Meetings can sometimes feel unproductive, but many are absolutely essential to communicate key information and ensure alignment across teams, from C-suite leadership to individual contributors. Many organizations hold regular all-hands meetings, sometimes called town hall meetings, to bring everybody together for updates, to share company values, to show gratitude for a job well done, and plan for the future.

So, what goes on during one of these internal corporate gatherings, and how can organizations make the most of them?

An intro to the all-hands meeting

These gatherings are called town hall meetings because they bring together influential decision-makers to speak with the entire company. It’s an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to internal communications that helps team members align on objectives and otherwise discuss important company-wide matters.

An all-hands meeting is not a one-and-done deal. Most companies—especially larger ones—have a regular cadence for all-hands meetings to help keep everyone on the same page, which is one of its main benefits.

The benefits of all-hands meetings

They’re called all-hands meetings because everyone attends, and everyone pitches in. When you get leadership and stakeholders all into one room, you can extract a ton of value with the proper care, planning, and preparation (more on that later).

A well-executed all-hands meeting helps organizations:

  • Align leadership and stakeholders on current objectives, targets, deadlines, progress, and more.
  • Provide a platform for upper management to have a voice.
  • Boost employee morale and spirit across the organization by celebrating wins.
  • Measure quarterly performance and successes.
  • Create a transparent and healthy company culture.

For companies with a large number of remote employees, regular all-hands meetings can also amend some of the fragmentation that comes from a scattered workforce.

Rules to follow for planning an effective all-hands meeting

As you prepare for an all-hands meeting, you’ll typically want to consider the following steps.

1. Pick an optimal date and time for your meeting

Higher-ups often have busy schedules, so it can sometimes be difficult to align calendars. The key is to choose a date and time that works for most people. You may not get everyone, but as long as a majority of the leadership team can attend, that’s a win.

2. Choose a format (in-person, virtual, or hybrid)

If it’s challenging to bring everyone together in a physical space, consider a virtual or hybrid all-hands meeting so the leadership team can join from anywhere. Whichever route you choose, make sure to communicate the details well in advance.

For organizations with a large remote team, a virtual all-hands meeting is likely the best option. But for companies with a strong in-office presence, in-person could prove beneficial with the added face-to-face interaction.

3. Create an agenda

All-hands participants can better prepare for a meeting when they know what to expect. Creating a meeting agenda gives structure to an all-hands meeting so you can get the most out of the gathering.

Here’s a list of items to include in your meeting agenda template:

  • New employee introductions
  • Milestone recognition and praise
  • Important company updates
  • Forecasted changes and expectations
  • Mertics sharing
  • Timely reminders
  • Open question and answer (QA) session

4. Make it accessible for team members who couldn’t attend

While it’s possible that not everyone will be able to attend your next all-hands meeting, it’s important to make it accessible after the fact. These meetings are full of important information and company updates that are often better expressed verbally than in an email.

One of the best ways to do this is to record the meeting so employees who couldn’t be present have a chance to watch it on demand at their leisure.

5. Set up a regular cadence for all-hands meetings

The frequency of town hall meetings will be different for every organization. While some prefer to hold them at the top or bottom of each quarter, some organizations bring all hands together once a month.

What’s important is that you choose a reasonable and appropriate cadence given the nature of your business, and stick to it. After a while, the meeting consistency will become second nature to leaders and allow them to get excited and prepare material to discuss.

How to hold an all-hands meeting

With the above tips in mind, follow these steps to host a successful all-hands meeting.

1. Prep your team

You’ve created an insightful and exciting agenda, so make sure to send it out to all employees well before the actual meeting. This will help them prepare for the discussion and come ready with questions, answers, and insights that will increase the value of the meeting overall.

2. Keep it short, sweet, and on time

All-hands meetings work optimally when they’re kept short and sweet—and when they’re on time. Avoid packing too much into your agenda and make sure you get to the most important things near the beginning. Attendees will appreciate your regard for their time—and not running over is a standard rule of meeting etiquette.

3. Maintain focus

You created an agenda for a reason, so stick to it. Throwing in random activities or going off-topic can derail the meeting and prevent you from accomplishing your goals.

4. Make it exciting, engaging, and interactive

Think of ideas (maybe an activity) to include in your all-hands meeting agenda to make it exciting, engaging, and interactive. When the meeting is fun, employees will look forward to attending.

Here are a few ideas to make your next all-hands more fun:

  • Host a QA session. The value of open QA sessions in an all-hands meeting cannot be understated, and it certainly shouldn’t be skipped. Encouraging attendees to ask questions and share information is one of the best ways to increase engagement.
  • Introduce new employees. Use the opportunity to introduce new employees to the organization. Ask new hires to share some fun or quirky personal facts to lighten the mood.  
  • Celebrate wins. You can get to the meat of the meeting momentarily, but try kicking it off by celebrating wins to build excitement for the rest of the meeting.
  • Host a guest speaker. Guest speakers are not reserved for external corporate events. Having a presenter with particular expertise share ideas—especially if what they have to say can help your organization achieve one or more of its goals—can be extremely beneficial. Plus, it shakes things up from the regular round-table style discussions by letting someone else speak.

Good questions to ask during an all-hands meeting

Ask insightful and constructive questions to help you recognize things that went well and areas that could benefit from improvement.

  • Can you highlight some things that exceeded your expectations last quarter?
  • What can we do to improve?
  • As a team, what did we do the best?

5. Follow up with attendees

Sending a post-all-hands meeting follow-up via email is a great way to summarize key talking points. A follow-up email should include any key takeaways, new employee introductions, and links to resources that may help provide further context to talking points for people who couldn’t attend live.

One of the great things about all-hands meetings is the way they’re structured. You can follow all of these tips, tricks, and best practices pretty much to a T, whether you’re hosting an in-person or virtual all-hands meeting. Hosting a virtual meeting is made even easier when you use the right virtual event platform with key functionalities like live chat, polling, QA, and more.

How a comprehensive event management platform enables successful all-hands meetings

Make your all-hands meetings easier with an event management platform that offers features and functionality to ensure everyone’s on the same page — well ahead of the meeting.

With built-in agenda functionality and live QA session capabilities, you can set up and facilitate your next all-hands no matter where your team members join from.