Tuesday, 17 November 2015

GUEST BLOG: Five Ways To Run a Great Town Hall Event

Town Hall meetings have become a calendar fixture at many large companies. Although originally based on the idea of New England citizens voicing their thoughts, the term Town Hall is often just another name for traditional, top-down presentations by senior management.

So how can you make your town hall event work better? Here are five ways to get it right.

As presentation experts, we always recommend people to remember A.I.M.

1.    The A in AIM is to know your audience. A big mistake we see is when senior management address employees as if they were investors or customers. These are very different groups that need talking to in different ways. To get it right speak to the condition, interests and concerns of your employees.

2.    What is your Intention? What do you want to get out of the event? Is it a rag-bag collection of parish notices, or is there something specific you want to achieve, for example to launch a new sale drive. If that’s the purpose of the meeting, make sure that your audience knows it and you theme the entire event around it.

3.    Next, you need to decide on your Message (the M in AIM) and make sure that it is the “red thread” running through everything that you say. Be ruthless and get rid of anything from your speech that obscures that message.

Don’t forget that acronym: AIM. Two other recommendations:

4.    Remember that you are there to talk to your colleagues, not to deliver a presentation. Use slides - if you must have them - as visual aids to reinforce your key points. But cut down the words on the screen. If your audience is reading your slides they aren’t listening to you. Perhaps using an image could sum up what you want to say better.

5.    And if you want to get into a dialogue with employees, create an environment for doing that. Any audience in the hundreds doesn’t normally ask many questions. An audience of 20 just might. Would you be better off organising a programme of internal focus groups – or break the session into smaller tables with an interactive element.

Finally, don’t think about Town Hall meetings only as physical events: you can run them just as effectively through virtual means by putting the same principles into practice. In any context, a Town Hall can be a powerful mechanism as part of your wider plans for engaging and equipping employees to play their part in your business. 

Paul Farrow
Partner, Benjamin Ball Associates Ltd