For most companies, townhalls serve as a nexus of information and culture. Pure information distribution can be done through asynchronous channels, such as e-mail or Slack. Culture can also be imparted through happy hours or Zoom hangouts. But the townhall is unique in that it serves as a channel for both information and culture simultaneously.
Because of COVID, companies have been forced to move their townhalls online. As the world opens up, many workers will return to the office, but most people and communications leaders still anticipate a sizable remote contingent. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to make sure your next company townhall is impactful for your remote employees.
Here are 4 fireproof ways to supercharge your next virtual townhall.
Hype up the crowd
In life as well as business, first impressions are everything. Most remote employees spend their days in a series of Zoom meetings, which is why it’s important that your event starts with a different energy.
I had a conversation with one of our largest customers recently. They mentioned that they think of the beginning of a townhall meeting like the previews that roll before a movie showing. Just as they do at the movies, pre-recorded videos, music, and fun polls create an anticipatory and fun atmosphere for company events.
If you’re using a video conferencing tool like Zoom, you can do this by sharing your screen and playing videos from your computer. If you want to get really fancy, video production tools like VMix or OBS take your production value to the next level and make the pre-roll look like a TV show. If that sounds too complicated, you can do both on a single platform with Welcome.
We’ve seen countless company townhalls hosted on the Welcome platform, and one of the most overlooked aspects is a good MC. A good MC increases the engagement of your townhall dramatically. One of the best ways to hype up the crowd is to ask questions and have them drop answers in chat. It might be impossible to capture the “roar of the crowd” in a typical video conference. However, an avalanche of chat responses creates a fair approximation. As the rising popularity of Twitch streaming demonstrates, a highly produced live event hosted by a talented MC who knows how to fire up the chat is a powerful combination.
At Welcome we have a saying: great events are about both tech and touch. All the technology in the world is no good if you don’t know how to take advantage of it to create a memorable experience.
Go beyond the slide deck
Let’s face it: slide decks were not built for remote presentations.
We’ve all been in those awkward meetings where the presenter tries to get screenshare working, so he can share his PowerPoint deck. Even when it does work, there’s something missing from the experience.
Custom overlays are a longstanding staple of video production software, and you can use them with any existing video tool. They’re also natively built into the Welcome platform. Instead of a boring slide presentation, the right overlays give your townhall a TV-show feel and make your executives look like stars.
Using overlays as a presentation tool also has a nice side benefit: you’re forced to put less information on the slide. We’ve all seen presentation decks filled to the brim with information. Overlays offer limited screen real estate, which means you need to keep it minimal. This makes presentations more engaging, and the audience spends time watching the speaker instead of reading the slides.
Bake in interactivity
Townhalls are a dull affair when employees feel like they are being talked at. Part of the issue with most virtual event or webinar software is that it’s built primarily as a presentation tool, so engagement comes second. The live engagement of a Zoom or Teams meeting also becomes unmanageable once the townhall gets too large.
One way that we’ve found to increase engagement and interactivity is to encourage frequent feedback through chat and polls. Unfortunately, platforms like Zoom hide chat or make it difficult to find. That’s why we’ve made chat a first-class feature at Welcome and offer Giphy and emoji support.
Chat, in particular, is a very underrated way to increase engagement. Seeing messages fly by in the chat approximates the energy of a live crowd. Polls can also be used to solicit feedback and engage employees who aren’t as comfortable with chat. As soon as you see all the fire emojis in a Welcome townhall chat box, you’ll understand the difference!
Create memorable experiences
A cottage industry of virtual experience companies have cropped up during the pandemic, and many of them have worked directly with the Welcome platform. I’ll never forget the energy of the crowd when we brought a freestyle rapper on stage to summarize our all-hands meeting!
Some other successful experiences we’ve seen at virtual townhalls include:
By breaking up the monotony of business-focused content and injecting energy into your meeting, virtual experiences are one of the most effective ways to increase engagement at your townhall.
Make time for networking
According to studies, one of the biggest downsides of remote work is feeling disconnected with your coworkers. Most Zoom meetings get straight to business, and it’s difficult to connect with colleagues throughout the day.
A virtual townhall is a great opportunity not only to hear from executives and leaders, but also to allow employees to connect with one another. This can be difficult on most technology platforms, which are built for webinars or meetings—not social connection.
On Welcome, we’ve made sure that your business and social experiences flow seamlessly together. This means that you can have a 30-minute keynote followed by 30 minutes of discussion in small groups. Alternating between presentations and small group networking helps break up the monotony and amps up the opportunities for connection.
Creating a great virtual or hybrid townhall meeting is still a challenge for many people leaders. But that’s because most video conferencing tools don’t have the features you need to produce fun and meaningful events. Given the importance of townhalls, the ROI of a strong event is incredibly high for your company culture. Whether you opt for a virtual experience, hire an MC, or find creative ways to amp up your chat box, these event tips will make your next townhall more engaging than ever.