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14 Ways To Design An Effective All-Hands Meeting

By Andrew Fayad, CEO of ELM Learning, a creative agency focused on designing custom multimedia and digital learning experiences.

We’ve all sat through a lackluster all-hands meeting: endless slides, one monotonous presenter and an underlying current of negative vibes. Whether you’ve never implemented all-hands meetings before or you’ve noticed that your all-hands meetings feel a little too hands-off, reframing your approach can help increase their effectiveness.

At my company, we know a thing or two about creating a positive culture, and our all-hands meetings are a crucial part of building interpersonal relationships. Here are 14 of my best tips to make your next all-hands meeting everything you need and want it to be.

1. Prep

Don’t go into your all-hands meeting flying blind. Knowing what you want to discuss beforehand helps you create a meeting format that lets you get the most out of every minute. Sending out a pre-meeting email shapes your outline and alerts you to issues.

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2. Expand Your Guest List

Inviting the usual suspects to present at your all-hands meeting might result in having the same people talk about the same topics again and again. In contrast, Zappos, for instance, invites investors and members of the community to their all-hands meetings, benefitting from diverse, fresh voices and less-biased ideas.

3. Celebrate Wins

My company always starts meetings off on a positive note to set the tone and generate energy for the meeting. Call out employees by name and and give other team members a chance to shout out their colleagues for an uptick in camaraderie and positivity.

4. Shake It Up

Would employees benefit from a different agenda than usual? Can you cocoon tougher topics with more positive ones to soften their delivery? Shake up the usual format and don’t feel like you’re married to one specific outline.

5. Showcase An Employee

It doesn’t always have to be business as usual: spotlight employees so team members can get to know each other personally. All-hands meetings can often feel like they’re solely for the organization’s benefit; give employees a chance to showcase their talents, too.

6. Clarify Values

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Clarity is the secret ingredient to the special sauce of company culture. Reinforce your values by offering a quick refresher on what’s important and how your organization is supporting that mission and you’ll further set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

7. Microtrain

Use your employees to create a microtraining experience. Your sales department could present a mini-course on effective communication. Your marketing department could cover company tone and voice. Pass the mic around and you’ll get a more holistic view.

8. Look Ahead

Don’t make the mistake of shrouding your all-hands meeting in jargon or vague ideas. Increase employee buy-in by being radically transparent about where your organization is, what you hope to achieve and how employees can help you meet those benchmarks.

9. Get Visual

If you use slides to keep your all-hands meeting on track, ditch the boring walls of text. Instead, show rather than tell by using pictures, graphics, gifs and videos to capture your employees’ attention. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than words.

10. Opt For Regularity

All-hands meetings need to be consistent to be impactful. One meeting might pique interest levels, but it won’t change behavior and certainly won’t help employees see how important they are to your organization’s operations.

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11. Check Your Tech

There’s no faster way to derail a meeting or tank interest levels than watching someone fiddle with their tech during a presentation. Test everything ahead of time and make sure you have strong connections so all the participants are engaged from start to finish.

12. Collaborate

It only makes sense that all “hands” should be heard at an all-hands meeting. Reserve time in your meeting for a casual Q&A session, or use the information you gathered before your meeting to open a discussion.

13. Showcase Community Impact

Build pride and morale by using some of the time in your all-hands meeting to showcase and highlight your organization’s community impact. Accomplishment releases dopamine in the brain—the feel-good hormone.

14. Introduce The New

Change is hard, so if you’re bringing something (or someone) new to the table, an all-hands meeting is the perfect way to increase buy-in. At my company, we use this time to spotlight new employees and help everyone get to know their role a little better.

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