February 8, 2017
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Use These 5 Tips to Fire Up Your Next All Hands Meeting

All right, folks. It’s time for yet another all hands meeting. Are you ready? Are you able to reach every one of your employees, no matter where they are? Will they care about what you have to say? Do they feel involved, and are you fostering an environment of creativity and transparency?

All hands meetings are a very important aspect of any business’ success. It’s your chance to keep your employees engaged in your ongoing vision, and informed of results. Everything about an all hands meeting is an opportunity to make your company better.

To help you do that, here are five great tips to help you get the most out of your all hands meetings.

1. Make sure EVERYONE in your organization has access

It’s not uncommon for businesses to have workers in remote locations anymore. Large organizations will often have remote locations, but even smaller businesses may have a programmer in Des Moines, a marketing coordinator in Winnipeg, and a graphic designer who works several hours a week from their hostel in Bangkok in order to finance their digital nomad lifestyle.

Over at DoneDone, they’ve begun to use a ‘remote first’ model to approach their meetings, as well as using this philosophy as a driving force within their company culture.

No, no, not that kind of remote.

This involves everyone, no matter where they are, but also has the added effect of making all employees feel like they’re equal in the business’ process.

As Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer says, “When you have everyone remote, it changes a lot of things. When you just have a few people remote, they can easily feel like second class citizens without full access to information.”

It’s essential that businesses make it easy to access all hands meetings, and that they feel like they’re equal members of the organization. Allow them to participate, and make everyone feel like they’re important.

After all, they are, aren’t they?

2. Get Q&A questions in advance

When attempting to get all hands meetings done before everyone starts drifting off, it’s important to have all of your proverbial ducks in a row. One of the ways to do that is to gather Q&A questions before the meeting gets started.

Another benefit of doing so, according to PollEverywhere, is that “people are [often] timid, unprepared, or unwilling to speak” during all hands meetings.

This company is very serious about business time. Source

Anyone who has participated in an all hands meeting can probably relate. It’s not easy to stand up in front of a huge group of people and ask a potentially controversial question. But that question may be very important to the future of the business. This is a great way to help those questions get answered.

An open dialog with your employees is really important, and the chance to get questions asked anonymously, as well as in a timely fashion, can go a long way towards reinforcing an open and transparent company culture.

3. Be as transparent as possible

Speaking of transparency...

According to a survey done by TinyPulse, management transparency is the top factor when determining employee happiness. That same study found that only 42% of employees surveyed knew their organization’s vision, mission, and values.

This means that, while transparency is incredibly important, too few businesses are embracing it as an aspect of the company culture. The good news is that it’s never too late to start, and all hands meetings are a spectacular means of displaying transparency to your employees.

As a means of embracing transparency, companies like Google, Yahoo, Zappos, and Spotify conduct all hands meetings that “incorporate digital tools with the goal of increasing the transparency and personal responsibility of their team members.”

One of the ways to improve transparency is by sharing company data. For example, an all hands meeting might include employee satisfaction surveys, sales data, company financial data, or even improvement metrics.

The important thing is to keep employees informed. An informed employee is a happy one!

4. Get all hands on deck for all hands meetings

Over at Etsy, they do all hands meetings a little differently than anything you may have seen before. The meetings start with a performance by staffers. Sometimes it’s a stitched-together group of musicians doing Johnny Cash covers with the CEO, other times it’s an employee doing a stand-up routine, or even someone making music on a “Game Boy Player.” (I also had to read that twice, but as it turns out, it’s actually someone making music on a “Game Boy Player.”)

While this all sounds whimsical and oh-so-very-startup-y, it serves a bigger purpose than just getting the crowd warmed up for another all hands meeting.

The hardest-working band in all hands meetings Source

According to Etsy culture and engagement team member, Sarah Starpoli, "You feel a personal connection with the people up there, but also with the people in the room experiencing it with you. You feel like you've had a bonding experience with someone, when you see someone put themselves out there so fully."

An amazing byproduct of this experience is that it builds a culture that allows for vulnerability. And according to research, when you embrace that aspect of your culture, you create an environment that is both more trusting, and innovative.

Etsy’s staff maintains that, “People have so many more skills than just the role they’re hired to do, and by having real connections outside of their roles with other people, they’re more likely to collaborate on [work-related] things.”
Wouldn’t we all love that?

5. Keep employees engaged for the entire meeting

At Zappos, one of their core values is “Create fun and a little weirdness.” While this won’t be the right fit for every company, they do manage to find some very clever (and sometimes really weird) ways of keeping their employees engaged during all hands meetings.

Interspersed between sales reports and news about management initiatives, you’ll find Fear Factor-esque contests for gift cards, like a leopard-print-clad employee putting her arm in a box of tarantulas (and one who went ahead and lied right down in a box full of tarantulas *shiver*), an announcement that all employees who wish could receive free DNA testing to get more detailed information about their ancestry, and a “Guess that Mating Call” contest, in which one employee guessed the zebra a lot faster than the MC thought possible.

It’s all [hands] happening!

All of this colorful and seemingly capricious activity serves one very simple purpose: to keep employees engaged for the entirety of the all hands meeting.

You don’t need a box of tarantulas to make it happen for you, but it’s not hard to come up with fun, creative ways to keep your employees paying attention for the entire duration of your all hands meeting. That way you get across all the info you need to, while still finding a way to get your employees super excited about the next meeting!

Ready to make the most of your next all hands meeting?

These five tips should provide you with a solid foundation of ideas to make your next all hands a success. It’s all about engagement, and if you can keep your employees engaged through the meeting, it goes a long way towards keeping them engaged the rest of the time.

You might even want to get out of the office and broadcast your next all hands meeting from a remote location. To find out how you can do that successfully, download our free white paper, 3 Reasons to Leave the Office and Broadcast Your Next Event from Anywhere.

About the author

Mark John Hiemstra
Content Marketing Specialist

Mark John Hiemstra is a writer and content marketer with a lifelong obsession with broadcasting technology — from FM and UHF to DAB and UHD. A writer by day and a reader by night, he is loathe to discuss himself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.