All-hands meetings offer an incredible environment to lead, motivate, and support teams. With almost everyone in the same (virtual) room together, you can unite over goals, celebrate successes, and share valuable updates.
This sounds amazing, but the truth is most leaders aren’t using all-hands meetings to their full advantage. In this guide, we’ll explore what all-hands meetings are, why they’re so valuable, and how you can make yours have the biggest impact.
What is an all-hands meeting?
An all-hands meeting is a meeting where everyone in an organization is invited to find out what’s happening at a company level. These gatherings are an incredibly useful way to share key information, bring people together, and build a stronger culture.
At most all-hands meetings, the leadership team takes the reins. Topics like key metrics, company goals, and projects often take center stage — but there’s room to discuss culture, benefits, and good news, too.
While some people use all-hands and town hall meetings to describe the same thing, they’re different. Town hall meetings usually take place in a Q&A session format, with questions from the audience — they also usually happen on a less frequent schedule (e.g. once a quarter). All-hands meetings feature more quick presentations and speaker-led discussions and are usually weekly or bi-weekly.
Why all-hands meetings are important
All-hands meetings are great for getting key information and updates out to the entire company, especially if it’s an urgent update or you want to share progress on your goals. They can be so much more than this, though.
Done well, all-hands meetings are a powerful tool to:
Unite everyone behind common goals and priorities
Build trust through transparency
Reinforce your company purpose and values
Welcome new hires to your company
Share difficult information in a more connected way
Create a regular meeting place for remote teams
Encourage questions, ideas, and challenges
Celebrate success and personal achievements
Break down barriers between individuals and teams
Add a personal touch to your internal communications initiatives
Think of all-hands meetings as a chance to connect with individuals, share information, and set the tone for what you want the company to look and feel like. The benefits of these gatherings go far beyond simply sharing company updates.
9 tips for running your best all-hands meeting ever
There’s always room for growth when it comes to internal communications. Maybe you’re starting from scratch, or maybe you want to improve your existing all-hands meeting format.
Here’s how to transform these company-wide meetings into one of the most impactful moments of your team's work week.
1. Choose the right cadence
One area that teams struggle with is how often to host an all-hands meeting. For some, once a month feels too infrequent. For others, a weekly all-hands meeting would be too much.
To help you settle on the right cadence, think about working styles, company size, and your goals. If things move fast, a short weekly all-hands could be great — but in a large company, gathering everyone that often can prove challenging.
In a culture where people naturally share updates and ask questions when they arise, a bi-weekly all-hands might feel more appropriate. It’s all about testing and finding the right meeting cadence for your company.
2. Set and stick to a tight schedule
There’s no dashing between meeting rooms with remote work, but that doesn’t mean your meetings should run over time. Create and stick to a tight schedule, so people aren’t late for other virtual meetings or their lunch break.
It’s tempting to let all-hands meetings run long, especially if you have a Q&A session at the end. Keep your meetings to no more than an hour, with an agenda that sets out basic timings. This helps keep everyone on track, so you only take up the time you really need.
If you find your meetings often run over, ask someone to act as a moderator to keep track of timing for each topic.
In Vowel, you can use agenda timers in your shared agenda + notes to ensure people know when they're going over.
3. Include standard and special topics
All-hands meetings are a great chance to update on your metrics and milestones, and update team members on policies, plans, and changes. They’re also a place for sharing positive news, welcoming new hires, and exploring fresh ideas. This means you need to build in a mix of standard and special topics.
The best way to keep things consistent is to use a meeting agenda template. Create a template that features your standard talking points in a set order, then update it before every meeting with any new and special topics. This means you always cover the essentials, and are also prompted to discuss other items as they come up.
Pro tip: Your standard topics don’t have to be all business. Take inspiration from Piper Loehrke, Culture Specialist at Online Optimism to introduce a fun icebreaker to your meeting:
“We start every weekly all-hands meeting with a music video to get everyone pumped and excited to see their coworkers. Seeing Optimists’ reactions to the weekly music video choice is one of the best parts of our Friday meetings! In June, we played “Rainbow Connection” by the Muppets to celebrate Pride, and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” after everyone became obsessed with the newest season of Stranger Things!”
4. Tell a story with metrics
Running through a list of OKRs and metrics is one way to share the information, but it’s not the most engaging. Instead of dry updates, take a storytelling approach to sharing your key metrics. It’s often the meaning and impact that matters most, so let that guide your company updates.
Give your figures context, so everyone can understand exactly what you’re saying and the real-world impact it has. Talk about how the numbers compare to previous weeks or months, or to other players in your industry. Ground your facts and figures in real-life examples and customer anecdotes, to give them depth and understanding beyond “good” and “bad.”
5. Include shoutouts
Your all-hands meetings shouldn’t only feature company news and metrics. They’re a space for celebration and joy — make this a priority by creating time for shoutouts.
Here at Vowel, we have a #shoutouts channel on Slack. During all-hands meetings, anyone who gave a shoutout in the last two weeks reads their message to the whole team to create a real sense of appreciation and honor the contributions of these team members.
