The recipe behind a successful town hall

The recipe behind a successful town hall

February 5, 2016

As a well-established internal communications agency, we find the same questions crop up repeatedly.

And here’s one of the most popular: how do you create a successful town hall event?

It’s a fair question.

Many factors can influence a town hall’s impact: employee morale; structure of the day; the ability to connect with colleagues; or even an organisation’s current workload.

Yet there are a number of basics we recommend our clients bear in mind when planning a town hall.

Leave work behind
Colleagues approach town halls differently. Some are delighted to spend a few hours away from their desks while the mere thought of leaving their workload can terrify others.
Hold the event off-site if possible. Breaking the physical connection of being in the workplace helps focus minds on the task in hand.
Requesting people hand in mobiles to stop email checking is another way of keeping work out of people’s thoughts.

Perfect planning
Plot the day out in advance.
Create seating plans to stop people sitting in the inevitable departmental huddles.
Mix up the timetable. Hours of important-but-dull PowerPoint presentations from senior leadership will have little impact.
Understand the key information that needs to be shared and interweave them throughout the day. Alongside business messages, try to include interactive sessions like brainstorming, quizzes and employee feedback. And don’t forget plenty of breaks to give people the rare opportunity to mingle in a non-work environment.

Underestimate at your peril
Town halls have been popular for years – for good reason. The value of face-to-face events is huge.
Hearing directly from senior leaders and providing opportunities for peer-to-peer communication are a golden opportunity to help build true employee engagement.
Such an approach creates a far better sense of ‘one team’ rather than leaving individuals or departments feeling isolated.

Get connected
Technology is altering the shape of town halls.
Question and answer sessions can be done via social networks and polls can be utilised to allow employees to shape the agenda for the day. Involvement sparks engagement, so to speak.
Also live streaming now allows remote workers to feel part of the event, widening the appeal.

Be open
Like every aspect of internal communication, the need to be open and transparent is crucial.
If you have a Q&A session with one of the senior leadership, make sure all the questions are answered – even the awkward ones.
If you run out of time, share the remaining answers with everyone via one of your IC channels.
Too often, employee questions get fobbed off or answered individually after the event. The entire Q&A should be made available for employees to revisit at their own convenience.