How to Hold an All-Hands Meeting — From Start to Finish
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How to Hold an All-Hands Meeting — From Start to Finish

Nov 1, 2021

The bigger the meeting, the harder it can be to stay focused and get things done, which is why many organizations rely on small board meetings or committee meetings to keep things running smoothly.

But leaving other team members out of the loop entirely is a recipe for disaster. It can lead to disorganization and dissatisfaction with company culture.

The solution? An all-hands meeting.

Sometimes referred to as a town hall meeting, an all-hands meeting can be a great opportunity to announce a new initiative and get the entire company on the same page about company goals and values.

Having an all-hands meeting at least once a year — but ideally even more frequently — can bridge the gap between remote teams and your leadership team. Plus, they can help you onboard new hires and celebrate employee anniversaries.

All-hands meeting: In-person or remote?

woman partying with laptop at meeting

If most of your team members work out of the same office, you may be able to host an in-person meeting with a live streaming option for remote employees.

But if you have a lot of remote workers in different time zones, it may make sense to host a virtual meeting so everyone’s on equal footing. No one wants to be the only laptop on the dance floor!

By hosting an all-hands meeting that everyone can attend, you can build trust and foster a sense of community throughout your entire organization.

5 steps to a successful all-hands meeting

Whichever meeting format you choose, following these five steps will ensure that your all-hands meeting has the key elements it needs to be successful:

Step 1: The summons

All hands meeting: Alien walking to meeting

All-hands meetings are like weddings: You need to assemble a group of people who may not know each other very well or even like each other very much. That’s why sending out an effective invitation is key.

Don’t just email your team a link to a Zoom meeting and tell them that it’s mandatory to attend. Let your team know why the meeting is happening, what topics are on the agenda, and how long they can expect it to last.

An all-hands meeting with a live Q&A session at the end is going to be more appealing than a three-hour presentation from the CEO on KPIs and quarterly earnings.

Better yet, you can make it even more participatory by inviting each department to give its own 20-minute update or shoutout to new hires.

Do a practice run ahead of time to make sure everyone’s video conferencing tools are working and that you don’t run into any Zoom error messages.

Step 2: The introduction

When the big day finally arrives, have your moderator welcome everyone to the event and go over the all-hands meeting agenda. Then, you can jump right into introductions or icebreakers to make sure everyone on the entire team knows who’s who.

If you’re hosting the event virtually, why not have a running chat in Slack or another chat tool alongside the video stream? That makes it easier for participants to have real-time conversations without interrupting or speaking over each other.

Then, introduce the company leaders and anyone else who will be speaking. This is a great opportunity for your CEO to announce major milestones or anniversaries.

Of course, not every all-hands meeting is a celebratory occasion. Maybe you need to announce some layoffs or budget cuts.

Still, it’s important to start off on a positive note to boost team morale and encourage open communication between team members.

Step 3: The agenda

meeting agenda

Next, go through the agenda items one-by-one. Your all-hands meeting agenda could include anything from a presentation on remote work productivity hacks, to a live Q&A session with the CEO or company leadership.

If you only have all-hands meetings once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to go over your company’s mission or vision statement and make sure it’s still relevant.

You can break up the team into smaller groups to get feedback on what is or isn’t going well, or allow team members to submit questions ahead of time.

Employee polls and interactive activities are all good things to include in this part of the meeting. If you’re hosting a virtual meeting, you can use Zoom’s breakout rooms and polling integrations so employees can share their opinions in real-time.

Step 4: Action items

All hands meeting: agreeing with others

All-hands meetings aren’t as action-oriented as other types of meetings, but there may still be things that you need to get done or at least add to your team’s to-do list.

If there’s a change in workplace policies, your team members may have to fill out some new paperwork or update their cybersecurity practices. You can also set a date for the next all-hands meeting or plan ahead for a company retreat.

Just be sure to document any action items so you can easily follow up with the person responsible for completing each task.

You can use a tool like Anchor AI to automatically take notes for you and highlight any action items based on specific phrases or keywords.

Step 5: Recap

Everyone knows that you haven’t really finished watching a TV show until you’ve read the recap. How else would you know what happened in the season finale of Dark?

The same is true for meetings. Reviewing a written transcript or rewatching the video recording can help participants make sense of what just happened, especially if they missed something due to a disability or a language barrier.

Of course, confidentiality is important, so it’s worth it to give a gentle reminder that the transcript shouldn’t be shared beyond your company.

But as a general rule, it’s a good idea to follow up your meeting with a written recap in an email or company newsletter.

Bonus tip: Make your meetings more participatory

What sets an all-hands meeting apart from other types of meetings is that it involves all of your team members — not just the board or company leadership.

One great way to make your meeting more participatory is with lightning talks, in which participants are invited to give a short five-minute presentation about, well, anything.

Employees get to share a little bit about their after-work hobbies and interests, with a strict time limit to ensure that no one rambles on too long about any one thing.

Just be sure to vet the topics ahead of time so you don’t end up with ten back-to-back talks about sourdough baking!

Invite Anchor AI to your all-hands meeting to take notes

All hands meeting: woman on device

Finally, make a plan for notetaking well in advance so you don’t have to scramble to find a notetaker at the last minute. And so you don’t have to struggle to keep up with what’s being said as you take your own notes.

If you’re hosting your meeting online, there’s no need to assign a dedicated notetaker and risk having incomplete or inaccurate notes (not saying we don’t trust you, Meryl!).

Anchor AI is designed to take notes for you, using artificial intelligence to identify action items and create a time-stamped transcript of everything that was said. That makes it easier for everyone to stay focused on the meeting and participate in activities like employee polls and lightning talks.

All you have to do is invite Anchor AI to your next Zoom meeting. Instead of ending up with hand-typed notes that need to be proofread and annotated, you’ll get a complete, searchable transcript that you can easily share with all participants.

Sign up for Anchor AI now and let Anchor take your meeting notes for you!

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