Does the energy level at your employee town halls seem to be lacking? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While many organizations struggle with creating memorable town halls that employees actually want to be part of, boosting engagement and participation is easier than you think.
At a recent International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philadelphia event, employee communication expert Alison Davis shared a variety of practical techniques to help create a better, more dynamic town hall experience for employees.
“Town halls have the potential to be an interesting, interactive form of communication,” says Alison, “But, unfortunately, many of them end up as data dumps with senior leaders sharing slide after slide of facts, figures and statistics that employees forget five minutes after the session ends.”
IABC empowers its members to be successful professional communicators by providing learning and development, networking and career enhancement opportunities. The Philadelphia chapter aims to connect its members with valuable information, resources and advice that can be applied at any organization.
According to Alison, here are five things every communicator should do to bring a new level of energy, participation and motivation to town hall meetings:
- Consider your story arc. A town hall isn’t an information-delivery channel; it’s a key tool in the campaign to win the hearts and minds of employees. So, you need to think differently about the way you create your agenda and help the leader develop his/her content. Ask yourself: How can you develop this town hall to raise employees’ energy and leave them feeling more motivated than when they came in? Make sure the session ends on a high-note where employees look forward to the future.
- Be candid. Employees would much rather hear an unscripted, “real” talk than a heavily edited, planned speech. Persuade leaders to use bulleted talking points to stay on track, while inflecting their own voice into the presentation.
- Change the chairs. Theater-style and classroom seating are the two worst room arrangements for participation. To improve the dynamic of your session, consider setting up the room with round tables, with employees sitting in a circle around one side of each table facing the CEO. This set-up promotes employee interaction by stimulating conversation and making employees feel like participants instead of passive audience members.
- Reset the clock on your agenda. To create a more dynamic session, you need to rethink how your town hall time should be spent. Design an agenda centered on employee feedback by spending 20 minutes discussing a single topic (with prompts for employees to give suggestions), 20 minutes on an activity that allows employees to break into small groups to generate ideas or questions and 20 minutes where employees can share ideas and ask questions.
- Give Q&As a makeover. Ever notice how employees tend to avert eye contact when you ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” Rather than asking employees to pose questions that expose their lack of knowledge, invite employees to share information that demonstrates their knowledge. For example, ask them to share what advice they think customers might give to help better achieve their needs, or even create polls so that employees can share the greatest challenge they face in achieving company objectives.
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