The Ultimate Guide to Better Virtual Town Hall Meetings in 2024

Cassy Aite
November 28, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Better Virtual Town Hall Meetings in 2024

Town hall meetings or all-hands meetings are a regular fixture at most organizations. It is one of the most effective ways to share company updates and promote a dialog between leadership and staff. But like many company events, town halls remain largely virtual in a post-pandemic world.

With over 28% of employees working from home in a fully remote or hybrid work model, organizational alignment with work arrangements is critical. Though most organizations have been hosting virtual town halls on a weekly or monthly basis, engagement rates are still a cause for concern.

Fatigue on Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms afflicts around 37% of employees, creating a lackluster trend in engagement during virtual meetings. Additionally, the long monologues during virtual town halls further contribute to the downward spiral of employee engagement.

However, a virtual town hall doesn’t have to be a mundane, tedious source of facts and figures. This in-depth guide offers steps, frameworks, and ideas to help you supercharge your virtual town halls — bolstering company culture and creating company-wide excitement for the event.

How Often Should I do a Virtual Town Hall?

We recommend holding a virtual town hall weekly or monthly. Ultimately, the choice will depend on a few considerations:

  • Size of the company: For large companies, communication is harder, and the repetition of vision, goals, and figures is integral. However, 100s or 1000s of employees joining an hour-long weekly meeting creates budgetary and logistical nightmares. Ensure the agenda is well constructed, valuable, and worth employees' time.
  • Speed of company: If your company is going through a period of rapid change or expansion, hold town hall meetings weekly. This way, team members get updates on initiatives, functionality, and internal communications more rapidly, allowing the company to move faster.
  • Time of year: If your company is subject to seasonality, town hall meetings during slow periods make little sense. Wait until the busy season to do a virtual town hall, and update the slow season with daily updates in short written bullet form.
A screenshot of a calendar schedule for a weekly show and tell activity

The Perfect Day and Time To Hold a Virtual Town Hall

Ultimately, the best time to hold a virtual town hall is when most of your company is available. Try sending live polls with several options for people to choose from. After talking to 1000s of high-performing companies, here are a few options we recommend:

  • Friday at 4 pm: This is one of the most common times to host a virtual town hall, ending the week on a high note. However, some remote employees may be unable to attend at this time (especially if they need to pick up their kids from school).
  • Thursday at 4 pm: This is a great time to host the town hall as it allows people to finish the week without feeling overwhelmed on Fridays by either personal or professional pursuits.
  • Thursday at noon: This is when we hold our virtual town hall at Hoppier. We found it was the best choice for team members with kids or those who have a busy social life.
  • Monday at noon: This is an interesting choice because it allows teams to focus more on what they will accomplish in the upcoming week rather than what already happened.

How to Plan a Virtual Town Hall Meeting

Now that you have a realistic idea of the frequency, date, and time of your virtual town hall, you can enter the preparation phase. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of planning your next town hall meeting.

1. Pre-Planning Considerations

A virtual town hall meeting can eat up a significant part of the workday, so you want to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible. Here are our four tips to get you started:

  1. Decide on the technology: Shortlist the set of applications or virtual event platforms you will use to live stream the virtual town hall meeting. Ideally, you need a video conferencing app, screen-sharing software, a chat messenger app, and a poll app. Platforms like Hopin, Livestorm, Brightcove, Microsoft Stream, and Pigeonhole Live condense all these features in a single suite.
  2. Take a headcount: Find out the exact number of employees attending the meeting to help you plan the agenda and any team-building sessions accordingly.
  3. Be mindful of different time zones: If your organization has a distributed team across multiple countries, pick a time that works for everyone and/or record the meeting.
  4. Build a team: Having a moderator, MC, and/or tech personnel during the session is always helpful. The moderator will queue in employee questions and facilitate the session. The IT staff will ensure that all your employees can participate without any issues.

