How to make a great all hands meeting

    You can't state your vision once, and then hope everyone buys in. The key to aligning a company around a vision is regular reinforcement of that vision.

    There's no better tool to accomplish this than the all-hands meeting. It's a company-wide gathering where all employees come together to discuss important updates, share information, and align on the organization's vision, goals, and priorities.

    The outcome of the all-hands meeting should be a feeling of togetherness, a fresh focus on the vision and clarification around uncertainties.


    How to set up an all-hands

    • First, you need to decide on the cadence. Having experimented, we found that bi-weekly all-hands work best (or monthly for very large companies).  We found that weekly all-hands didn't provide enough time to create uniqueness.

    • Plan the next two months of meetings and assign a directly responsible individual for each meeting. There will likely be regular hosts (founders & C-Level) but the all-hands is a great way of including other functions in this central event.

    • Create the content:
      • Start with the goal “I want the company to feel X after the all-hands”
      • Decide whether or not to provide performance data (We recommend one per month)
      • Make an open invitation for various speakers. This could be functional heads (to discuss something interesting from their function) as well as stories of colleagues who went above and beyond
    • Keep the meeting to 30 minutes

    • Ask for feedback from the company - what did they like? what did they dislike? what would they like to see in future all-hands?


    Things that don't tend to work

    • On-the-fly Q&A - The all-hands is attended by everyone which makes it an expensive meeting!  Questions that your team will have will tend to be quite specific. While it’s important that there is an avenue for people to have questions answered, this meeting is not the right avenue.
      • We'd recommend a  Q&A town hall format every few months but gather questions in advance so you can tackle the broad questions publicly and the more specific questions privately with those who asked them

    • Spotlighting leavers below a certain level - When you are a small company you will probably announce departures at this meeting and give them an opportunity to say a few words. As you get bigger, you will naturally have more leavers and so there comes a point where this meeting no longer becomes appropriate. C-Levels should always be announced at all-hands.
    • Repeating the same format - While some information is commonly repeated (end of month performance for example), it’s important to mix up the messaging for every all-hands meeting. Some ideas include
      • Invite a functional leader to tell the company about something they’ve been building
      • Spotlight amazing projects that wouldn’t usually get spotlights
      • Talk about new clients you’ve got on board
      • Highlight an amazing personal achievement by somebody
      • Discuss a specific value and how it's encouraged in the organization
      • Connect the vision to some aspects of the company
      • Try a meeting without a slide deck behind you