You look across the room, hoping to catch a nod, a smile, some indication that they’re even listening? Any reaction at all? Instead, a mass of silent, expressionless faces are staring at the wall, the desk, out the window.
“Why’d I even bother calling this meeting?” you think to yourself.
Sound like a familiar scene? We’ve all struggled to engage our audience in meetings. Capturing their attention can be a tough gig, and the more people you’re talking to, the harder it is to keep people focused.
But delivering meetings that engage employees doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are six ideas for effective all-hands meetings designed to engage your employees.
1. Get with the program
Have an agenda, send it out in advance and stick to it. When attendees arrive without a clear understanding of what will be discussed, they are much more likely to get sidetracked by their own interests, get bogged down in debate and ultimately fail to reach meeting objectives. So make sure everyone’s on the same page before you start.
2. Take your Q&A session online
If you’re going to get honest and valuable feedback from employees, they need to feel welcome and safe in voicing their opinions. But in an all-hands meeting—where people of all levels and areas within an organization’s structure come together at once—this can be almost impossible to achieve face to face. Especially if some employees tend to dominate the discussion, or others feel uncomfortable telling their bosses what they really think.
Incorporating an interactive Q&A session into your meeting allows people to participate in the dialogue anonymously, directly from their screens. Questions can be submitted at any point before, during or directly following the presentation, so there’s no need for people to wait with their hand in the air before they can have their say. Presenters can also keep track of the live question feed, prioritize hot-trending topics and manage the dialogue more effectively so that shyer voices don’t get drowned out by those hogging the mic.
3. Foster ongoing collaboration
Get your employees engaged early by creating a collaborative space where they can plan for the next all-hands meeting. Depending on the nature of your business, there’s a cloud collaboration tool to suit every type of team. Consider using these to bring different teams within the organization together to work on a presentation, or allow individual employees to upload their own contributions. This not only enhances teamwork and a positive company culture—it connects employees who may not typically meet or interact, and that can unlock a new level of collaborative thinking.
4. Show results
It’s great for companies to ask employees for feedback, but what they do with that information is even more important. Ditch the old-school survey forms and start getting real-time results, while your all-hands meeting is still underway.
Live audience polling provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say, whether or not they’re physically present. It’s a far more responsive and transparent way of gauging opinion, and is particularly useful for questions that require a rapid response. Live polls can be quick to set up and presenters can even create them in the middle of the meeting—allowing questions to be changed as the discussion evolves.
Many companies forget to show employees how their feedback has been taken on board, or why certain decisions have been made. With live polls, employees are able to see the direct results of their contribution…and management can more clearly demonstrate the rationale underpinning meeting outcomes.
5. Pick up the pace
Ever noticed how you tend to clap or laugh during a presentation just because the crowd is doing so—even if you weren’t actually listening? When a meeting moves too slowly, most people find themselves slipping into autopilot as their minds wander. So while you may appear to be tuned in, chances are you’re daydreaming or thinking about words that rhyme with cheese.
As the presenter, the key to overcoming this and running an effective all-hands meeting is to pick up the pace. Mix up the agenda so that employees don’t know what’s coming next, invite guest speakers to bring new ideas and perspectives and don’t dwell too long on the one topic of discussion. The goal here is to create a dynamic environment that keeps people guessing. There’s no need to be dull by default.
6. But what’s the point?
A meeting agenda is not just about planning—it’s about defining purpose. Look at each item up for discussion and decide what the point of raising it really is. Will a decision be made? Will an action be taken, or plans put in place? Having all hands on deck is a costly exercise for a business, so use that time efficiently and give participants a reason to be there.
All-hands meetings are designed to get everyone in your organization to socialize, engage and bring new ideas to the table. They’re a great way to change up the work dynamic, even if for a few hours.