In the aftermath of the U.S. elections, elections across Europe in the near future and with Brexit on the horizon, the world has once again entered a period of uncertainty. Stories have been cropping up in the media about the steps that universities are taking to help students relieve anxiety including crying rooms, comfort dogs and cats, aromatherapy and play therapy (e.g. coloring books, play dough).
Periods of uncertainty also create anxiety for employees. In the corporate world, town halls and executive briefings to address employee concerns directly are far more likely to be beneficial than comfort animals. Corporate event planners can play a vital role in organizing these interactive meetings.
Town halls vs. executive briefings
Town halls are informal meetings that date back to traditional town meetings in Colonial America. They are an opportunity for leadership teams to provide updates and address employee questions and concerns.
Executive briefings are more formal presentations to convey the direction of the organization and clarify the mission and vision during times of uncertainty.
Here are 10 tips for planning and organizing effective town halls and executive briefings.
1. Select the appropriate design.
If there is a lot of anxiety among employees, the highly interactive and unstructured format of a town hall is likely to yield better results. If there is confusion, an executive briefing will make it possible to convey more information. The trade-off is that question periods are shorter.
2. Determine the best platform.
Town halls and executive briefings can be offered in face-to-face, virtual or hybrid formats. If an organization has many dispersed locations, a virtual or hybrid meeting will ensure consistency of messaging. If you opt for a virtual or hybrid format, it is important to provide vehicles for interaction and a way for participants to obtain answers to their questions.
3. When possible, keep the group size small.
Smaller groups are likely to encourage more participation. If possible, cap the group size at 50 for each meeting. A series of meetings will make this achievable for small-to-medium-sized organizations. Another approach is to begin with a large meeting and move to breakout rooms for discussions and questions.
4. Send out save-the-date notices as soon as a decision has been made to host a town hall or executive briefing.
5. Provide an opportunity for employees to submit questions.
A short online survey via the company’s intranet is the fastest way to this.
6. Select a venue with excellent sight lines.
For example, wider is better than deeper.
7. If budget is a concern, invite employees to “brown bag it.”
8. Use video to ensure consistency in messaging to dispersed locations.
A video by the CEO can be deployed to remote locations via the company intranet or through the distribution of DVDs, thumb drives, etc.
9. Create a safe environment to encourage participation.
This is not the time for partisan politics or scapegoating.
10. Prepare a summary of key questions and answers and distribute it to employees as soon as possible after the town hall or executive briefing.
Here is how it comes together. This organization went through four CEOs in four years:
You may also be interested in Team Building for Times of Uncertainty.