"Disengaged employees cost companies between $450 and $550 billion a year," according to a joint employee engagement survey compiled by HRDive. In 2020, as most companies have been forced to operate remotely, employee engagement has even become more challenging. So, what's the best way to keep everyone engaged remotely? You can start organizing entertaining and educational virtual town hall meetings that will surely keep your employees connected despite the distance.
A virtual town hall meeting is an annual gathering of everyone in the company using a virtual town hall meeting software to review the year's accomplishments, celebrate monumental achievements, and ask questions about the company's future. It is usually done at the end of December or in early January, which in most cases, also doubles as the holiday party. Facebook, Google, and Pixar are big companies known to go all out for their offsite town halls. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual town halls have been a safe alternative to continue the tradition.
On the one hand, the best thing about creating a virtual town hall meeting is you no longer have to think about the cost and the logistics of booking airplane tickets and hotels. On the other hand, you need to be more creative in crafting the most engaging virtual experience.
Yes, a virtual event costs less, but you still need to discuss how much you want to spend with your CEO or finance team. Most likely, you already have the subscriptions in place for Zoom and other video conferencing tools where you will be holding the meeting. But there are additional costs involved. Are you going to use trivia software such as Kahoot or virtual escape rooms like The Grimm Escape? Do you want to send gifts or order food delivery to everyone in the company?
When you have nailed down the total budget, the next step is to think about virtual town hall theme ideas. A theme is more important in company town hall meetings because it sets the mood and differentiates it from all the other regular meetings you run. Choose a theme that's easy to pull off virtually without compromising the creativity level. For example, you can never go wrong with a Disney or any movie theme. Everyone can come in as their favorite Disney or movie character and choose a funny virtual background that goes along with it.
"I believe to keep virtual meeting exciting we need to remember that the power of meeting is in collaboration and that you should leave a place for it to let magic happen."
Daria Andreieva - HR Specialist at BeLive
The right theme largely depends on your company culture, and you can have highly innovative town hall meetings that no one has done before by tapping into that culture. Here's an example of a themed year-end virtual town hall meeting held by BeLive—a live streaming company that is fully remote.
Planning a virtual town hall is a lot like creating the best restaurant experience. The theme sets the ambiance, while the agenda is the menu. The best menus lets you know what to expect and are easy to scan. Later, when we get to how to create a virtual town hall meeting agenda, we will discuss the specific items that need to be included. For now, it's important to know the critical parts that you can't skip. For example, do you want to have an awards section? If so, how would you present the awards? Lastly, how do you want each section to flow?
When you have the theme, date, and time, you can already send an employee town hall meeting invitation even if you don't have a complete agenda yet. You can send a simple Google Calendar invite with a link to the meeting. But you can also reinforce your theme by sending virtual cards or invitations. This is also an excellent opportunity to excite people to commit to the theme.
Planning the content of your meeting is one thing. But how do you perform a virtual town hall meeting? On top of entertaining people, you also need to educate and inspire.
Tools can make or break your town hall. As much as possible, use what you already have. However, new tools to facilitate more engagement can also be incorporated. If you do end up using a new online town hall software, make sure to do a technical rehearsal. For example, if you're using tools like Kahoot for trivia games or a quick Among Us run, test it out with a few people ahead of time. Make sure they understand the instructions and take note of whether they need to prepare something (like their phones) ahead of time.
Yes, you need rules to have fun. Encourage everyone to speak and engage, but within guidelines. If you're using Zoom, encourage people to use emojis to react. Also, is it okay for anyone to raise their hand at any time to ask questions? Or will you create a dedicated section for questions?
For smaller companies, your CEO might be the one hosting the virtual town hall meeting. It's great if he or she is a natural host! Another alternative is to find someone in the team to host or act as an emcee to facilitate the discussion, enforce the guidelines, and introduce speakers. Teammates who are YouTubers or live streamers are good candidates to host these big virtual events.
You don't need to start from scratch and brainstorm what goes into each section of your virtual town hall meeting agenda. Luckily, Complish has a free virtual town hall meeting template where it includes all the sections. You can customize the template by editing each section. And best of all, you can even use it to gather questions ahead of time asynchronously, so you can curate the questions for the AMA session.
Ready to kick off your town hall meeting planning? Start using the full template to plan your virtual town hall meeting agenda. You can also check out our monthly all-hands meeting as an alternative to a virtual town hall plus all other meeting templates to help your team run fewer, better meetings.