hands meetings, we spend about 30% of the time on reviewing our key metrics, such as the number of events that used Slido, sales, revenue, net retention, and NPS, amongst others.
But the purpose of all-hands meetings goes way beyond just sharing business and people updates (that you could do in a less expensive way). Your all-company meetings allow you to get your employees aligned on the company goals.
To give this a shape, let us use this quote by Elon Musk: “Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.”
Think of every member of your team as a vector and an all-hands meeting as one of the means to point them in the right direction.
Celebrate people and uplift team spirit
Behind every company achievement, there’s a hero or a team of heroes. Celebrating your team members’ successes is as important as the business updates. Especially when things get overwhelming, nothing boosts morale like reviewing the highlights and giving shout-outs to the people who helped to achieve them.
A perfect activity to celebrate your people is ‘Silent hero’. It’s simple: Ask each team member to think of a person who went the extra mile for them or did an exceptional job last month or quarter. Next, let them submit that person’s name into a Slido word cloud poll.
At Slido, we do this activity at every all-hands, and then share the word cloud on the big screen. Seeing your name on the screen is a real motivation booster.
Another way to uplift the team spirit is to crowdsource company highlights directly from the employees. It’s a great alternative to the speakers reviewing highlights on the stage.
Invite your colleagues to share their personal high points with the person or people sitting next to them. Then, ask them to submit their own high points into an open text poll using their smartphones. Once you have all the submissions, review and acknowledge the top ones on the screen. It’s a nice way to find out what truly resonates with your team.
Give a voice to everyone
An all-hands meeting gives you one of the few opportunities to create a forum for employee questions. An open Q&A with leadership will help you uncover the most burning issues and foster transparency in your workplace. Be sure to allow at least 20% of your all-hands agenda to Q&A so you have enough time to answer the most critical questions.
A good practice is to start collecting questions some days leading up to the meeting. This will allow the executives to prepare for the Q&A beforehand and learn what topics employees want to discuss.
For example, we share a Slido Q&A one week before our meeting in our Slack’s #general channel, via our Slido x Slack integration. This allows our colleagues to submit their questions directly from the channel, either anonymously or with their name. They can also upvote or downvote questions submitted by others, helping to sort out the most relevant ones.
Related Story: How to Host Better Q&A Sessions at All-Hands Meetings
It’s also important to allow your team to ask any impromptu questions live during the meeting. Let them submit their questions into Slido live Q&A, or collect their insights from the floor – whatever works better for you and your team. If you happen to get more questions than your Q&A time allows, make sure to address any outstanding ones in writing or have your departmental leads provide answers individually to their team.
Foster your company culture
Your company culture shows and grows at meetings. All-hands are one-of-a-kind moments, where you can demonstrate and strengthen it. Since all-hands are first and foremost about the people and for the people, let them contribute to the agenda and co-create the program. Get creative and think of an activity where people can loosen up and have fun.
To give you an example, at our December all-hands, we had our own band playing “All I Want for Christmas is You”, with the rest of our team clapping and singing along.
At our summer meeting, we held a photo competition with the best snapshots from summer vacations. We showed the photos on the big screen, let people vote for their favorite ones and then awarded the winner with a camera.
Bi-annually, we also review our company vision. We emphasize our values, discuss our mission and review how we’re doing in terms of achieving our goals. This is very inspiring and lets people know that there’s a higher purpose behind their work, other than just revenue.
Connect HQ with remote teams
All-hands meetings are a unique chance to connect your remote colleagues with headquarters and make them feel part of the company and community.
Plenty of companies have teams scattered across different regions, or individual workers working remotely from home or co-working spaces. Some companies, such as Buffer, which has the majority of the workforce working remotely, run their all-hands fully online.
At Slido, we have about one-third of our colleagues working remotely from offices around the world. At every all-hands, we try and secure the best online experience for them.
Our remote colleagues join our all-hands via Zoom, and we have cameras facing both the audience and the speakers to make sure they get as immersed in the meeting as possible.
