How to Run an Effective All-Hands Meeting at a Small Company

Many of the tips online cater to companies with multiple branches, thousands of employees, and big budgets. So how do smaller companies hold effective all-hands meetings? Here are some basic tips to ensure that your all-hands meetings run smoothly.

If you’re the CEO at a small or fledgling company, you know how important communication is. You want your team to be on the same page, though it may be more difficult now that there’s more than just the few of you who started together in the very early days.

Many of the tips online cater to companies with multiple branches, thousands of employees, and big budgets. So how do smaller companies hold effective all-hands meetings? Here are some basic tips to ensure that your all-hands meetings run smoothly.

Find your Rhythm

The first thing to establish when you consider an all-hands meeting is how often you’d like to hold them. One of the biggest virtues of a small company is your ability to be versatile, so don’t worry too much if you don’t hit the right balance right away. You can Goldilocks this problem! If weekly all-hands meetings are too much and monthly meetings are too infrequent, your sweet spot may be bi-monthly chats.

Don’t be afraid to try something new if what you’ve done in the past isn’t quite right.

Some tips for finding your rhythm:

  • Communicate the time and dates that work best for the stage your company is in. Make sure that all employees know when meetings are happening, and emphasize the importance of regular attendance.
  • Supplement regular meetings with digital updates that go across the organization. At Torch, we call them Campfire Updates. These quick, info-packed bursts go out weekly via Slack to keep all team members in the loop.
  • Frequency and format may change as your company changes so monitor your effectiveness and adjust the format if need be.

Create an Agenda-- And Stick to It

This is basic to running any meeting successfully, and it will help to keep everyone on track and avoid wasting time. (Doing the math to determine how much an all-hands meeting will cost the company is a surefire motivator to keep you from wasting time!) Ideally, send the agenda out beforehand so everyone knows what to expect.

Additionally, an agenda will help you set time limits and prioritize action items. The little bit of work they take at the front end is worth it when you consider how they keep you organized and focused.

Get Others Involved

The thing that sets an all-hands meeting apart from an email or a speech is its inclusion of multiple voices. Although a CEO or team leader can have a great deal of information to share, an all-hands will be more productive, engaging, and efficient if you avoid the dreaded info-dump that can occur when one person does most of the talking.

Fortunately, the small size of your company works in your favor in this situation.

Here are a few ideas to foster maximum participation:

  • Determine key metrics and highlight only a handful (3-5) of them. Think of this as the “jumping off point” to encourage participation from the group. Information that is synthesized and brief can help foster new ideas.
  • Delegate speaking roles to different department heads or leaders, so insight comes from a multitude of POVs.
  • If you’re small enough, strive to get everyone involved by asking a question before the meeting that everyone-- no matter how small their role might be-- can prepare an answer to.
  • Welcome questions. This is the point of a meeting like this, right? Questions will help you clarify ideas and goals, and will help create a sense of buy-in from all departments.

Set a Tone

The very philosophy behind an all-hands meeting is that every single person at a company has a vital role to play in its success or failure. We’re in it together. Therefore, a meeting like this is a great time to give praise to team members who are doing good work-- and especially those whose contributions might otherwise go unnoticed.

Maintain a positive, uplifting attitude that falls in line with your company values, and remember that the tone of all-hands meetings can influence culture. People want to work for companies that emphasize the wins, place value in the work that people contribute, and look forward to growth.

Likewise, don’t reprimand or demean an employee who is not necessarily meeting expectations; there are better times for correction.

Tech Can Help

As your company grows, one of the biggest struggles in creating a space where all voices can contribute, especially when some or all of the workers are in different places. In that case, finding technology that works is essential. Here are a few recommendations for gadgets and gizmos that can streamline the process:

  • Zoom or Mevo: a video live-streaming device that will help remote workers stay connected
  • Catchbox: a plush, tossable microphone to encourage engagement, even in a crowd
  • USB Microphone: to improve audio quality when you have a number of people in the room that all need to be heard
  • Vevox: a live polling app for real-time survey results

If you’d like more information on running effective meetings, check out this article we published for one of our partners.

Jeremy OBriant

Jeremy OBriant is the Founder and CEO of Torch. He has helped build some of the worlds largest and most innovative digital marketplaces.

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