An all-hands meeting is not just another meeting. It is the meeting. It’s the driver of transparency and alignment within a team.
All-hands meetings, sometimes referred to as town halls, have become an indispensable part of agendas in a great number of companies. However, for many others they are a relatively new concept, yet to be discovered.
In this article, we’re going to cover the all-hands basics.
Let’s look at what all-hands meetings are, see why they are beneficial and learn some of the best practices for running them effectively.
All-hands meetings are regular company-wide gatherings where all employees and stakeholders have an opportunity to meet with leadership. The goal of an all-hands meeting is to share the business updates of the past month or quarter, celebrate milestones and the people who made them possible and create a space for the Q&A.
It is never too early to start having all-hands meetings. As a rule of thumb, you should “start thinking about hosting them as soon as it gets difficult for the company to fit into one room”, as Gokul Rajaram from Square advises.
At Slido, 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.
As part of natural development, your town halls might gradually extend from an all-company level to regional or departmental level. This creates a space to go deeper into topics that might be too granular for the entire company.
Regardless of the size and level, the benefits of running regular all-hands meetings are incalculable. Here is why they mean so much to us.
1. Reach alignment and keep everyone updated
As the team grows, “keeping everyone on the same page can become a corporate version of the telephone game – which as we all know, is a great source for misinformation,” as Erica Spelman from Zappos noted.
All-hands provides that unique space to keep all our team members in the picture. Like for many other companies, it is our key platform for sharing the business updates with the rest of the team. In the frenzy of the events season, they force us to stop, review and realign.
We spend about 30% of the time on reviewing our key metrics, such as the number of events that used Slido, new revenue, net retention, and NPS, amongst others.
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 gives us a solid overview and keeps us energized for the upcoming projects.
2. Celebrate wins and uplift the team spirit
Behind every company achievement, there’s a hero or a team of heroes. To us, celebrating our team members’ successes is as important as the business updates. Especially when things get rough as the season gets underway, nothing boosts the morale like talking about the highlights and giving shout-outs to the team.
Since not all heroes are always plain to see, we started an activity called ‘Silent hero’ at our all-company meetings. Each of our colleagues nominates one person who went the extra mile or helped them the most in the past month and submits their name through Slido. We then share the results on the big screen as a word cloud poll.
One of our favorite ways to uplift the team spirit is crowdsourcing highlights directly at the meeting. We invite our colleagues to share their personal high points with the person sitting next to them or discuss them in small groups. Then we ask everyone to submit and upvote them through Slido, and once we have all the submissions, we review and acknowledge the top ones on the screen.
3. Give everyone a voice
For our CEO Peter, all-hands is one of the most important days of the month because that’s when “the whole company meets and everyone gets a voice to ask their questions.”
In fact, that’s why we exist as a company. We help other companies and conferences to give voice to their participants. So we really try to walk the talk.
We spend about 25% of the time on the Q&A, addressing the team’s questions. We take it very seriously. We collect questions on the days leading up to the event, and even appoint a moderator to make sure the most important questions are addressed. If we happen to run out of time, we tackle any outstanding questions in writing.
In any case, we want to create a forum for the team to ask and to get their questions answered.
Related Story: How to Host Better Q&A Sessions at All-Hands Meetings
4. Enforce the company culture
It’s at meetings where your company culture shows and grows. Town halls are one-of-a-kind moments to demonstrate it and strengthen the sense of purpose in your company.
For example, at our December all-hands, we had our own band playing “All I Want for Christmas is You”. On another occasion, we created a photo competition with the best snapshots from summer vacation.
Bi-annually, we also review our mission and vision because, as sociologist Dr. Josh Packard explained: “If you can foster people connecting with each other around common issues and shared experiences, you increase their level of trust in your organization.”
In other words, all-hands meetings are about people and for the people.
Related story: 6 Steps for Building a Positive Company Culture
5. Connect the HQ with remote teams
As Ruth Penfold from Shazam told us in our interview: “All-hands meetings are incredibly important for a business like Shazam. We have 8 locations globally, and it is the one time when we get as many of us to be in ‘one place’ at one time.”
We couldn’t agree with her more.
Since our team is scattered across different regions, an all-hands is a unique chance for us to connect our remote colleagues with the headquarters. They join the all-hands via Zoom and we always do our best to make them feel as included as possible.
We always start by welcoming them, encouraging them to participate, and the speakers address them repeatedly during the meeting. This makes the people in the room more aware of the online team and fosters the feeling of togetherness.
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.
Related story: How to Lead and Facilitate Virtual Team Meetings
A couple of the best practices for running an all-hands meeting
While there isn’t a universal recipe on how to organize an effective all-company meeting, we consider these five tips to be the all-hands bread and butter.
Put all slides in one place
To avoid many back and forths, create one master template with Google Slides where all the speakers upload their slides. This helps you to review the content, collaborate effectively and make the flow so much smoother.
Make all-hands a tradition
Set a fixed day and time for your all-hands and stick to it. 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.
Appoint a moderator
As your all-hands grows in size, appoint a moderator who will keep track of the agenda, introduce speakers, run Q&A sessions and guide the team through the meeting.
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.
Collect questions before the meeting
Collect your employees’ questions via Slido, Slack or other platforms to gauge the topics the team wants to discuss. Let your team submit and upvote their questions several days prior to the all-hands meeting. This will allow you to learn the most pressing questions and get ready for the Q&A.
Crowdsource questions at your next all-hands meeting.