Meetings can be long or short in nature, occurring often in one form and rarely in another – but in all ways, meetings should be productive, and waste little to no time.

One important meeting style both small and large businesses will have to become familiar with is the town hall meeting.

Firstly, What is a Town Hall Meeting?

Town hall meetings are a little like all-hands meetings, in that:

  1. They’re of the longer variant, and thus the rarer variant.
  2. Should include everyone involved in the project or company.

The point of a town hall meeting, however, is that after a brief status update or segment on the nature and latest information on the topic at hand, the focus of the meeting shifts towards creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to jump in, pitch in, contribute, ask questions and answer them and figure out a way forward against various odds, obstacles and issues facing the team.

It’s partially a status update, partially a trouble-shooting session, and partially a meeting built around addressing everyone’s concerns so they can focus on work without uncertainty or being impeded by pressing questions that have to await an answer. Town hall meetings, to put it even more bluntly, are there to eliminate uncertainty and promote interconnectivity.

When Town Hall Meetings are Appropriate

Town hall meetings, due to their nature – that is, their length and hefty importance – need proper timing in order to be effective. It’s a total waste of time and extremely precious resources to be scheduling a town hall meeting far too often, like once a week – or worse yet, once a day.

When it comes to town hall meetings, they should be used whenever a major update is happening. That means, when a segment of a project has concluded and a new one is beginning, or when something has come up and everyone needs to get together to discuss it and find the best way to individually move forward with everyone’s tasks.

Making the Most of a Town Hall Meeting

Town hall meetings can be extremely effective, when done well. They can also become a massive waste of time, like so many other meetings. The sad nature of meetings is that in many cases, they’re abused and misused – as per Business Insider, it doesn’t take long for a team meeting to go from a great use of your time, to the perfect opportunity for a nap or some email clean up.

Town hall meetings are more susceptible to this kind of problem because of their length. It’s easy to keep everyone engaged when you’re doing a quick scrum meeting lasting 20 minutes – it’s harder to do in a large, enterprise townhall meeting where everyone gets called onto a premium service like BlueJeans for 90 minutes. Here are a couple critical and crucial ways to making the most of your town hall meeting:

  • Use Media to Engage

Visual and audio media – slides and presentations, and music – can increase engagement by giving people something to look at, condensing confusing facts into simple graphs and numbers, and generally cutting short on time spent explaining or drawing things up on the board by having a pre-made presentation. And as per CultureIQ, music can be a great way to keep people engaged at all times, so long as it isn’t distracting.

  • Maintain Brevity

Sure, town hall meetings are lengthy – at least, more so than many other meeting types. But that doesn’t mean you should take your time to expand on things that aren’t important, drift off into unrelated topics, or lose time discussing irrelevant information.

Never forget that brevity is in the very DNA of a successful meeting. Don’t give it up, even if your meeting runs a little longer.

  • Utilize Software to Give Everyone a Voice

One of the biggest benefits to running a meeting through an online conferencing technology is that you’re generally giving everyone an equal footing for both screen time and voice time. Since there is no physical space to consider, everyone has the same voice level through their microphone, and shared screens and cameras mean everyone is visible to everyone else – also meaning that people are less likely to fall asleep in front of their webcam, out of pure etiquette reasons.

  • Have a Follow-Up Survey

The easiest way to tell whether or not you’ve been doing a great job with your meeting policies is through simply asking people what they thought of the meeting. Chances are that if you have even just one team member saying they found the meeting to be a waste of time, there is something you should be doing to improve the meeting’s structure and engage that employee as well.

Town hall meetings, in order to be effective and efficient, should be utilized wisely. That doesn’t mean they need to follow a strict schedule, however. Remember this when considering meeting parameters – versatility and flexibility in the face of adversity is the key to success in today’s business world. Things move so quickly, and competitors rise and fall at an astonishing rate – if you want to be able to survive and ensure that your company pulls ahead, you need to be willing to make rapid changes and adapt to conditions.

That means pulling emergency meetings, huddling together, making things work and changing protocol when needed.