Attending virtual town hall meeting from a chair

A Leader’s Complete Guide to Virtual Town Hall Meetings

Virgil Wadhwa
• July 16, 2022

(12 min read)

Town halls are time-tested, agreed. They let you pulse-check your business and share wins and smiles. But who said they could only be in-person? Going virtual can even be better. 

In this guide, let’s explore virtual town hall meetings, why you need them, and effective tips for hosting energizing town halls virtually.

Table of Content

What is a virtual town hall meeting? 

 A virtual town hall meeting is like a regular town hall but hosted online on a virtual event platform. 

In an online town hall meeting, the upper management gets a chance to convey updates, collect feedback, and indulge in two-way communication with their workforce. 

They have unique perks over regular town halls. Let’s explore them below:

 

Benefits of virtual town hall meetings: Are virtual town halls better?

Even though regular town halls effectively deliver business updates and policy changes, engagement rates remain a big concern. And they are also costlier. On the other hand, virtual town halls are easily set up, cost-effective, and scalable.

Here are some compelling reasons to host a virtual town hall:

1) Virtual town-hall meetings may foster better two-way communication

An online atmosphere fosters balanced, leveled, and democratic participation. This might sound counter-intuitive, but let’s think it over.

  • Everyone gets the same view: There’s no concept of front rows, corner seats, or far-flung back rows in a virtual environment. Everybody gets to enjoy the show from the front seat there. So that’s a great leveler.
  • It feels more human: Finding your colleagues in their home setting diffuses stiff boundaries of professionalism. It allows you to be more empathetic and connected. A stiff manager may not seem as daunting in casuals and kids photobombing in the background.
  • It’s easy to ask questions and share opinions: Anyone from the team can share their thoughts in real-time in the chats during a presentation. There’s no need to interrupt to ask a question or to climb the stage to share an opinion. But if they must, they can raise their hands with a click and join the virtual stage when it’s their turn to speak.
  • Seamless feedback collection: Taking surveys, opinions, and polls becomes a breeze, and hosting engaging trivia comes in handy. Say goodbye to the post-town hall feedback forms! You can collect feedback in real-time with virtual town halls.

2) Virtual town halls are more scalable and cost-effective

Today’s workforce is distributed across different states and countries. Thus, having all hands on deck at a particular location can be very challenging. For larger teams, arranging logistics is an even bigger challenge. 

Online town hall meetings flip logistics out of the equation. You can reach a global audience in minutes, from anywhere, at minimal costs, while also being super flexible about the schedule of the meeting. 

But there’s more. It gives employees the ultimate flexibility to join a meeting at their convenience, from an office space or a WFH set-up.

3) Opportunities to engage more frequently

Engaging more frequently with employees is a good way to strengthen company culture. However, it’s difficult to hold frequent town halls in person, which may cut some opportunities to build trust between you – the leader, and the employees. 

A good thing: You can easily set up weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly all-hands meetings virtually.

4) Easy moderation and meaningful interactions

Event moderators do a fantastic job at introducing new speakers and maintaining the vibe of the whole event. This may include interacting with the audience, taking up questions, conducting polls, and fun activities like trivia. 

The job gets more manageable in an online town hall meeting, though. Speakers can be onboarded on the virtual stage with a click. Moderators can get real-time feedback in the chats and react to it.

Moreover, the employees can indulge in real-time interactions through online screen sharing, Q&A, polls, chats, emojis, and more

meaningful face-to-face interactions between employees and leadership team

What’s the format of a virtual town hall meeting?

Town halls typically follow this structure:

1) Energizing kick-offs

The opening script decides the fate of your town hall. Why? Because this is the time when your audience is deeply engaged. And if they do not find anything interesting, they’ll lose focus.

What do we suggest you do? Ditch a boring start. Instead, grab attention with a joke, a bold statement, or a question. You can also present an analogy or lay down some visual cues to help your audience visualize a situation. 

Starting with a captivating personal story is also a great option, but you may not have an account to share at every town hall. In that case, you can skip this. 

2) Answers to what’s going on

Now that you have captured their attention, you can present them with organization-wide updates. 