We always start by welcoming them and encouraging them to participate, and the speakers address them repeatedly during the meeting. This also makes the people in the room more aware of the online team and fosters the feeling of togetherness.
Related story: How to Lead and Facilitate Virtual Team Meetings
Things to know before organizing your first all-hands meeting
While there are many strategies on how to organize a killer all-hands meeting, these 9 planning tips have become our bread and butter:
- Set a fixed date and invite people early
- Put all slides in one place
- Build a clearly-structured agenda
- Appoint a moderator
- Engage your team during the meeting
- Have various speakers share the stage
- Sync with your AV technician
- Have a champion for the remote teams
- Collect questions before the meeting
Set a fixed date and invite people early
Make your all-hands a tradition. Set a fixed date for your all-hands and stick to it. This will make it easier for people to remember and they will be more likely to attend.
Send the calendar invites to your colleagues well in advance; ideally at the start of the season or quarter so they can schedule other meetings or days off accordingly. You can also set a fixed time if it’s suitable for the majority of the team, or switch between morning and afternoon slots to accommodate your remote workers.
Put all slides in one place
To avoid technical hiccups and many back and forths, create one master template of your slide deck where all the speakers upload their slides. This will help you review the content, collaborate effectively and make the flow much smoother.
If you’re using Google Slides, you can also create interaction points directly in your presentation using our Slido x Google Slides integration. With this add-on, you will we able to create live polls and display poll results and employee questions, without ever having to leave your slides.
Build a clearly-structured agenda
Set a clear agenda for your all-hands meeting with agreed timings. Allocate a concrete time range for each section of your all-hands based on your company priorities. To avoid overruns, sync with all your speakers before the meeting and tell them to keep an eye on the time.
Don’t forget to leave enough time for Q&A and feedback. For your inspiration, here’s our all-hands meeting agenda broken down into concrete building blocks.
Appoint a moderator
A good moderator will help you set the stage for the meeting. They will serve as a bridge between the speakers and the people in the audience and guide them through the meeting.
Especially at larger all-hands meetings, appointing a moderator is a must-have: they will be the ones to keep track of the agenda, introduce speakers, facilitate the discussions, and steer the Q&A session.
Engage your team during the meeting
Keeping your employees alert and engaged throughout the meeting sounds like no small feat, but smart use of interactive live polls can do the trick.
Plan out several interaction points throughout your all-hands program and insert them into your all-hands agenda, whether in-between or during the individual speakers’ slots. To give you a nudge, here are the 7 favorite interactive activities we do at our all-hands meetings.
Have various speakers share the stage
Invite people from different teams to get involved in planning and delivery to create a collaborative environment.
At Slido, our CEO, Peter Komornik, always shares the stage with leaders of other departments who notify us about the product updates and the progress of key projects. This helps us stay in the loop and gives us a solid overview of the ongoing projects.
Sync with your AV technician
Don’t let technology let you down. Sync with the person responsible for AV ahead of your all-hands meeting and make sure they are aware of the formats you will be using (slides, audio, video) and of all interactive activities that you’ll be running.
If you have remote team members who are joining the meeting online, prepare a suitable setup to allow them to join and test the sound in order to ensure their best online experience.
Have a champion for the remote teams
Consider having a dedicated person who will facilitate the meeting for the colleagues joining online. Like a sports commentator, the online champion will engage the remote teams that sit in front of their screens before, during and after the meeting.
At Slido, we typically have someone from the remote team to present at the meeting and appoint a dedicated person to engage the remote participants and voice their questions.
Collect questions before the meeting
Collecting questions a few days before your all-hands meeting will help you gauge the topics the team wants to discuss, and better prepare the executives for the Q&A.
If you’re using Slack, you can collect questions from your team through Slido directly in your Slack channels. They will be able to submit their questions anonymously, or with their name, and upvote questions submitted by others to push the most burning ones to the top.
Try Slido at your next all-hands meeting.