Thursday, February 14, 2013

22 Tips for Town Halls in Tough Times - PART 2

Posted by: Dave Hebert, Feb. 14, 2013

Yesterday's Part 1 post covered when to have a town hall, what topics to cover, and who should speak. Today, read about logistics, day-of-event troubleshooting, and things to do before and after the event to help ensure success.

How does this thing work?

Let’s talk logistics; there are so many moving parts to these events, so you’ll want to create a checklist you can reuse and modify in the future. Here are some considerations:
  • What date works best for your speakers and your audience? Consider typical workdays and teleworking patterns. And what about time of day — do you have employees in other time zones?
  • How about the physical location? Is an auditorium available? Book it early, and work out the seating arrangements. Do you have a lot of remote employees? Encourage them to gather locally to “attend,” if possible, and share slides with them via web-based meeting tools like WebEx or GoToMeeting. Or employ something like Google Hangouts, with each large gathering acting as a participant.
  • Speaking of tech, take advantage of cheap web cameras to stream video of the speakers, if not the audience, too. Engagement takes a huge leap when people can see who’s talking. Even laptop cameras can handle this in a pinch. A phone bridge can work for audio, but taking questions this way could get very messy, which leads us to ...
  • Plot out how you’ll take feedback. Auditorium settings could call for cordless mics carried around the room: Who will help with that. You can use the chat feature built into most virtual meeting tools to allow remote questions with some level of anonymity, if preferred.
  • Arrange for sign language interpretation. And record the meeting, whether via video camera or with screen-capture tools that can capture audio, as well.

When do I do this? 2 weeks to 1 month ahead of the event
What does it cost? $0 to $1000+ if you need to invest in tools, equipment, and/or services

Is this thing on?

If you do the rest of this right, the event itself should be a relative snap. HOWEVER, make time several hours before the town hall to check the venue, the technology, and other arrangements. Every time you do a dry run, you’ll likely find a problem that is much better dealt before you go live.

When do I do this? the day of the event
What does it cost? well-timed panic

Can you throw me a bone here?

Success for a town hall is largely defined by what happens before and after the event itself. Here are some things you’ll want to give your audience:
  • Ahead of time — a memo or other notice about the event, with an agenda, the presentations slides, links to background info they can use to brush up on the topic, and those polls we talked about at the top. Prominently post this info to your intranet so folks can refer back to it when needed.
When do I do this? at least 2 weeks ahead, with a reminder the week of the event
What does it cost? $0
  • Afterward — a follow-up message, including any actions that will be taken as a result of the discussion, links to recordings of the event (including transcriptions) and related material, and one more poll to see if the town hall was effective relative to the pre-event poll results. Be sure your host or your speakers mention this follow-up at the town hall itself to show commitment to action.
When do I do this? day of the event to no more than 3 business days after
What does it cost? $0 to ~$500 for aforementioned polling license and transcription services, if needed

What other best practices do you use for your successful town hall meetings? Share them with us in the Comments below.


  1. Good posts - thanks! I'm a big fan of town hall meetings. Especially in today's world, when so much is done online, I believe getting people together in one room is really valuable and effective in communicating and interacting with your constituents!

  2. Thanks, Sandy, and I couldn't agree more. We have to accept the reality that physical face-to-face is increasingly more difficult and get better with the tech. available, but man, does it make a difference when you can actually be in a room together.


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