As the world slowly picks itself up and returns to many aspects of life ‘as normal’ since the initial start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020… it’s clear that some things have not, and will not, be returning to the way they used to be.

And the hottest of these topics amongst countless corporations? Only a fraction of America’s workforce have returned to the office five days a week. Over three quarters of businesses in New York City, for example, have adopted hybrid workplace models.

A lot of organizations have always hosted in-person town hall meetings with their staff. But if your once-local circle of employees has scattered to the four winds in recent years, how exactly are you supposed to get the entire company together for any internal communication effort–– especially when, according to a recent study by iSolved, 63% of companies drive employee engagement through team meetings–– more than any other tactic?

In a pinch, a simple video call with webcams and a small team are… okay. But if you’ve got hundreds of employees and you need a way to communicate with all of them, keep their attention, and avoid having to ask 500 people to make sure they’re muted… then maybe it’s time to consider Virtual Town Halls with slightly higher production value.

1. NAIL DOWN THE FIVE PILLARS OF YOUR STRATEGY IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY

With any virtual event, you’ll always need to consider what we call “the Five W’s” –– who, what, when, where, and why –– but in the case of a town hall or internal meeting, some of these questions will be far easier to answer.

If you feel you already know all five answers for your virtual town hall (or if you’ve already read about them in our blogs before), feel free to skip ahead to the next step!

Most internal events are organized with the intention to inform or educate employees as a whole… but often these town halls, whether virtual or not, are often created with the additional goals of unifying staff members and building up their excitement to be a part of your organization or your latest big project as a company.

Obviously this town hall is going to focus on your own employees… but is it for all of them, or for different siloed departments? Is attendance mandatory? How can you make sure that your teams are interested or even excited about joining in?

Sure, they’ll probably be at home, but will they be streaming the feed on their big-screen TV, or on a teensy little iPhone? This is definitely something to consider when you’re creating, say, Powerpoint slides. Don’t put mountains of text or intricate graphics on the screen if they won’t be able to zoom in. Do the zooming for them!

Secondly, you also need to consider where in the world employees will be joining from. This  could definitely affect your choice of when to push out the event, because you have to take time differences into account. If you want the event to be live, but you have attendees in California and in France and in Australia, you’d better put some major planning into the release!

We’ve hosted events for some companies who have a policy, “No Meetings On Friday After 3pm.” Whenever they consider having a virtual town hall on Fridays, they always have to consider when their West Coast employees will be awake, versus where the three o’clock barrier lies for their East Coast teams.

We just talked about how time zones can affect your meeting attendance, but there’s another important aspect to note about your virtual town hall: how long is it expected to run? As many corporations learned through the trial-and-error period of online meetings in 2020 and even into 2021, virtual events can very rarely run all day without seeing major drops in participation or even view counts.

Whether you make this meeting mandatory or not, the fact remains that anything beyond two or three hours of staring at a screen is going to be physically and mentally exhausting for your team members unless you can break the event into sections and keep everybody fully, genuinely entertained and engaged (more on that shortly).

And then one last question about “when”: if you have employees who can’t make it to the meeting, will they get a chance to catch up on the content whenever they’re back on the clock again’? Will this event be only Live, or will it be made available for viewing later?

This sort of consideration is especially key for virtual events with prospects or leads, but it can still be an important aspect of any internal town hall meeting as well. The last thing you want is for your employees to leave after the event wraps up and secretly admit to one another, “Well, that was a waste of time,” or, “They could have just put all that in an email.” Think through what you want them to walk away with!

2. BUILD OUT (AND BREAK UP) THE MEETING’S AGENDA

Once you’ve laid out the purpose for your virtual town hall, that will act as your compass when making decisions around any of the content or activities to be included during the meeting.

A. List Out the Event’s Must-Have Discussions

If you’ve ever organized any company all-hands conference or presentation before, then you should already be familiar with the general process of organizing an event’s Run of Show ‘as normal,’ so to speak.

So, just as you would for any other gathering, you can begin building your agenda by laying the keystone speeches or announcements that absolutely have to happen. If the purpose of your entire meeting is for the CEO to address the staff as a whole, then jot that down first. It’s kind of important.

B. Start With a Bang: High-Quality Videos Raise a Meeting’s Quality, Too

One of the best ways to balance out your virtual town hall is to scatter some pre-produced video content into the mix. Whatever the opening to your meeting, it’s going to set the tone for the entire event… so one of the best ways to instantly raise the energy for everyone, including your hosts, is to kick off the town hall with a high-quality, dynamic video.

Whether it’s an emotional recollection of recent difficulties or triumphs, or an adrenaline-pumping tribute to what your company stands for, or even a hilarious home video from your CEO’s childhood, a video tells your audience how they should feel about what they’re getting themselves into. It shakes up their expectations of a merely blasé Zoom meeting, and will instantly put them a little more at ease–– because if given the choice, most people will always pick a clean, pre-produced video over a live powerpoint presentation.

These videos can range anywhere from homemade phone videos to high-quality, produced-months-in-advance kinds of videos. They can be silly; they can be serious; they can be a mix, all depending on the virtual town hall you want to have.

