Join Alison Davis and Nasdaq Corporate Solutions for a free webinar, “How to Power Up Your Employee Town Hall Meetings,” on 12 September.
You work hard to manage your organization’s town hall meetings. And employees can see the effort you make to corral speakers and elicit participation.
So if you ask a colleague afterward how the town hall went, he’s likely to say, “Fine! Interesting content…” then change the subject. (After all, your colleague doesn’t want to diminish your work.) And even a survey doesn’t give you the real story. After all, employees appreciate the effort, so their answers will skew positively.
But get employees in a focus group and ask them what they really think of town halls, and they’re likely to stop being polite and tell the unvarnished truth.
Here are five things employees hate about town halls—and suggestions for how you can immediately address each of those issues:
1. Bad PowerPoint.
What employees say: “I can’t even read all those details.” “Those ugly, dense slides put me to sleep.”
What you need to do: Follow best practices for PowerPoint: one idea per slide, arresting visuals and, above all, simple content. If you need help convincing leaders to switch from eyecharts, hire a graphic designer or PowerPoint expert to make your case.
2. Poor time management.
What employees say: “One speaker takes more time than he’s supposed to, then the others rush through their slides.” “The meeting’s supposed to be an hour, but it always runs long.”
What you need to do: Remember that town halls are an event, and should be managed as tightly as a television news show, where every segment is carefully choreographed to run on time. So get out your clipboard and stopwatch app. If necessary, hold a rehearsal so speakers know their parts.
What employees say: “So many facts and figures.” “I stopped going to the actual meetings and started attending remotely so at least I can multi-task.”
What you need to do: Make the change from disseminating information to creating an experience. Develop three objectives that define what employees will learn, how they will feel, and how they will be prepared to act as a result of the town hall. Then focus only on content that will achieve those objectives.
4. Not participative.
What employees say: “The CEO says he wants questions, but presentations always run long and we end up with only a few minutes for Q&A.” “I don’t feel it’s really safe to speak.”
What you need to do: Determine whether leaders really believe that a key objective of town halls is to encourage employee participation. If leaders are committed, change your agenda to allow at least one-third of the time to giving employees the floor. Then go beyond a Q&A format to elicit employee perspectives and feedback.
What employees say: “It’s like listening to a lecture. Am I excited? No.” “What do I feel when I leave the town hall? Mostly relief that it’s over.”
What you need to do: Determine what will make employees feel motivated. How about recognizing wins and accomplishments? Or asking employees from different levels to contribute? Or using pep rally-style techniques to create energy?
There are so many ways to turn town halls from a series of dull presentations into a true experience. Remember: As a smart communicator, you have the power to improve town halls—and make them compelling, interesting and memorable.
Join me and Nasdaq Corporate Solutions to learn techniques for improving your town hall meetings. Register now for a free webinar, “How to Power Up Your Employee Town Hall Meetings,” on 12 September.