Why All Hands meetings matter — and 9 ways to get them right
When you host an all hands, the stakes are sky-high. You’re pulling every single employee away from their day-to-day work. That’s expensive! Your time together had better count. Plus, what happens will affect the entire company, influencing how people feel and talk about working there for weeks, months, or maybe even years to come.
It’s daunting. But don’t let the high stakes scare you off. Done right, all hands meetings are well worth the effort. Few other things can drive clarity and create a shared sense of purpose and community so powerfully. Plus, all hands meetings are an excellent forum for building excitement, promoting inclusivity, and shaping the culture you truly want. A mass email or Slack message simply can’t compete when it comes to generating buzz and belonging.
So, what makes an all hands meeting great? Try following these tips:
- Find a time that works. It’s not just about the time of day; it’s also important to consider the length of the meeting and how often it recurs. Take into account factors like time zones, meeting fatigue, and busy seasons to be more inclusive of your employees’ diverse needs. Many organizations opt for monthly or quarterly all hands that last no more than an hour and fall on a day that’s less likely to be pressure-packed (like a Friday).
- Give people a preview. Send out an agenda and collect questions ahead of time. People appreciate knowing what to expect. And you’ll get much higher-quality questions if you give people time and space to weigh in ahead of the meeting. Gatheround’s Ask a Question feature can be sent out ahead of time, and offers an option for anonymous submission, as well as upvoting and easy moderation.
- Put someone in charge. Good all hands meetings have a lot of moving parts — and a good emcee to run the show. Presenters can focus on their material, while the host curates questions, keeps track of time limits, and makes sure important topics get covered. Want to give your moderator an edge? Start with one of our ready-made All Hands agendas — designed to make hosting smoother and more dynamic.
- Make it engaging and interactive. Try including polls, informal social time, a robust Q&A session, and small-group debriefs. Rather than talking at employees (or worse, down to them) give everyone a voice by creating lots of opportunities for dialogue and participation. Robust Q&As are especially important; budget ample time to give the team’s questions the attention they deserve.
- Share the good news — and the bad. What information matters to the whole organization? That should be your guiding principle. Highlight achievements that showcase company values. Celebrate new hires, work anniversaries, and other milestones. Share learnings about clients and your industry that will help people perform their best. Be transparent about challenges that cut across departmental lines and tough truths that can’t be ignored. People are more engaged and attentive when they trust leaders to be transparent.
- Rotate speakers. All hands meetings should involve — you guessed it — all hands. Not just the C-Suite. Rotating speakers both within each meeting and throughout the year adds interest, helps employees better understand different business functions, breaks down silos, and allows a range of employees to develop their public speaking skills.
- Communicate inclusively. Skip the in-jokes, nicknames, and excessive jargon, and leave out idiomatic expressions that might be hard to follow for people who speak English as a second language. Make sure your presenters keep their messages simple, straightforward, and easy for employees hired yesterday, and working anywhere, to follow.
- Get post-meeting feedback — and use it. Launch a quick survey after each all hands meeting or include an anonymous poll at the end. You can also ask managers to collect feedback in one-on-ones or team meetings. Not only will this help you refine future all hands, it shows employees that their voices matter.
- Create a record. It’s tough — maybe even impossible — to successfully get “all hands” to a meeting. A written meeting recap or recording link — or Gatheround’s handy recap page including recordings, activity summaries, and metrics — makes it easy for those who couldn’t attend to catch up and stay aligned, and offers an additional resource for people who find it easier to parse written updates.
For more ideas, check out one Gatheround’s ready-to-use All Hands agendas, like:
All Hands Town Hall