Town hall meetings become rote and boring because the presenters believe they are there to inform, instruct and then send people back to their desks. Too often the staff shuffles in, listens half-heartedly and shuffles out again knowing not much more than they did an hour before ? and a golden chance for interactivity has been lost. Consider these tips before you stage another snore-fest:
? Ban slide shows and handouts. These are the perennial crutches that management inadvertently uses to avoid speaking from the gut. They also put up barriers to interacting with people who have challenging questions.
? Feed if you want good feelings, starve if you want focus. Food is a morale booster; there?s no getting around it. People enjoy not just the vittles but the actual mystery of what the spread might contain. But when the food gets too involved, too elaborate or too heavy, the attention shifts too far away from the business at hand. Separate the two experiences by making sure the food has vanished before the true proceedings begin.
? Embrace the tech that?s embracing town halls. Organizations like Ellie Mae, Stanford and Glassdoor have begun to embrace new ways to give employees a hand in constructing agendas and asking questions before these meetings happen. Crowd-sourcing technology may have given us a bit of a breakthrough here. Through an app put out by Waggl, for example, employees can vote on potential issues and topics through a gamified system that works on the Web or on mobile devices. Answers can be presented as infographics and they can even be ranked.
? Install term limits. Don?t allow the same faces and voices to lead the show month after month. You need guest speakers, different formats and even variable lengths ? employees who know they?re always in for an hour and a half of meeting time will start to tune out earlier and earlier. Surprise them with brevity once in a while and they?ll trust that you?re as concerned with the quality of the presentations as much as the obligation to keep trotting them out.