These can include the following:

  • Company overview 
  • Departmental updates 
  • Milestones
  • Any major updates that impact your workforce 

3) Q&A

Q&As give your employees a voice. It gives them a chance to pose their questions to the leadership team and raise concerns. 

They also have an enormous potential to spark a transparent two-way conversation between senior leadership and even the far-flung teams of a company. 

We’re sure all your employees would appreciate a Q&A – their chance to get heard.

Virtual Q&A session to make employees feel heard

4) An engaging activity: Turn yawns into yahoos!

Adding an engaging activity into the mix can make the difference between a “Yawning audience” and a “Yahooing audience.” 

Here are some examples of the engaging activities you can include in your virtual meetings: 

  • Host online trivia
  • Icebreaker sessions
  • Virtual masterclasses
  • A mental health session
  • A gratitude session

Wait, we didn’t mean to end our list here. But we thought it’d be best to discuss this in detail in the later sections.  

So if you need to know how to host more engaging virtual town hall meetings, then read up!

5) A motivating wrap-up 

Congratulations! You had an energizing kick-off, delivered all the important updates to your employees, and collected feedback well. That’s awesome! 

Now, let’s wrap up your town hall like a boss! (Pun intended) You should build anticipation for the next meeting. Before you end your session, spill some beans on your next town hall. 

For example: “We have a new CMO, and we will have them with us in the next meeting.”

You’re now pretty much a pro at hosting online town halls! But let’s take it to the next level.

Let’s learn how to host a virtual town hall meeting. One that’s engaging and super fun. Step-by-step.

Steps to hosting a virtual town hall meeting

Planning a virtual town hall is easy. In this section, we take you through the whole process step-by-step. What’s more? You get agenda examples for a virtual town-hall meeting too. 

Step-1: Pledge to make it exciting and inclusive 

The “This Should Have Been a Slack Message” culture is rising. Why? Because some meetings fail to justify their need to exist in the first place. 

Lengthy and monotonous sessions affect work-life balance, which affects your organization’s performance.

So If you’re hosting a virtual town hall meeting, consider making it a worthwhile experience for the employees. 

Step-2: Find a virtual town hall platform that suits you

The success of your virtual town hall depends on the capabilities of the virtual event platform you choose. Ideally, you should look into choosing a platform that can allow you to host polls, Q&A sessions, quizzes, breakout sessions, and also features that make your life easier as an organizer. 

For example, the ability to analyze and generate insightful reports would be a good start. 

Step-3: Freeze your speaker lineup

A good line-up of speakers at your town hall can ensure its success. So who could be your speakers for the town hall?

  • Anyone from the senior leadership team
  • An employee who is willing to share an inspiring anecdote
  • A corporate coach
  • Industry leaders to upskill and equip your workforce with insights and more

Step-4: Find a standard time zone

Before the advent of virtual meetings, most offices had employees working in a single building. Everyone had the exact timings, which made it easier to arrange meetings. Ah! The Good Ol’ Days! 

But today, your workforce is distributed across different countries and time zones. Thus, you need to find a time that suits everyone.

Step-5: Build an in-house team

An online town hall meeting is an event that would need you to have an in-house team of volunteers. 

There are multiple tasks that your team members can pick up, like moderating your virtual town hall meeting and offering technical support. 

Step-6: Be purposeful

Discovering a purpose would let you set the proper meeting objectives for your town halls. Otherwise, your town hall meeting can feel unnecessary and redundant.  

Here are a few objectives of a town hall meeting, for example: 

  • Updates regarding your organization’s revenue targets 
  • Hosting a town hall to share wins of the employees
  • Updates regarding partnerships and mergers
  • Updates regarding new services, products, or features
  • Change in the strategy or vision of the company
  • Checking up on the mental health of the employees
  • Town hall to take feedback and discuss the state of work culture 

Once your objectives are clear, you can plan a town hall meeting agenda ahead of time. 

So let’s have a look at that: 

Step-7: Prepare your virtual town hall agenda 

The agenda for each type of town hall depends on its purpose. Presented below are sample agendas for three different kinds of town hall meetings.

Agenda example for town halls for small companies:

Small companies constantly strive to boost the morale and confidence of their employees. An energizing and motivating town hall meeting can do the trick. 

