How to plan a great all hands meeting for your remote team

A great all-hands meeting for your distributed team doesn’t happen by chance...

Regular communication with your team is vital to achieving your goals and keeping everyone moving in the same direction - especially when you have a distributed team. But between remote work needs, scheduling conflicts, and time zone differences, getting your entire staff on the same page can be challenging.

Getting in the habit of doing regular all-hands meetings for your distributed team will help you achieve the following goals:

  1. Ensure your messages are consistent and delivered at the same time.
  2. Provide training to team members.
  3. Share successes, challenges, and updates - even before the news goes public.
  4. Reinforce the company’s vision, values, and mission

So let’s talk about how to get your all-hands meeting right from the beginning - with effective planning. There are three key elements to consider when planning an all-hands meeting, whether it’s a regularly scheduled meeting or an impromptu update.

  1. Content
  2. Timing
  3. Diversity of Voices

Content

The most critical component of planning an effective all-hands meeting is to get the content right. For an impromptu or urgent update, you’ll have fewer updates and moving pieces to coordinate.

For a scheduled update, ask the leaders of each key functional area or operating group if they have specific information that needs to be shared with the whole company. Then go through and identify from your executive team perspective, which updates need to be shared with the entire group. For example, your accounting department may think their new software is the most exciting thing since SmartTVs, but for the rest of your team, it’s a snooze.

Once you’ve identified the messages you’re going to include, make sure you’ve balanced important, educational updates, celebrations, and good news.

Timing

There are two kinds of timing to consider:

  1. When you’re going to deliver the update
  2. How long the full update and individual segments will be

The timing of when to deliver the update is based on the urgency of the update. You may already have a regular cadence set up, whether on a monthly or quarterly basis. Impromptu updates may need to be delivered within a few days.

The timing of each segment and the full meeting length should be coordinated based on the subject. Attention starts to drop off after 45 minutes - so strive to get all of your updates within the 45-minute window or less.

For example, you may allocate 10-minutes for your CEO update and six other staff updates for 5-minutes. Setting these types of time guidelines for each segment helps make sure your messages are to the point and stay engaging for your team member.

Diversity of Voices

It can be tempting to have all the departments write up their updates and deliver them by a key member or small group from the executive team. You know their tone and their ability to present.

Getting more voices in your meetings certainly may introduce challenges, but getting different people from all levels of your business to share in an all-hands meeting increases engagement.

When attendees hear from someone else at their level, it energizes them to strive to do more. The speaker will be more engaged as well since they get to share their successes and discoveries.

A diversity of voices can also be essential to ensure that your update has the right tone. Some updates may be better delivered by members of your team - bad news may come better from a softer-toned Director of HR while hitting a record sales number could be great given by your enthusiastic VP of Sales.

Running a Great Staff Meeting

Once you’ve identified the content, the timing, and the speakers for your all-hands meeting, it’s time to get your message out. Set your agenda and expectations, and let your speakers get to work preparing.

Whether you choose to use slide decks, speakers on video, or some combination, preparation is essential. Ensure that each speaker knows the expectations of what they will cover and how long they have to discuss it. They should also know where they fall in the schedule, so they’re not caught by surprise, don’t rehash what someone else has already presented, and are ready for transitions.

With All Hands, executing is even easier. Within each meeting, you can set the expectations for each speaker in terms of timing and content. Plus, they can record as often as they need until they’ve nailed it - perfect for the nervous presenter.

Your staff can then attend when it fits in their schedule, giving your important updates the attention they deserve.

Common Mistakes that Hurt Your Distributed Team Meetings

Any one (or all!) of these challenges can shift your best-intentioned all-hands meeting into a drag for meeting organizers and attendees alike:

  1. No explicit purpose. Nobody wants to attend a meeting just for the sake of attending a meeting, but often that’s what happens. Meetings are set with no agenda, or “just to catch up.” Ensure that your meeting - and each agenda item on it - has a clear purpose that benefits all attendees.
  2. Too many points. The only thing worse than a meeting with no plan is one with too many issues to address. Not only do they seem to drag on forever, but the most critical items can also get buried in the monotony. Consider breaking long meetings up into smaller sessions or make some segments optional.
  3. Avoiding bad news. Whether you bury the bad news in the middle of a busy agenda or just try to skip it altogether, avoiding bad news is well… bad news. While you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, it’s better to get it out and address questions and concerns as directly and honestly as possible. Sometimes you’ll even need to have an all-hands meeting with your remote team with ONLY bad news to deliver; it’s better to get the news out there than to wait until you have something good to pair it with.
  4. Updates too frequently. When you’re working with a distributed team, especially if it’s a recent change for your business, it’s common for the team to feel disconnected. Naturally, calling a staff meeting can make you feel more connected to the team. Unfortunately, frequent updates actually can prove to be a distraction for the team in the trenches. Ensure that any update you’re providing - whether asynchronous or live - has a clear purpose that’s both important and urgent at the moment. Otherwise, save your updates for a future regularly scheduled all-hands meeting.

A great all-hands meeting for your distributed team doesn’t happen by chance. With proper planning, you can host a staff meeting that allows you to achieve your objectives and keep your team in the loop.

Plus, using All Hands makes it easy for your entire staff to participate - no matter where they are or what shift they work.

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