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A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Town Hall Meetings

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A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Town Hall Meetings

Town hall meetings should be a key event in every organization’s monthly calendar. They’re an opportunity for employees and leadership to come together as a team, engage in open conversation, share updates, successes, and any queries that have cropped up along the way. 

During the pandemic, town hall meetings have looked slightly different, with most organizations shifting to an online format. This transition might have been daunting at first, with many wondering if it was truly possible to host an effective and engaging town hall meeting virtually. The answer? Yes, it is.

This article walks you through everything you need to know about virtual town hall meetings, with tips and tricks you can implement to optimize everyone’s experience and why you should be using Riverside.fm. 

TL;DR 

  • Virtual town hall meetings gather an organization’s leadership and employees on a virtual meeting platform such as Riverside.fm
  • Town hall meetings are an opportunity to share company news and updates, employee achievements, and any problems or grievances. 
  • Virtual town hall meetings build employee morale, establish an open dialogue between different levels of your organization, help you reach more of your workforce, and allow you to record your meeting in HD. 
  • Some tips for running a town hall meeting include: set an agenda, designate a moderator, choose your software carefully, and don’t take it too seriously.

What is a town hall meeting?

Let’s go back to the basics for a moment. A town hall meeting isn’t exactly what it sounds like. Rather than a literal meeting of town residents, in the context we’re looking at, it refers to a regular gathering of an organization or company’s staff and leadership team in the context we're looking at. It’s a chance for organization-wide announcements to be made, updates to be shared, and for open dialogue and conversation to be had. The term is no longer restricted to simple ‘company update’ meetings but can also refer to team-building exercise meetings, kick-off meetings, and more. 

What is the purpose of a town hall meeting?

The purpose of a town hall meeting is to bring an organization’s employees and leadership team together. As we said earlier, this could be to discuss the latest news, give minor updates on your company’s recent successes, or simply to break the ice and build team spirit. That said, since a town hall meeting is run mostly for your employees’ benefit, you should let the purpose and format of your meeting be shaped by what your employees want or feel they need. 

Town hall meetings are important for situating everyone within the wider picture, thus ultimately building a sense of community and camaraderie within the organization. 

Advantages of Virtual Town Hall Meetings

Team spirit & community 

On the day-to-day, your employees most likely interact with their small teams and line managers, without an opportunity to see how they fit into the bigger picture. Hosting town hall meetings is a great way to bring everyone together, cultivating a real sense of community and team spirit.

Boosted motivation 

The opportunity to share your company’s wins (whether big or small), as well as showing every one of your employees how they fit into the large-scale trajectory of your business, is a surefire way to boost employee morale and motivation. 

Open dialogue

In terms of establishing a healthy, welcoming, and open workplace environment, town hall meetings are hugely important for empowering employees to voice their opinions and speak their minds. This applies in particular to creating a transparent line of communication between your employees and the leadership team. In bigger organizations especially, the high-level leadership team can feel distant and uninterested in work taking place at other levels of the business. Town hall meetings are a good opportunity to break down those barriers. 

COVID Safe 

In many parts of the world, COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. Virtual meetings mean that you can continue to bring your employees together in a COVID-compliant manner. 

Reach your entire organization 

Another major advantage of virtual town halls is reaching your entire organization at once. Regardless of whether your employees are in various locations, they’ll be able to join in on your meeting (time difference allowing, of course). 

Record your town hall meeting

Another benefit of virtual town hall meetings is recording the whole session. Members of staff who couldn’t make the meeting can watch it back, and you can send a recap to those who attended. 

Disadvantages of Virtual Town Hall Meetings

Difficult to organize 

For obvious reasons, coordinating, arranging, and hosting an organization-wide meeting can be a real headache. First off, you’ve got the challenge of finding a time that suits most people. Then, you’ll also have to make sure that everyone is aware of when the town hall meeting is taking place and how they can access the meeting link. Luckily, with Riverside.fm, hosting the town hall meeting is a breeze. 

Intimidating 

Although town hall meetings are meant to provide a platform for open dialogue and transparent discussion, it can be an intimidating prospect to speak up before your entire organization.

Time constraints 

When it comes to business, time is of the essence. For larger organizations, in particular, you may find that you’re unable to fit everything on your agenda into a single town hall meeting, or not everyone might get a chance to contribute. Don’t worry, though; there are workarounds. You could, for example, break it down into smaller town hall meetings that are more focused with fewer people. 

How effective are virtual town hall meetings?

Though town hall meetings are an effective format in theory, it’s all about what you do with them and how you choose to run your meetings. Both you and your employees will get the most value out of your town hall meetings if you adapt the format to suit your needs. Remember, it's meant to be a two-way conversation. Don’t feel obliged to follow a conventional format. Instead, make your town hall meetings your own, in line with your community and your organization's philosophy. 

How do town hall meetings work?

Again, this all comes down to how your particular organization chooses to do things. That said, most town hall meetings will have a set agenda so that there is some kind of structure to follow. The agenda could cover key themes or news items that will be discussed, or it might leave a set amount of time for questions and answers. It all depends on the exact nature of your town hall meeting. 