Videos may not be able to make up the vast majority of your internal meeting, of course, but adding a handful will boost the entire experience nonetheless!

C. Find Ways Within Those Initial Presentations to Invite Audience Participation

Consider where within your existing addresses you could involve your audience in some way or another. Audience Involvement = Audience Engagement. If you want your teams to be present and fully focused with the entire meeting, then the onus is on you to make as many of the events as participant-friendly as possible.

For example, let’s say you have a CFO presenting quarterly numbers or comparing regional quotas. Most viewers tend to tune out numbers and financial data. Now, including helpful visual graphs and charts can definitely be a great help… but another simple way to keep your viewers involved is to add a public poll into the mix: “We had 2-3 regions exceed their quotas this quarter, which ones do you think those were?”

In fact, one one of our clients recently hosted a town hall with a very well-received, “Choose-your-own-adventure” type of format! In short, the audience was polled before the start of the meeting about which topic they wanted to hear discussed the most. Since all of those topics were going to be covered by the same panel and there were no visual slides involved, it was easy for the presenters at the table to simply begin speaking about the winning topic first.

In addition to polls, most virtual events and town halls are always easier to swallow if they end with a Q&A portion where the employees can follow up or ask for clarification from any of the presenters about the day’s discussion. If you know that a number of your employees might be itching with the same question before the meeting even starts, then allowing them to submit their inquiries is a great way to make them feel valued, heard, and respected.

D. Add Divertive Segments to Break Up the Pace and Add Breathing Room

When meeting in-person for town halls or trade shows, there’s an increased level of energy that comes from the social interactions, as well as moving from banquet hall to auditorium to expo floor. It keeps your blood pumping and your spirits up. So in-between those things, it’s not terribly difficult to sit still for one hour and listen to a powerpoint presentation or two (of course, a good speaker can make the time fly by, and a poor one can make it drag along).

As many of us have learned in the wake of the pandemic, sometimes by trial and error… virtual events can’t run in quite the same manner as in-person conferences. This is because for your attendees, the setting can’t really ever change. They’ll probably be stuck in the same room, in the same chair, looking at the same screen for the entire duration.

So it’s important to not only plan breaks for longer events, but also to include as much variety in your overall schedule and livestream features as possible. Again, this can include audience polling, Q&A segments, live chatroom features, scavenger hunts, friendly competitions, and additional pre-produced video content.

Download a Free Virtual Event RUN OF SHOW TEMPLATE

But if you really want to take your event to the next level, then you need to add more to the broadcast than just more stuff for the audience to watch in silence…

3. UTILIZE A PLATFORM DESIGNED FOR LIVESTREAM INTERACTION

If you’ve identified your five pillars, and you’ve built out your meeting agenda with the hopes of increasing audience interaction, then chances are you have solid evidence in front of you that what you need is not just a video chat platform like Zoom… you need a platform designed for livestreaming.

A high-quality livestream platform can feature a variety of features, all of which feed back into that interaction and feedback that you’ve been trying to capture ever since you started this venture. Here are just a few of the ways you can spice up your broadcast…

1. Live Commentary. Some livestream platforms like ours offer a chatroom for audience members to leave comments or cheer on the broadcast. This is a great way for viewers to bond and hear from any peers that might not be speaking during the broadcast, but are watching alongside them. Depending on the platform, users may also be able to upload photos to the chat as well!

2. Real-Time Reactions. As some people might know from watching the occasional Facebook Live, some social media platforms increase engagement by notifying the hosts as well as other viewers about how the audience is reacting to whatever just occurred. How? The platform offers its usual buttons to “Like, Love, Laugh,” and so forth… but whenever someone clicks those buttons, a little bubble of that icon will float from the bottom to the top of the screen–– for everybody.

3. Take Polls. Ask additional poll questions throughout the event–– and not all of them have to be work-related. “What have people been binge-watching recently?” “Which is objectively the worst vegetable: eggplant, or okra?” “Would you rather go on an expedition in a submarine, or into space?”

4. Play Games. Facilitate a scavenger hunt, asking viewers to find and take a picture of themselves with random household objects: the fastest person or department to post those pictures to the chatroom could win a prize! Or you could try it Bingo-style: for example if it’s the holiday season, the person with the most items in their house from a predetermined list might win.

5. Host Contests. In addition to live polls and contests, also consider setting up some competitions in advance, and then announcing the winners at different times during the meeting. You could invite your employees to compete in recreating the company logo with household objects; come up with a new company t-shirt design; or invent a “signature cocktail” or food dish based on the company or the meeting theme.

This can be an especially great way to gather media resources, like more videos to display during the meeting that you didn’t even have to make yourself. Your own staff will be the ones sending you pictures or videos of their escapades!

GOT MORE QUESTIONS?

Here Are Some of the Top Questions We Get Asked About Virtual Events:

If you’d rather not wait for us to release our next blog article answering each of these questions in turn, feel free to reach out to us at optimumproductions.com/contact-us and we can help you plan the virtual event that’s right for your company.

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