Pro tip: Experiment with when to feature your shoutouts. Include them in the middle of your meeting, or at the beginning — like Tomek Młodzki, CEO at PhotoAiD: “Start by praising your employees. From my experience, starting with appreciation puts all meeting participants in a good mood, so everyone keeps a positive mindset for the rest of the gathering.”
6. Feature a “voice of your customer” section
Gathering as a company means the focus is often on the company’s needs and projects, but it’s beneficial not to forget about our end users . Add a section to your all-hands meeting agenda dedicated to reflecting on and celebrating your customers, whether that's sharing the results of study or survey, celebrating a shoutout on Twitter, or sharing a customer story.
You can also use this time to consider your customers’ needs. Review customer feedback (from reviews sites or social media), and share insights with the rest of the company. With this section in every all-hands meeting, you’ll always have your customers in mind when you make decisions.
7. Offer a place for people to ask questions anonymously
The best all-hands meetings are the ones where you hear from diverse voices — but not everyone can stand up and raise their (virtual) hand at a Q&A session. Introduce a way for people to ask questions anonymously, to make your meetings more inclusive.
Use an app like Free Suggestion Box or a form creator like Google Forms to set up an anonymous way for employees to submit questions and feedback. Remind the team a day or two before the all-hands meeting takes place, and review these questions beforehand so you can answer them at the meeting.
The goal is to create the kind of environment where asking questions is encouraged and celebrated.
8. Share the meeting slides afterwards
Presentation slides often feature useful metrics, stories, images, and updates. Don’t let these get lost and forgotten after your meeting. Give everyone read-only access to the materials and data shared at your meeting by sharing the slides on Slack afterwards.
Sending out your slides also gives you the chance to highlight key points, continue the conversation, or invite feedback.
Pro tip: “After the all-hands meeting, send out minutes or a recap of what was discussed. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and help people reference back to any important information. You can also use this as an opportunity to collect feedback on the meeting itself and how it can be improved for next time.” — Omer Usanmaz, CEO and Co-Founder of Qooper.
9. Record and share the meetings with everyone
With remote teams and people distributed across different time zones, it’s almost impossible to schedule a meeting that everyone can attend every week (or bi-weekly). Aim for a schedule that works for most, but always record your meetings — and share them as soon as possible afterwards.
Recording your video meetings means that nobody misses out on valuable information. The whole team can be involved, whether they can make the meeting in real-time or not. It’s a must-have for any organization with remote teams.
Not every video conferencing tool is built with sharing and inclusivity in mind. Look for software like Vowel that provides instant access to recordings (auto-shared with invited team members after the meeting ends) and lets you create a library of past meetings (with notes, transcription, and summaries alongside the recording).
Explore how Vowel compares to Zoom when it comes to meeting recordings, transcripts, and searchability.
A folder of past all-hands meetings in Vowel.
Sample all-hands meeting agenda (what we use at Vowel!)
We’ve talked about what to feature in your all-hands meeting and how to create a more engaging atmosphere, but how do you put it all together?
Here’s a simple yet effective all-hands meeting agenda template to help you run even better meetings — it's what we use for Vowel's bi-weekly all-hands meetings!
Preamble + agenda sharing
Key priorities + metrics - Show your North Star metrics or the OMTM (one metric that matters) and how the numbers are tracking toward your quarterly and annual goals.
Product updates - Focus on new features, upcoming launches, and roadmap updates. This can taper into the next section if needed.
Special topic (optional) - If needed, take this time to present things like new company policies, values, launches, or strategies.
Talent & people updates - Update the team on new hires, promotions, and open roles. Highlight your employee referral program if you have one.
Shoutouts - We recommend creating a Slack “shoutouts” channel and pulling from there. Encourage the person who made the shoutout to publicly announce it.
AMA - Send out a Google form before the meeting so people can anonymously populate questions. You can answer questions live during the meeting — if you're running over, make sure to answer the questions on Slack or another forum.
You’ll notice there’s room for metrics and product updates, as well as special topics that you can rotate through or highlight. There’s a dedicated place to cover new hires and opportunities, as well as shoutouts for amazing work and personal news. At the end, there’s time for an “Ask Me Anything” to address what's on the mind of your team.
Remember — even seasoned founders get nervous about these meetings! Give yourself enough time for you and your team to prepare slides for each meeting and run through them beforehand.
Make your all-hands meetings more valuable
The formula behind better all-hands meetings is a mix of better communication, transparency, and supporting people’s needs. Think about why your all-hands meeting really matters, and use the tips above to make positive changes and increase employee engagement.
With your fresh new approach to running meetings, look for a software that gives you everything you need to make it possible. With live transcripts, instant replays, shared agendas, and emoji reactions (including custom emojis!), you can run better meetings for all.
Make the switch to Vowel and enjoy all-hands meetings that put the focus back on engagement, transparency, and better all-around communication.