Use data to make your case for improving your town hall meeting format.


Your employee town hall meetings aren’t great, but at least they’re predictable. Sure, the agenda is tightly packed, and there are too many speakers, and you haven’t solved the problem of remote participants, and there’s hardly any interaction, but at least town halls happen every quarter. And employee feedback is . . . okay. So town halls are (sort of) a success, right?

Um, no. Deep in your heart you know that town halls are no more than mediocre. But your company keeps conducting town halls the same way every time (definition of insanity?) because:

  • We’ve always done them this way.
  • Leaders refuse to change; they insist we need to share all this information.
  • The obstacles (technology, logistics) are too big to solve.
  • All of the above

All these challenges can be overcome—and we’ve got lots of ideas for how to improve town halls.

But for now I’d like to challenge one assumption: Leaders won’t change.

It’s been my experience that leaders are stuck in the same We’ve-Always-Done-It-This-Way trap that you’re in. The static, talk-at-them, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink formula for town halls is so ingrained in most organizations that no one can even imagine a different approach.

You can be the catalyst for change. Here’s how:

  1. Rethink objectives. If your current objective is simply to inform employees about a variety of topics, that’s not a very ambitious desired outcome. Shouldn’t you aim higher? When you begin to reframe the reason for town halls—to inspire, motivate and engage—it will illuminate the problems with the way they’ve been managed. The old approach can’t accomplish new objectives.
  2. Survey employees differently. Don’t just ask, “Did you find the town hall informative?” Test your objectives by asking provocative, raise-the-stakes questions like: “Were you motivated?” “How much do you now know about X topic?” and “Are you prepared to take action?”
  3. Quantify the investment. One client I know figured out how much it cost the organization every time call center employees attended a town hall. The math went something like this: If 200 call center reps attend a one-hour session, and the company pays each employee $30 an hour (when you factor in pay and benefits), then the labor cost alone is $6,000. Factor in leaders’ and professionals’ time, technology and the total for one session was north of $10,000. The question: Is the company getting its money’s worth?

Now you’ve got the evidence you need to demonstrate the need for change, go to your leader with a thorough analysis and bold new recommendations.

Want ideas on what those recommendations should be? Download this helpful guide.

Good luck!

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