Town hall meetings should be a good way to encourage employees to ask questions and offer their viewpoints. But far too often, town halls become nothing more than a long presentation followed by an awkward silence that seems to last forever.

Can you change town halls to encourage participants? Here are five simple, yet effective techniques:

   Problem Solution
The usual town hall meeting consists of a series of presentations followed by a short question-and-answer period. Bump up the participation level with an agenda that creates participation. Use one-third of the allotted time for presentations and the remaining two-thirds for facilitated dialogue.
Most town hall meetings tend to present “the big picture.” They are only able to scratch the surface of multiple topics. Use your time to cover one topic in depth. By narrowing the focus of your meeting, you’ll give employees the opportunity to explore and really think about one issue.
Even confident employees find it hard to speak in front of a large group. Make it easier for employees by breaking them out into smaller groups. After a brief presentation, give each group an issue to address or a problem to solve.
Employees prefer unscripted “real” talk over a heavily edited, planned speech. Persuade leaders to use bulleted talking points to stay on track, but to inflect their own voice into the presentation.
Employees don’t want to look stupid by asking a “dumb question.” Rather than asking questions that expose their lack of knowledge, invite employees to share information that demonstrates their knowledge.