How To Conduct A Remote All-Hands Meeting Effectively

Kayla Naab
April 17, 2020

All-hands meetings are great opportunities for organizations to come together as a collective and push forward core company initiatives. And due to recent surges in remote workforces, in-person team meetings are becoming less frequent. Organizations in many industries have burgeoning remote teams filled with talented employees from around the world, sparking the need to manage all-hands meetings completely remotely. 

By adopting an excited and optimistic view of remote employment within your company, your team is going to work more quickly and effectively to predict and sidestep any issues or concerns that arise with executing a remote all-hands meeting. When you commit the resources to achieve a highly constructive all-hands meeting remotely, planning committees quickly develop reliable strategies to promote effective digital communication, regardless of how many attendees there are or how robust your meeting itinerary is. 

By putting in the work upfront, your organization will know which changes to make in order to limit, if not completely circumvent, any disadvantages of hosting a remote all-hands meeting. With that in mind, here are some tips and strategies to help you run effective all-hands meetings for your company:

1. Context Is Key In Remote Meetings

All-hands meetings can feel like a blur. With multiple speakers and dozens, if not hundreds, of participants, it can be hard to keep track of who said what. This can be further exacerbated in remote settings.

Maintaining a seamless flow throughout a remote all-hands meeting requires some initial work to promote clarity. Having access to the itinerary, the topics being discussed, and presenters set to speak will allow employees to anticipate the rhythm of the meeting. This will give participants a greater level of focus and understanding from start to finish.

Give your team this valuable initial context by sending out your all-hands meeting itinerary well in advance. Encourage employees to review the itinerary and come to the meeting prepared with questions and comments, so that they’re ready to actively participate. This also allows employees to familiarize themselves with the meeting’s speakers. Learning more about co-workers and other departments will paint a more complete picture of your company’s operations and culture. 

Additional tips for promoting context in remote meetings include:

  • Encourage participants to appear live on video, or use an updated image as their avatar
  • Have new participants introduce themselves and their role within your organization
  • Invest in a quality conferencing application and/or audio equipment (noise-canceling headphones) for more clear audio
  • Throw a trial meeting / or social/activity-based all-hands meeting to familiarize team members with one another, the tools, and overall process of remote all-hands meetings

2. Hold Pre-Meeting Introductions

Part of equipping meeting participants with valuable pre-meeting context is introducing speakers and new team members before they’re addressing your entire organization during your remote all-hands meeting. Knowing who a speaker is and where they fit within the company enables listeners to properly compartmentalize the information they receive. 

If a department head expresses a concern, employees will know how to apply this insight to their workflow.

Encourage employees to establish touchpoints with their coworkers in a 1-on-1 setting (slack, email, phone call). This could lead to some unusual, yet, impactful pairings. Just because two coworkers don’t interact in their usual job functions, doesn’t mean that one couldn’t make an excellent mentor, friend, or source of inspiration for the other. 

3. Find The Right Video Conferencing Tool

When planned and executed properly, remote meetings can actually be less distracting than bringing everyone in your organization into one space. The only way you can facilitate an effective remote meeting is with the right video-conferencing application. Only so many video conferencing tools can support the mass participation that’s needed for larger organizations. 

Features to look for from an ideal video conferencing application:

  • Recording and storage functionality
  • Participant capacity
  • File sharing
  • Screen sharing
  • Text chat
  • Calendar sync
  • Mobile participation
  • Unlimited meeting length
  • Sound support
  • High-definition / 4K video
  • Security features like unique meeting IDs, password requirements, encrypted video calls, etc.

Here are some of the top video conferencing apps to consider:

4. Assign A Meeting Facilitator 

Any all-hands meeting needs a facilitator to keep speakers on-pace, guide the transitions between topics, and maintain a smooth flow of information throughout the meeting. Digitally, this will help participants stay focused and keep speakers from talking over one another. By defaulting to a centralized host, you limit the number of participants speaking out of turn, but also the downtime between speakers. Having a facilitator that is well versed in the meeting’s itinerary can keep the meeting as succinct and productive as possible. 

Choose a meeting facilitator that is a bit of an extrovert and that doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. This person should also be very familiar with your team members and overall business operations. A mature, veteran presence can facilitate an optimal flow for virtual all-hands meetings and will know how best to connect with participants. 

5. Assign A Dedicated Note-Taker

The purpose of any meeting is simply the transfer of information. Notating the information that is presented in your digital all-hands meeting will prevent the loss of key takeaways and insights. Disseminating these notes to all attendees will safeguard against distractions, misunderstandings, and forgotten details. This is especially important for all-hands meetings, where there are often multiple speakers, topics covered, and some of the most critical information sharing that occurs within your organization.

Choose one of your best writers to be your note taker so that they can accurately keep up with the information that’s being presented. Be sure that the note taker you choose does not miss out

6. Set Up A Speaking Queue

When you hold an in-person all-hands meeting, there is a more clear understanding of who has the stage at a given moment. Anyone who’s participated in a Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts call has experienced the slight lag that occurs on video calls. It’s so tempting to jump in and respond right away to fill the silence when someone is done speaking. However, this can lead to an awkward back and forth of, “Oh, sorry! Go ahead.”

Set a precedent of patience during remote meetings. Encourage speakers to call on or invite the next speaker to avoid any confusion about who’s up next. You can also establish a speaking queue in your conferencing app’s chat feature. 

Working your meeting through a facilitator can also help reduce the amount of silence or over-sharing that can occur on remote all-hands meetings. The seasoned meeting facilitator that you’ve selected to be your facilitator can be the point person to call on speakers, track time, and manage the speaking queue.

7. Utilize Live Polling & Chat Functions

One of the best tactics for combating lag is a reliable chat feature within your video conferencing platform. By leaning on text responses from your attendees, you circumvent the likelihood of participants talking over one another, or out of turn. 

Chat functionality allows larger meetings to flow more seamlessly while enabling attendees to stay engaged and participate. By not requiring a verbal response from your team members, you can keep your meeting on-pace without relegating these crucial meetings to one-way conversations. This allows companies to seamlessly execute Q&A sessions or host trivia games by gathering and sharing data in real-time. 

A great advantage of remote all-hands meetings is the anonymity that can be maintained while employees ask important and serious questions. With the right conferencing tool, you can set polls and chats to allow anonymous submissions. This allows employees to be more honest and frank with their responses, leading to more valuable insights and takeaways. 

8. Send Out A Follow-Up Email

A solid follow up email can address any loose ends and wrap up important points from the itinerary that didn’t fit into the meeting. This is also the perfect opportunity to troubleshoot your execution of both remote meetings and all-hands meetings in general. Along with the notes from the meeting and wrapping important points, send out a few key follow up questions so that you can start iteratively optimizing your remote meetings.

Follow up questions for after a meeting can include:

  • Did the meeting keep you engaged?
  • What were the technical issues you faced during the meeting?
  • What were your greatest takeaways from this recent all-hands meeting?
  • What’s one topic that you would like to see included in the next all-hands meeting?
  • Was the information presented clearly?
  • How would you rate the presenters/activities/facilitator?
  • Are there any additional questions that you have following the meeting?

Remote All-Hands Meetings Can And Should Be Effective

For many companies, hosting remote meetings is the norm. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can host productive all-hands meetings completely remotely. Simply adjusting your practices and optimizing your itinerary around a remote setup allows your organization to execute the critical all-hands meetings that are needed to maintain accountability and transparency for all levels of your company. 

What other unique tips and tricks has your company utilized to run successful remote meetings? Share your ideas with us below!

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