One of the most important things you can do as a business leader is to inspire your team with your vision for the future of the organization, and then engage them in making it a reality. For many business leaders, this is also one of the most challenging aspects of their jobs.
One of the best forums for sharing this clarity is the Town Hall meeting.
Even if you’re the most reluctant, introverted leader, you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to get your team inspired by the road ahead.
Here’s how you do it.
How Do You Structure A Town Hall Meeting?
As with any type of meeting, there are a few important mechanical aspects of running a great town hall:
- Keep it short and sweet
Your town hall meeting will ideally take less than 30 minutes. Whenever a meeting gets too long, it tends to get messy, and people get bored – which is the opposite of what you want at a meeting that’s meant to energize and inspire!
- Keep it real (in real-time, that is)
Different businesses use different formats for their town halls depending on the culture of the organization. I have some clients who do online meetings, especially those who are distributed across different locations. The meeting recording will be saved and shared through their intranet. Whether your meeting is held virtually or in person, I recommend that it happens in real-time (as opposed to a recording that people watch later). Why? Because you want people to be a part of the energy that is created and shared in these meetings. You also want people to be able to ask questions.
- Always Include a Q & A Period
Let the team know they will have an opportunity to ask you anything about the organization. Whether this is a session at the end, or you want to cleverly plant a couple of questions throughout your presentation (see below), it’s crucial to engage your team this way.
Your Town Hall Meeting Agenda Template
Chances are if you’re balking at the thought of sharing your vision at a town hall meeting, you might be missing some clarity. That’s why the first thing you should do to build a healthy, scalable business is answer the six key questions every business needs to answer. Once you’ve tackled these questions, it’s time to communicate the answers to everyone else in the organization. Enter the town hall meeting.
Here are the essential things to discuss in your next town hall.
- Who you are as an organization
Share a little bit about why your organization exists. This means getting into your core purpose (yes, again) and telling a couple of impact stories that highlight how people in your organization are living your purpose and the impact it’s having on your customers.
- Revisit your core values
Core values are the DNA of any great business, and a town hall meeting is an opportunity to celebrate people who have done a good job of living them (by the way, it’s also a great idea to recognize core values in real time as you see people living them in their day-to-day roles).
- Welcome new team members
Take a moment to welcome new team members and find creative ways for them to connect with the business.
- Reiterate where your company is going
Introduce everyone in the company your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG™), or if you’ve done that already, provide an update on how you’re doing on reaching milestones and celebrate the progress made. Do the same for your 3-year Highly Achievable Goal (3HAG). Finally, review progress on your annual goal.
Helpful hint: This should not be a boring reporting of key metrics. It should be more about where you’re headed as an organization and the journey to get there rather than boring statistics like revenue etc. Focus on strategic priorities, the huge projects within them, the impact they make, and how you’re doing on them.
- Review what was accomplished in the last quarter or period
This is where you look at what you said you were going to do and celebrate what got done. You don’t want to be that CEO who is always doing all the talking, so this is a great time to have the owners of those priorities give 30-second updates on how it’s going. This is an opportunity for them to actively participate and get excited about sharing their achievements.
- Look ahead to the next quarter
Now it’s time to share the most important thing inside the business for the upcoming quarter and how it may engage different people to make it happen. This may mean sharing some key metrics or whatever is appropriate for your organization.
Top 5 Tips for a Great Town Hall Meeting
- Don’t be boring
Nobody wants to watch you go through 75 slides for 20 minutes in a monotone voice. These meetings are a chance to get your team excited! If the passion doesn’t start with you, it’s not going to miraculously show up in the rest of the organization. So be enthusiastic. I’ve had clients end meetings with a team huddle or cheer, and their people love it.
- Engage others in the process
Have others speak for areas they are accountable for. Note that I am NOT talking about you as the leader handing off the entire meeting to someone else – you are the visionary for the company, so most of the content should come from you. But do give your team the chance to participate where it makes sense.
- Make the meeting interactive
No one wants to be talked at for 30 minutes. Hint: it’s often very valuable to plant questions in your audience to get a dialogue going. That might look like approaching a relevant person before the meeting and saying, “Hey, I’d love for you to ask a question about _____ when I get to ____ part of my presentation.” Once one person asks a question, it creates a safe space so others will likely feel more comfortable speaking up.
- Hold the meeting soon after your planning session
Your town hall should be held relatively soon after your quarterly planning session to build momentum toward reaching your goals. The leadership team will just have discussed which messages should cascade down to the rest of the team, so a town hall is the perfect venue to come back and share the excitement and takeaways from the planning session.
- Brush up on your public speaking skills
As someone who does plenty of public speaking, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everyone feels nervous right before any presentation. Here are a couple of helpful hints to help with public speaking nerves:
- Know your presentation well enough that if you forget your script, you can just make crap up as you go along. To prepare, I like to go through a presentation several times and then intentionally forget the script to see how well I can wing it.
- Reframe that feeling of nervousness in your stomach into excitement.
- Speak from the heart – the more you come from a place of purpose and focus on the impact you want to make and why it’s so important to you, the more people will align with that energy and become engaged (warning: those who aren’t inspired by this probably don’t belong in your business!)
- Be yourself (unless you can be Batman). Your people are working for you and looking up to you. You’re their leader. If you come at it with 100% authenticity, purpose, and energy, they will naturally follow you.
As a business strategy consultant, I’ve seen countless business leaders squirm at the thought of sharing a vision during a town hall meeting. But guess what, if you want to be a great leader, this is all part and parcel of that. Growth is uncomfortable. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you inspire your team, contact us today.