2. Define the Meeting Objective

Every town hall meeting should have a key objective. The objective defines the purpose of the meeting. Some things to consider might include:

  • Have you recently released any new product features?
  • What are the monthly or quarterly sales updates?
  • Is the company going through a pivot?
  • Did you add anyone to your leadership team or supporting staff?
  • Are you expanding your company goals to accommodate expansion or new products?

The objective helps you prepare the agenda, the presentation, and the speakers at the meeting. For example, if the company is set to change its strategic direction, the CEO is the best person to lead the session. On the other hand, top-level sales executives are the best option for sales-related matters.

Apart from these specific goals, you can also focus on “softer” goals like motivating employees, building trust, and fostering a sense of community.

3. Plan the Meeting Agenda

With the key objective(s) in mind, hash out the topics that management will discuss during the meeting. Rather than including an overwhelming number of themes, pick a handful of topics that complement the objective.

An image of a sample townhall agenda with session times, topics and presenters
Share your virtual town hall agenda with team members in advance to improve engagement | Source: Expert Program Management

Having functional leaders’ and managers’ inputs on key issues is helpful, as they’re more likely to understand what’s on employees’ minds.

An example virtual town hall meeting agenda could look like this:

  • Introduction and icebreakers: 10 minutes
  • Quick update on sales and marketing results: 5 minutes
  • Key product features launching this week or month and where to learn more about them: 15 minutes
  • Q&A session or share periodic “wins & losses”: 20 minutes
  • Monthly celebrations and milestones: 10 minutes

4. Prepare Your Content

Keep your presentation crisp. Don't reference past information that employees already know. Instead, focus on helpful or pertinent information. Strip the language/concept down to its bare bones so that everyone on the team gets it. To simplify a complex topic, invite a subject matter expert or the department head from the respective team to speak with you.

Then, encourage the attendees to ask questions. You can work with the moderator to create a series of questions or polls. Use video, audio, and other visuals to make your content compelling and memorable.

You can also use quizzes or other fun activities to engage your employees, provided you have the extra time.

5. Send Meeting Invitations to Employees

Tell your employees about the town hall meeting via calendar invitation, email, and a messaging app like Slack or Microsoft Teams. The calendar invitation should contain the following:

  • Agenda: The meeting itinerary should answer questions like the date and time, meeting objectives, who will lead the meeting, speaker line-up, team-building activities, etc.
  • Meeting Rules: Similar to webinars or virtual breakout rooms, virtual town halls can get chaotic and difficult to manage as the number of attendees increases. Lay clear ground rules on the start time, muting the mic when not speaking, and how or when to ask questions during the session.
  • FAQs: This section should answer questions such as how to join the meeting, use the meeting software app, troubleshoot basic technical errors, who to contact for technical support, etc. You can create an internal wiki page for this and link it in the calendar invitation so that it’s easy to refer to.

6. Invite Questions In Advance

Ask your employees to send questions in advance. The presenter ideally covers these questions during the presentation so that the Q&A session is open for impromptu participation — not just a recap of the virtual town hall.

7. Perform a Technical Dry Run

The day before the virtual town hall, set up the meeting software, chat app, and event tools. Perform a thorough tech check, ensuring the software, connectivity, and equipment are working properly. Develop a contingency plan for potential technical errors and minimize disruption.

8. Welcome Your Attendees

Keeping the audience engaged in virtual meetings is always a challenge. Therefore, acknowledge your employees when they join in with a shout-out. Virtual icebreakers are a great way to welcome them.

During the session, let them voice their opinions without any hesitation. Involve them in the session through polls, questions, and feedback to make future virtual town hall meetings more engaging and informative.

9. Send a Recap

Record the town hall meeting and make it accessible to everyone in the organization, as not everyone can attend. Along with the recording, send the meeting minutes to share a glimpse of the discussions during the session. We recommend setting up a page to host all past recordings and minutes using Notion and one of their templates.