How to Run a Town Hall Meeting

When it comes to arranging an organizational town hall meeting, there are a lot of logistics to consider. Let’s break it down: 

Steps to hosting an online town hall meeting

  1. Set the date and time. You’ll need to try and set a time that works for key members of your leadership, and that is appropriate across time zones if you have an international team. 
  2. Send out a calendar reminder and memo, including the virtual Town Hall invite link as well as the meeting agenda. Once you’ve set the date and time, make sure to send out the invite to everyone within your organization. 
  3. If it’s your first time hosting a virtual town hall, it’s worth including some basic instructions on how to join the meeting. 
  4. If you’re a particularly large organization, you may want to appoint a moderator. The moderator will simply be responsible for keeping the meeting on track and on time. 
  5. Make sure to stick to your agenda on the day. If you can, it's always best practice to leave time for an audience Q&A.
  6. Once your town hall meeting is over, send a recap and thank you email. It’s a nice touch to include a recording of the meeting for those who might not have made it on the day. Sending a follow-up email is also an effective way of cementing the main takeaways from the meeting and keeping it fresh in your employees’ minds. 

5 Tips to Doing Town Hall Meetings Better

Set a meeting agenda ahead of time 

Setting a meeting agenda will help both you and your employees. The added structure will help the town hall meeting flow better, it will help you keep to time more effectively, and it will mean your employees can prepare their thoughts and anything they want to say ahead of time. 

Choose your virtual meeting software carefully 

Your choice of virtual meeting software can seriously influence the overall success of your virtual town halls. You want an easy-to-use platform with high functionality that will enhance your town hall meeting. The ability to record your session, share your screen, and invite live audience participation is also fundamental.  Some options include Google Meets, Webex, Zoom, and, of course, Riverside.fm.

Don’t take it too seriously 

Since you’re sharing your organization’s news and updates, it can feel more like a business meeting, but it’s not! This is an opportunity to establish a more relaxed community atmosphere and create transparency through open lines of dialogue between different stakeholders in your business. You’re more likely to have a fruitful town hall meeting if it’s more laidback. 

Make your employees feel comfortable and valued 

To truly draw maximum value from your town hall meetings, your employees need to feel comfortable attending and speaking up. This will come from a mixture of the atmosphere within the meeting and how they’re made to feel. As far as possible, you should ensure your employees feel highly valued when attending your virtual town hall. You can do this by making sure everyone gets a chance to speak and by highlighting employee achievements, for example. 

Change and adapt where necessary 

Don’t be scared to change how you do your town hall meetings if you find something isn’t working for you. As we said earlier, you should be ready to adapt your meetings to what your employees need and want, rather than sticking with what you know. 

Running a town hall meeting with Riverside

Riverside.fm is designed to make your life easier. Running a town hall meeting is already stressful enough, so why not harness Riverside.fm’s powerful tools to make it the smoothest experience possible? 

User-friendly 

When it comes to running your town hall, you don’t want to be held up by awkward or clunky technology. Riverside.fm is designed to make the process as seamless as possible. Joining your virtual town hall is as easy as clicking the invite link, and there’s no need for your co-hosts or audience to make an account or download any additional software. 

Powerful features 

Riverside’s broad range of features means that you can make your virtual town hall your own. Share your screen to show your employees additional resources, add sound and other media to your session using the Media Board, and even invite any employees ‘up to the podium’, as it were, by making use of the live audience call-in feature. The world is your oyster with Riverside.fm. 

HD Recording 

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get all your employees on one call at a single time. Luckily, Riverside.fm automatically locally records in full HD, so you can share the town hall recording with anyone who missed it. 

Progressive cloud uploading  

You no longer have to wait hours for your town hall meeting recording to be available online to share. Riverside uploads all files to the cloud as you record, so by the time you’re done, everything is ready to share within minutes. This also prevents computer crashes or glitches from making you lose your recordings.

Easy brand customization

If you’re looking to share your town hall meetings publicly, or even just within the company, it’s never a bad idea to keep everything professional and consistent with your organization’s brand. Riverside’s Magic Editor helps you do this with easy layouts as well as custom backgrounds and logos to fit your organization’s branding.

3 Key Tools to Incorporate in Your Virtual Town Hall Meetings

Screen share 

Make your town hall meeting more interactive and engaging by using the screen share function. You can choose to go for a simple PowerPoint presentation that reinforces the discussion, play videos, or demonstrate a particular process. Whatever you’re showing, the added visual element is an effective way to reinforce what you’re saying and keep your employees interested. 

Live polls/surveys 

At the end of the day, town hall meetings are all about your employees. Encourage their participation by inviting them to give their opinion using live polls or surveys. This is a great way to involve your audience in the town hall meeting and really make them feel like their voice is important. 

HD recording 

The ability to locally record your town hall meeting in full HD should not be overlooked. As we said earlier, this is a great way to share the meeting with those who weren’t able to make it. 

FAQ

What is another word for a town hall meeting?

All organizations refer to their town hall meetings a little differently.  You may come across some people who call it more literally an ‘organization-wide meeting,’ while others might refer to it as a monthly ‘catchup’. You can really choose to call it however you like. 

What is an important effect of participation in town hall meetings?

By far, the most important effect of participation in town hall meetings is an increased sense of community and team spirit. In addition, employees will feel they’re a valuable part of a bigger picture which can do wonders for motivation at work. 

How do you make a town hall fun?

First of all, ensure to follow our advice to create a more laid back atmosphere in your town hall. You could also choose to reserve a portion of the meeting at the beginning dedicated to icebreaker activities or more personal updates with a humorous edge. 

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