Here’s the sample agenda:

  • Welcome or opening address by a senior leader
  • Company updates: Given by the CEO or the leadership team, it can include statistics, KPIs, financials, company values, wins, etc. 
  • Shout-outs: Recognizing team members/individuals who have performed exceptionally can be a great morale booster.
  • Q&A: The last part of the meeting agenda should be Q&A, where employees are free to question the leadership.

Town hall meeting agenda example for large companies: 

Large companies can host an online town hall meeting in two different ways:

  • All-hands meeting for better internal communication 
  • Smaller all-hands sessions for specific teams and functions to drive deep engagement 

Here’s a sample agenda:

  • Welcome, celebrations, announcements, and FYIs by the leadership team or the CEO
  • Initiatives in focus, presented by team leaders
  • Shoutouts for employee achievements by managers
  • Employee questions
  • Action items and thank you note

Agenda Samples for motivational town halls:

Objective – Teams need motivation. Remote teams need it even more. Motivational town halls boost the spirit of the employees. 

Use this agenda template to motivate and boost morale of your workforce or remote employees:

  • Welcome by the CEO or the leadership team
  • Speech by the guest/motivational speaker- maximum 45 minutes
  • A mental health QnA
  • Employee recognition sessions
  • Team appreciation and gratitude
  • Milestone celebration and growth path discussion for employees
  • Thank you by a senior leader or CEO

Step-8: Jazz up your presentations

Yes, we get it – virtual town hall meetings are supposed to be your opportunity to present critical organization-wide updates, stats, and growth figures.  

However, long presentations that are heavy on figures, charts, and instructions don’t really garner much attention for long. 

A report says that 4 out of 5 business professionals lost their focus during a business presentation. 

Thus it’s evident that we need to jazz up our presentation game to keep the employees engaged. 

How to do that? Here are some ways to build engaging presentations. 

  • Use humor, memes, or GIFs: No kidding, a little bit of humor is helpful. It helps relieve tension and also energizes the audience. We bet your entire organization will love it!
  • Use more images and videos: We are more inclined to watch a video than read something. Use more media to boost employee engagement. 
  • Break-up complex information: Long sentences and complex information takes time to digest. Make sure you break them apart into different slides so it isn’t overwhelming for the readers.
  • Anticipate some questions: You can also anticipate the questions that are most likely to be asked and include them in your presentation. 

Step-9: Promote your online town hall for max turn-up

You can make attending a town hall mandatory, but wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t even have to take such a step? 

You can make employees feel self-motivated to attend your virtual town hall meetings. Just do these: 

  • Send out topic teasers: There might be an interesting topic, an exciting session like DJ, or a rapid-fire round that could build up excitement among your employees.  
  • Send out a warm meeting invite: Add a warm touch to your meeting invites by including a personal note for your workforce. Get creative with the subject line, and make sure to share the meeting agenda ahead of time.

Step-10: Collect gratitude messages to showcase

A gratitude session is a staple at most virtual town hall meetings. However, people might not be able to express their gratitude spontaneously. Thus, give people a chance to record a video, create a text message, or anything like that to express their gratitude.

Step-11: Prepare content for Q&A, polls, and quizzes 

It would be great to have questions emailed to you in advance. This way, you’d be able to reply with meaningful answers during your meeting. 

Prepare for polls and feedback questions to ask during your online town hall meetings. Virtual event platforms make it easier for you to collect feedback and host polls.

Quizzes make things interesting during your town hall. However, you or your team would need to work on developing the questions early on.

Step – 12: Right before your event, do the following

  • Dry-runs: If it is your first time using a virtual town hall platform or your first time hosting one, it’s always a good idea to conduct a dry run. This way, you and your team get a chance to fix any blockers before the main event. 
  • Set-up town hall recording: One of the benefits of hosting your town hall virtually is that you can record the session. Some virtual event platforms come with an inbuilt feature to record your meetings. However, for some, you might need to outsource a solution. 
  • Upload your content: Some virtual event platforms will allow you to upload media for a seamless presentation experience. So if your virtual event platform has this feature, then make sure you upload your content before your event. 

Step – 13: Relax, take deep breaths and have a fantastic town hall

Meeting anxiety is real! Especially public speaking can be nerve-racking at times. Even the leaders face it. Here are a few tips to calm those nerves before you deliver an amazing town hall meeting. 

