How to Organize an All Hands Meeting

Your all-hands meeting must engender a feeling of time well spent

An all-hands meeting must be carefully planned because of employee time involved.

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Does your company hold all-hands meetings? If not, you might want to think about organizing such a meeting. Of course, you should never hold a meeting purely because you want to have an item checked off your to-do list, so here's why, when and how to organize an all-hands meeting.

Why You Might Want to Hold an All Hands Meeting?

Sometimes you need to get information out to the entire staff, and an all-hands meeting is an excellent opportunity to do that. Yes, you can send out the information via email, but depending on the information, you may find that delivering it in person is a more effective way to communicate.

 Additionally, depending on how big and spread out your business is, the all-hands meeting is a good opportunity to build teams and allow employees to network with each other. and allow employees to network with each other. If your business has several sites, an employee at site A may have a problem that someone at site B can solve, but if they don't know that person exists, they won't ask for help.

Finally, an all-hands meeting allows your employees to ask questions in the presence of their colleagues. This frees up your time because you can share the appropriate answer once rather than repeating it over and over for various employees.

What Issues Are Best Covered in an All Hands Meeting?

These types of issues are generally better communicated when delivered in an all-hands meeting rather than via email or asking local managers to inform their staff.

  • Introducing new senior leadership. If you have a new president or CEO, you want her to introduce herself to the entire staff. It makes a big difference to people to know the face behind the name and policy changes.
  • New company goals. When your senior team wants to share the company goals with the staff, having everyone in the same room is a great idea. It allows people to ask questions, so they understand the logic and reasoning behind the goals.
  • When there is a significant change. This can be a new company acquisition, a divestment, a reorganization, or anything that touches on all areas of the company. Again, open and honest communication are the goals here.

These are, of course, not the only reasons to call an all-hands meeting, but make sure that an all-hands meeting is the best way to deliver information before you go to the trouble to organize an all-hands meeting.

How to Organize an All-Hands Meeting

The first step, as addressed above, is having a useful purpose for an all-hands meeting. Once you have a purpose, you can plan and hold the meeting.

First, think through the logistics. You may find that it is fun to choose and invite the speakers, prepare the documents, and plan for networking time, but if you fail on the logistics side, your all-hands meeting won't work. You need to deal with these issues for a successful all-hands meeting.

  • Location. If your business is small and you can all fit around the conference table, then this problem is solved. If your company is large—even if you all work in the same building, you'll probably need to rent an auditorium or conference center for your meeting. Make sure you have seating for everyone.
  • Travel. Will people have to travel long distances to come to your all-hands meeting? If people need to drive from a distance, make sure you begin the meeting late enough that your staff doesn't have to leave home at 4:00 am to make it to the meeting. Remember, leaving home early is a hardship for many.
  • Practicality. An all-hands face-to-face meeting may be the best way to introduce a new CEO. But, if it involves flying people in from multiple locations, and putting them up in hotels, while your offices in these locations shut down for multiple days, it's probably not the best idea. Instead, consider doing video conferences. Don't allow people to watch the video conference from their desks, but ask them to come together by location for the team building opportunity of watching the introduction.
  • Food. If this is a short one-hour meeting introducing the CEO, you'll just need a location. If it's a day-long conference involving multiple speakers and workshops, you'll need to arrange for food for lunch and breaks.

Who Needs to Present at an All-Hands Meeting?

With these logistics sorted, you just need to arrange the speakers. You'll want to have company-wide changes introduced by the CEO/Owner/President. Departmental heads can explain issues that are relevant to their departments, but explanations about company-wide initiatives need to come from the top.

Naturally, a change to HR policy can come from the Chief HR Officer, and a shift in marketing can come from the Chief Marketing Officer, but the overall plan including goals, strategy, and vision needs to come from the top.

Make sure that all employees are included—or it's not an all-hands meeting. If the information is only relevant to managers, then why would you bring the individual contributors to the meeting? If the changes only affect IT, why is accounting taking the time to attend this meeting?

What Needs to Happen at an All-Hands Meeting?

All information you provide at an all-hands meeting needs to be relevant, timely, critical, and (hopefully) interesting. Sure, introducing how your company will comply with new government regulations is unlikely to result in cheering crowds. But remember, you are more likely to engage people if you present the information in an interesting way.

In addition to the speakers and workshops (if applicable), make sure you provide time for networking. Networking is often thought of as something you do to find new jobs, but you can use networking internally as well. You want your staff to know each other. Provide name tags (if you don't generally wear badges) that display names and titles and locations.

The overall goal of an all-hands meeting is to bring the company employees together. You want people to leave feeling like the meeting was worth their time. If you can't get the worthwhile feeling, skip the all-hands meeting and send out an email with the information instead.