Also, ask for post-meeting feedback in a poll to learn how employees feel about the topics and the virtual town hall experience. You can ask questions confirming their understanding of a topic discussed or general feedback. We recommend always asking 3 simple questions:

  • What did you enjoy?
  • What did you dislike?
  • What could have been improved?

Take this info and analyze how you can improve future meetings or follow-ups.

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10 Ideas to Make Your Virtual Town Hall Meetings More Engaging in 2024

A screenshot of a virtual town hall meeting in session
Source: MIT News

1. Make Your Icebreakers Better

Some of the conventional icebreakers for virtual meetings include emoji check-ins, or asking a fun random question (like, is cereal soup? Why or why not?). You can also get to know new employees via two truths and a lie and rapid-fire.

2. Create an Exclusive Talk Space (Channel) for the Meeting

Not everyone can speak during the meeting, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the session. For instance, if you are using Slack, create a channel exclusively for real-time town hall meeting discussions.

A screenshot of Slack's dedicated talk space (channel)
A dedicated talk space can help you consolidate all your questions in one place

If you aren't using a consolidated virtual meeting platform, these talk spaces or groups can centralize all the town hall-related discussions. Attendees can share key takeaways, pose questions, or simply drop emojis to share an emotion.

3. Food and Drinks, Anyone?

A great way to get people engaged is for them to have food and drinks. Use Hoppier as an easy way to send a virtual credit card that can be restricted to purchasing from food delivery apps and local restaurants worldwide.

A screenshot of Hoppier card for onboarding lunch
Use Hoppier to improve your town hall experience with a wide range of food and beverage options

4. Monthly Rewards and Holiday Allowances

Reward top performers with a Hoppier card when you are celebrating monthly wins. Similarly, with regard to holidays, you can allocate a budget for each employee to order food, beverages, gifts, and more.

American entrepreneur, investor, and podcaster, Tim Ferriss asks his guests about their most impactful purchases under $100. You can ask employees to spend a certain amount of allowance to purchase important things. Discuss these purchases and their rationale during the team-building session to learn more about your employees’ personal goals and aspirations.

A screenshot of Hoppier's virtual credit card for birthday celebrations
Choose from a wide range of personalized holiday rewards and allowances to celebrate employees

5. Use Atlassian’s My User Manual to Know New Employees

Everyone has a different way of working. Some prefer to riff things over a phone call, while others may prefer email. Knowing how one works helps teams work productively.

This is why Atlassian (parent company of tools like Trello and Jira) has created My User Manual to let employees communicate their working styles.

During each all-hands meeting, you can invite new employees to share their manuals with the team (for smaller teams). Working on a distributed team doesn’t provide enough opportunities to get to know your teammates really well. Therefore, the user manual can address the following aspects:

  • Working hours (including time zone)
  • Preferred communication mediums
  • Necessary tools and technologies
  • Learning styles
  • Preferred way of giving and receiving feedback

6. Celebrate Virtual Birthdays

If you work on a large team, celebrating birthdays once a month is easier when working virtually. Apart from the Hoppier cards, the company can deliver cakes to birthday honorees. Or you can play virtual party games such as a scavenger hunt or birthday trivia about that employee. It’s just another way to make your virtual town hall that much more engaging.

7. Host Virtual Trivia

Wrap up your virtual town hall with games like virtual trivia to improve the particpation experience

7. Host Virtual Trivia

Virtual team trivia is an exciting game to engage teams through healthy competition. In team trivia, employees are grouped into multiple teams. Based on consensus, you can pick the category for the game, such as music, movies, genres, TV shows, and sports.

Besides the typical trivia-esque questions, you can make the session more interesting by using rich media. Here are a few examples of interesting trivia questions:

  • Guess the 5-second song clip
  • Complete the song lyrics
  • Guess the movie by its dialog or complete the dialog

Apart from tools like Typeform or SurveyMonkey, try apps like TriviaMaker or QuizWitz to design your own trivia.

