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What is an All-Hands Meeting and How To Run an Effective One

by Tim Minton, updated on Dec 5, 2023

What is an All-Hands Meeting?

An all-hands meeting, sometimes called a company town-hall, is a regular gathering of everyone in a company to discuss important topics and updates. The goal of an all-hands meeting is to:

  • Create transparency with employees
  • Drive alignment around the company vision and strategy
  • Discuss key projects and initiatives
  • Share business metrics and updates
  • Celebrate wins and recognise the people who made them possible
  • Introduce new team members
  • Give employees a chance to ask questions

Whether done virtually or in person, all-hands meetings are an effective way of keeping the whole company on the same page. This makes all-hands meetings valuable regardless of company stage or team size.

At Contrast, for example, we’re a startup with a fully remote team. We run a virtual all-hands meeting every two weeks to build rapport, and keep our team aligned on company vision and strategy.

All-hands meeting ran on Contrast

Why is It Called an All-Hands Meeting?

The name “all-hands” meeting comes from the expression “all hands on deck” – a maritime phrase called by ship captains signifying that every sailor or crew member was needed to assist in whatever task or challenge was at hand. In business, it’s used as a way to bring employees together and get them to work in unison.

Why All-Hands Meetings Matter

The main purpose of an all-hands meeting is to get everyone in your business aligned around the company vision and strategy. All-hands create transparency and help make sure employees are focused on the right initiatives to drive growth. Some benefits include:

  • Unity around business metrics & goals
  • Team alignment on milestones & initiatives
  • Creating a feeling of community
  • Giving employees a voice
  • Bringing together remote employees
If you have remote employees, using a webinar tool like Contrast to run internal webinars can be an interactive and cost effective way to run all-hands meetings. Create an account for free. No credit card required.

How to Structure & Host a Great All-Hands Meeting

These 10 tips will help you structure and run a great company all-hands meeting:

1. Set a recurring date so people know when it takes place

Make your all-hands meeting a recurring event. At Contrast, we’ve turned it into a bi-weekly tradition. Consistency familiarizes participants with the meetings, increasing their likelihood of attendance.

2. Build a clear agenda

In an all-hands meeting, it's important to address various topics, such as introducing new team members, providing company news updates, sharing departmental progress reports, discussing project priorities, and showcasing success stories. Make sure you adhere to the set timeframe and be sure to leave room for Q&A at the end!

3. Prepare a presentation & visuals

Incorporate captivating visuals, such as slides and videos, to showcase company achievements. The greater the number of visual aids you have, the more you'll improve engagement.

4. Have various speakers

Long content-heavy meetings can be draining for employees, especially when dominated by a CEO or executive monologue. Make your all-hands meeting more dynamic by using different presenters. This boost engagement and make it more enjoyable for your team.

5. Do a tech check

For virtual all-hands meetings ensure a smooth experience by testing the necessary tools in advance. When using Contrast, employees can join seamlessly by clicking the meeting link, eliminating the need for downloads.

6. Promote the event ahead of time & ask for questions

To maximize attendance promote your all-hands meeting ahead of time. Begin collecting questions to give you an idea of topics your team wants to discuss and help presenters prepare for the Q&A.

7. Make it engaging & interactive

Don’t let your employees sit through your meeting passively. It's crucial to keep the entire team engaged, so test different ways to make your all-hands meetings more interactive. For ideas on how to engage your employees during an all all-hands meeting check out the next section in this article: "How to Engage Employees During an all-hands Meeting?" 👇.

8. Keep it short

Aim to keep your all-hands meetings short and to the point. Depending on your agenda anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour works just fine. Everyone has busy calendars, and you asked your entire company to step away from their responsibilities. It is critical that you demonstrate that you respect their time.

9. Record the session & send it out afterward

Record your all-hands and share it with the team afterwards. This will let people rewatch important sections at their own pace and allow those who couldn’t make it to catch up. If you’re using Contrast, sessions are recorded automatically.

10. Ask for feedback

Survey attendees for feedback and analyze engagement data to continually improve your all-hands meetings.

How to Engage Employees During an all-hands Meeting?