  • Turn nerves into enthusiasm: It may sound absurd, but we’re not joking around. Studies suggest that it’s possible. Tell yourself these three words: “I am excited.” Visualize yourself feeling excited, doing good, and delivering an incredible presentation. And you will!  
  • Clean your surroundings: A cluttered desk equals an anxious mind. It’s true, for some of us, having things organized around us matters a lot. And even subconsciously, they do affect you. 
  • Do some Pranayama: In yoga, pranayama is the regulation of breath. This report suggests that certain breathing techniques can regulate your mood, boost your confidence, and help you feel more grounded. 

It must feel so good! You’ve successfully graduated from this crash course on hosting virtual town hall meetings. But there’s still something left: 

How to make your virtual town hall meetings more engaging. So let’s get started with that.

5 Tips to host better and more engaging virtual town hall meetings 

“I don’t like to have some fun,” said no one ever! We bet your employees would like some fun activities during your town hall meetings. As a perk, you’ll get to bond, collaborate, and build a brag-worthy work culture. 

Tip -1: A virtual “guess who” session 

Looking for an engaging activity for your teams to bond over? Then this would cut! 

The concept is simple: Identify your co-workers with some clues from their past and present. When people discuss their interests and passions, they are more likely to become better friends. 

And who wouldn’t like a better connection between team members?

Employees playing a virtual guess to add interactive elements so they remain engaged during a virtual town hall.

Tip-2: An online trivia for your virtual town hall meetings

Who is the most knowledgeable? Find out with a trivia session. Sounds like fun! 

To make it more relevant, you can throw in some trivia questions related to your organization in the mix so that it’s both engaging and relevant. 

Tip-3: Virtual mindfulness with some tea 

What’s better than becoming a zen master? Becoming a zen master with a freshly brewed cup of tea. Researchers believe that a cup of tea can instantly fight stress

Imagine enjoying a warm session of brewing tea with your employees from across the globe. Now add to that visual, and picture a teacher leading your workforce into calming states of meditation.

If your employees like the idea of serenity, then they will absolutely love this online town hall idea! To add to the experience, you can have a virtual teabox sent as virtual swag for your virtual town hall.

Engaging virtual mindfulness and teas session for employees to build a sense of community

Tip-4: Include an icebreaker session that’s fun!

An icebreaker session goes beyond just introductions. It’s gotta be fun. How to add some zing to the good ol’ introductions? Your moderator can ask these questions to make introductions more fun: 

  • Are you a dog or cat person?
  • What makes your groove? Cold or Hot Weather?
  • French fries or salads?
  • Beer or wine?
  • What would you do without the internet?
  • Tell us about your travel experiences.

We’re sure that this session will help your team feel more connected. And when employees feel a connection with each other, it leads to better performance.

Tip-5: A live stand-up comedy session 

Sharing some laughs and grins with your workforce is a healthy affair. Literally, laughter is good for your heart and mood. And there’s one more thing it’s good for — employee engagement.

But that’s not the only point. Kicking off or ending with a stand-up comedy session can do wonders for your overall town hall experience and employee morale.

Standup comedy session to keep employees engaged

The guide ends here, but we got more! 

Check out how you can host super engaging virtual town hall meetings with us.

Frequently asked questions

Mondays and Fridays are the most preferred choice for hosting a town hall across companies. At Airmeet, we host our town halls on Thursday at 6:00 PM I.S.T. This allows people to join in from different time zones for our distributed audience. 

Different platforms have different capabilities. Depending on your needs and the virtual town hall format, you can choose a platform. Some of the options are: 

  • Google Meet: A very stable platform with chats and screen sharing features. 
  • Zoom: A famous platform that has features similar to Google Meet. 
  • Airmeet: A full-fledged virtual event platform with superior networking, interactions, and video conferencing capabilities. Ideal for hosting virtual town hall meetings for teams that want breakout rooms, speed networking sessions, polls, Q&A, games, real-time chats, content production, and superior moderation during their virtual town hall meetings. 
  • Hopin: A virtual event platform with capabilities to host a nice virtual town hall. 
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