8. Curated Online Tasting Sessions

Online cheese, wine, coffee, or chocolate tasting sessions are led by respective experts who guide you through the tasting process. You can send employees a Hoppier card and an ingredient list before the meeting to make a 007 James Bond martini or assorted cheese/wine/coffee/chocolates along with notes and recommended food pairings.

A screenshot of Hoppier's virtual wine mixer activity card
Amp up the fun quotient of your virtual town hall with curated tasting experiences from Hoppier

During the tasting session, an expert will discuss how these items are prepared, how to taste them, and how to develop the tongue of an expert mixologist or sommelier. The expert or your moderator can also host a few fun games around the tasting experience to make it more memorable.

9. Cooking Challenges and Workshops

For cooking challenges, let your team members choose ingredients and prepare a dish using only those selected — much like Iron Chef. Reward team members who come up with the most creative entry.

Another way you can include cooking in your sessions is through workshops. Although these sessions usually run for over an hour, they can drastically improve team dynamics. You can plan a quarterly workshop and get the ingredients delivered, and a professional chef or an expert can guide employees through the preparation.

10. Schedule Live Performances

Performances can transform the virtual meeting experience into one that employees talk about for months or years into the future. Work with a local performer or talent agency to do the heavy lifting for you. Whether you want a musician, magician, stand-up comedy, or some other form of live entertainment. The added benefit of these performances is that you can also plan for a virtual meet and greet where the artist interacts with employees one-on-one.

Another way to go about live performances is an open mic session. Encourage team members to let their inner artist shine during the open mic. Allocate five to 10 minutes for each person to perform a song, play a short acoustic set, make a few zingers with a stand-up bit, or recite poetry. Open-mic sessions allow team members to showcase their hidden talents.

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Deconstructing the Virtual Town Hall

Regardless of whether you plan to begin hosting virtual town halls or have been holding them regularly, structuring these meetings is key to better engagement and outcomes. Follow these steps to improve the structure of your virtual town hall.

Kick-Off the Meeting With Some Icebreakers

A screenshot of a virtual ice breaker session with participants sketching on a virtual whiteboard

Kick off the Meeting With Some Icebreakers

Start the meeting with some light banter and fun. As the leader or head of HR, the first few minutes will help you connect with your remote team personally. Icebreakers are great to set the mood for the meeting – particularly town halls, where you want your employees to feel comfortable sharing and contributing.

You can spend ten minutes warming up. Take a quick mood poll (anonymous survey), run a Zoom background challenge, or do a home treasure hunt to get everyone involved.

Shop Talk

Next come the company and business updates. At most organizations, the CEO kicks off the meeting and delivers important company updates. While hearing your leader is motivating, having them speak for the entire virtual town hall can quickly become boring.

Employees want to feel included in the meeting, and having their managers/bosses/leaders represent them and talk about their work is a great way to accomplish that. Invite project leads, line managers, and other leaders to get involved in planning and delivering your town hall meeting.

You might also want to consider a professional emcee to host your virtual town hall. This ensures that everyone gets a chance to contribute to the meeting. This session is usually longer and takes up about 70% of the entire meeting duration. It can last from 20 to 40 minutes.

3. Celebrations and Team Building

A screen showing virtual work anniversary celebrations

Once you’ve wrapped up the formal sessions, you can then focus on celebrating employee achievements. Celebrating work anniversaries, client wins, and even short awards ceremonies will promote a sense of belonging and develop a high-performance culture. How you celebrate your employees and show your appreciation is completely up to you. Hoppier’s virtual cards make it easy to provide virtual rewards and show appreciation to your employees.

Next, incorporate some team-building activities or create breakout teams to let employees connect with each other.

Over to You

Virtual town hall meetings are not just about company updates. They’re also an effective platform for recognizing and celebrating employee achievements. Use the step-by-step activities listed above to plan an engaging virtual town hall meeting and experiment with ideas to make your sessions more interactive and experiential.

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