Use an icebreaker

The best way to improve your all-hands meeting is to make it more engaging. This ensures your team is focused from the start of the session to the end. This is especially important for all-hands meetings as they tend to be top-down meetings. You don’t want people drifting off during the session. A great way to set the tone is with an icebreaker question that gets employees engaging and creates a more relaxed atmosphere.

At Contrast, we like to start off with a hot take or controversial question to create a friendly debate. For example we might ask: “Pineapple on Pizza 🍍🔛🍕 - yes or no??”.

Have defined topics & transitions with visuals

Creating defined topics or segments with relevant visual support helps your employees pay attention. Topics give context so employees focus on the current discussion, and they help break the information you present into more digestible pieces. The more visual aids you provide the higher the engagement you’ll have. Topics & transition also help with replays. If employees miss the all-hands meeting this will help them watch back the most important sections. If you’re using the topics feature from Contrast, chapters will automatically be added to the replay whenever you trigger a topic or add a Q&A question to the stream. All you have to do is type in the topic and click. Here's a video showing how easy it is:

Run live polls during the session

Create some polls in advance and run them periodically throughout the session. Live polls are engaging for your team and will make them feel like they’re participating in the session and not just watching. Polls are a great way to check for understanding, crowd-source ideas, gather feedback, or just have fun. If you’re using Contrast, you can add poll results to the stream and see answers update in realtime.

Polls on Contrast

Have Transparent Q&A Sessions

All-hands meetings are a great opportunity to address your teams questions or concerns. Q&A sessions help ensure employees understand company vision and strategy.

For the best results start collecting questions before your all-hands meeting. This will give you an idea of topics your team wants to discuss and help presenters prepare for the Q&A.

At Contrast, we post a reminder for our all-hands meeting in our #general channel on slack and ask people to submit questions. We usually do this ~1 week before the session. This allows the team to think about their questions and submit them anonymously if desired. You can collect questions for free by creating a google form.

It’s important to collect employee questions during the meeting as well. It will allow for any impromptu questions regarding the content that was shared during your meeting.

If you’re using Contrast, you can take employee questions and put them directly onto the screen. This will help the person asking the question feel involved in the session and will give context to others watching the session. These type of visuals will create more employee engagement.

Put chat Q&A on stream with Contrast

Use a Moderator or MC

Appoint someone as moderator or MC for your all-hands meeting. This person can set the stage and help keep the audience involved in the session. They should focus on animating the chat and being the voice of the audience. It’s their job to ask for clarification, facilitate the discussion, run Q&A, and keep the mood fun and light.

Highlight Employee Success

Everyone likes to be recognized. Use all-hands meetings as an opportunity to shout-out employee in front of their colleagues. Highlighting individual accomplishments will boost morale and help with motivation.

Save important topics or updates until the end

Anticipation for a big announcement or event drives engagement. You see it happen on TV and social media all the time. You can use anticipation in your all-hands meetings as well. Save big or exciting updates for the end of your session. Announcements around an offsite, salary increases, team building, or funding are a great way to enhance engagement and leave employees in high spirits.

Best Tools to Run an All-Hands Meeting?

The tools you need for an all-hands meeting depends on whether your session takes place virtually or in person.

For in person meetings you’ll need a TV or projector screen to present slides. Depending on the size of your group you’ll also need a microphone and PA system. Both formats will require you to use a presentation tool like Microsoft Powerpoint, Pitch or google slides.

For virtual all-hands meetings, it’s important to have high quality video that is also highly engaging. This ensures your team will be focused and engaged for your full session. The best way to do this is use a webinar platform like Contrast that is built for engagement.

Contrast has a browser-based engagement studio that comes free for all users. It improves engagement and interaction by creating an experience similar to what you’d see on youtube or twitch. This includes features like: polls, engagement widgets, slides, video & images sharing, Q&A, live chat, ability to add chat & poll results on stream, emoji reactions, visual topics & transitions, themes, and more. Try an interactive demo | no signup required

How Do You Know if Your All-Hands Meeting is Successful?

To measure the success of your all-hands meeting, gather feedback from attendees with an anonymous survey to highlight areas of improvement and further engagement opportunities.

If you’re using Contrast, you can access comprehensive analytics for registrations, attendance, time watched and participation. This way you can make data-driven decisions on how to improve your sessions and make sure you’re getting the most out of your all-hands meetings.

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