Virtual town hall meetings—especially those conducted via web platforms like Microsoft Live Meeting or WebEx—can be an effective way to bring leaders and employees in multiple locations together. But far too often, virtual town halls lapse into a dull one-way experience. When employees feel like they don’t have an active role, they’ll check email, surf the web or complete other work while the town hall plays in the background.

The solution? Increase participation so employees don’t want to multi-task. Here’s how:

Create the same experience for all employees
When town halls have two audiences—those in the room and those on the web—it creates an unequal experience. It would be best to have everyone in the same room, but if employees can’t attend in person, run the town hall as a 100% virtual session.


Use all the tools in your virtual toolbox
Web meeting systems offer an array of tools to make virtual meetings engaging. Get familiar with your web meeting program’s tools and incorporate as many as possible. Here are three options that increase interaction:

  • Chat—lets employees ask questions, make comments and share ideas
  • Polling—allows the presenter to survey participants
  • A whiteboard—gets employees involved in brainstorming ideas

Rethink the agenda
Invite employees to interact throughout the session, not just at the end. For example, kick off the town hall by asking participants to answer a question in the web chat, use the polling tool during the middle of the presentation and open up the phone line for a Q&A session at the end.


Add more PowerPoint slides
Visuals are so important for virtual town halls because they’re often the only things to look at. So when a presenter stays on the same slide for a couple of minutes, participants get bored. Keep employees tuned in with striking visuals—and a lot of them. A good rule for presenting virtually is to double your slide count. To do this, cover only one point per slide and use images instead of words.


Put together a team
Facilitating a virtual town hall alone can be a bit overwhelming. Create a team to help manage logistics so the town hall runs smoothly, and the leader has one job: engaging the audience. When developing a team, consider filling the following roles:

  • Leader—Presents information and answers questions
  • Interaction coordinator—Manages web tools, such as monitoring questions in the web chat, and operates the conference call
  • IT Support—Helps the team set up and resolve any technical issues
  • Facilitator—Introduces the leaders and keeps track of time

 

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