If you have ever wanted an idea of what it feels like to fight the fight the forces of chaos and darkness, try holding an all hands meeting without being adequately prepared. Everyone has had a bad meeting, but a bad all hands meeting can ascend to new realms as yet unimagined. These all hands meetings need a preparation period proportional to the number of people who will be in attendance, presenting, and moderate. Here’s how to do it without losing your mind.
It’s Not Just a Buzzword
You could be forgiven if you think that all hands meetings are just another buzzword rolling around. While there is an element of truth to that all hands meetings can be an exceptional tool for bringing everyone into the loop. Indeed, Entrepreneur magazine says that no matter how much it costs, it can be worth every penny. It can build corporate culture at a startup, or make a deep change in corporate culture at even the most entrenched entities. It brings in people who do not normally get asked to attend meetings, and who often go unheard. These meetings can work to open everyone up to the potential to collaborate not only within their circle, but outside of it. Unfortunately, when these meetings are not prepared for in advance and executed with right tools it can turn into a less than ideal situation.
- Get your hardware and software in order. It’s pretty safe to say that most teleconferencing and videoconferencing solutions do not have the capability to host hundreds or even thousands of meeting attendees. Enterprise-level apps like BlueJeans can take an online all hands meeting, provide high quality sound and video, have playback capability, moderation tools, and other modules that will make your meeting easier and more organized.
- Don’t turn it into a public airing of grievances. If you must reprimand someone, then do it in private, and do not allow everyone to open up their private grudge. If anyone attempts to do so, refer firmly to the agenda and ask them to take it up with you at a later time.
- Everybody means everybody. Remote team members, warehouse workers, teams in other cities, or other countries – all of them need to participate and be treated with equal respect. If the time zones do not work out, then link them to a recording of the meeting in the archives and have them catch up. They can then hold their all hands meeting, and relay that meeting to you.
- Not everyone has to speak in every meeting, though you should encourage people with something to say to speak up. No man is an island, and no C level executive is a law unto themselves. Yes, executives are deeply engaged with their departments and teams, but the idea is to exchange information and collaborate, not put on a show.
- Keep it short. All meetings will cause some sort of disruption to the workday. The shorter the meeting, the better it is for people getting their work in on time. Ideally, a meeting should not last more than 45 minutes, and a presentation should not last any longer than a TED talk. In fact, it might be a good idea to get everyone who will be presenting to download a copy of the TED speaker’s guide.
- Celebrate your wins. No matter how small, milestones and victories matter. People who bust their butts to get any kind of when deserved a pat on the back and some public acknowledgment. It does wonders for morale and motivation.
- Train everyone. Even with some of the most intuitively designed software, people need training. Just handing them a new app and turning them loose guarantees that meetings will lag, be interrupted, and plagued with side conversations as everyone tries to figure out how to use the new gear. Invest in training sessions, and urge people to use it on a daily basis.
- Create an agenda, keep it simple, and stick to it. Vary the lineup of speakers and departments from week to week instead of trying to cram everyone into a 45 minute session. Don’t let anything fall into the same people and the same subjects week after week – give everyone a chance to shine.
Involvement in Success
There are a lot more tips about holding all hands meetings, but the main thing to remember is that you’re trying to bring everyone together and make them feel involved in the company success. From time to time, yes, there’s going to be shouting matches and disagreements, but it is the CEOs job to right the ship and set the course. You’ll find that greater involvement and knowledge of your staff will help to make you a better boss and your staff a better team.