When was the last time you thought about WHY you are holding a Town Hall? I’m guessing, if you have, you came up with things like: sharing the state of the union with the troops, letting everyone in on business highlights, offering insights into the business challenges of the day, or past quarter, or those on the horizon, or motivating your team. Sure, you’ve thought about all of this. But have you also thought about what you want to get out of these sessions? What’s the Town Hall ROI you’re shooting for?
Let’s work with these metrics for illustrative purposes: Town Hall has 250 attendees; 50% are in attendance, 50% are viewing the streamed version. The Town Hall is 2.5 hours long. Assume for those in the audience, a total time commitment of 4 hours (travel to and from, idle chat afterwards, general disruption), and a total time commitment of 2.5 hours for those on the stream. Do the math: your Town Hall represents 813 people hours, not including prep time for presenters, and other admin time spent. That’s a substantial commitment of resources, a significant opportunity cost – why not try to get something for it?
If you’re not delivering on this next piece, your Town Hall ROI is approaching zero. I’m not being dramatic. Think about the last time you were in a meeting in which the subject and content didn’t interest you. You left the room thinking, and maybe even saying to someone, “that was a complete waste of time”. It happens every day. Why do you think your Town Hall is any different? Oh it is, because it’s one of the biggest meetings you put on, and the total time commitment is huge.
Here’s what you can do to get a positive Town Hall ROI. Here’s how you can be effective, deliver your messages, and drive the behavioural changes you believe are necessary to move the business forward.
Apply the 80/80 rule – keep 80% of your content focused on those that comprise 80% of the audience. The others will get what they need, or sit on their smartphones. No worries, better only 20% aren’t paying attention than the 80% who truly count.
Know your audience. This is the key. If you want to make a connection, know who you’re connecting with, and then hit them with material that’s relevant, to their lives, to their work, to their future.
Keep it real. If your primary audience is sales people, be sure to keep the content grounded. The last thing they need to hear about is how the stock is performing, how the financials are doing, and other metrics that do not affect who they call or close next. If you want them to sell more, illustrate how their performance directly affects the bottom line. Take them through a real example, put the top-selling rep from last quarter on display – show his/her sales results, how they impacted the bottom line, how his/her take-home pay was impacted. Keep it real. As soon as you stray too far, you’ve lost them.
Make it about them, not about you. Making the company more profitable, making the department or business unit more successful is interesting, but it’s a lot less meaningful than telling me how you’re going to make ME, your sales rep, more successful and richer. Take a leaf from Scotiabank’s playbook and explain to reps how “they’re richer than they think”. Explain why they should sell more, or sell differently, or file paperwork, or even work 5 days a week. And don’t ever say you get to keep your job. This isn’t Glengarry Glen Ross.
What’s in it for them? If you aren’t answering this question with every ask you make of them, you’re not keeping it real, and they will ignore you. This is especially true if you’re talking to sales reps. They only care about how you’re going to improve their condition, set them up for success, and put steak on their table. Everything else is just noise.
Do you have guest presenters providing some of the content? If so, you should hold them to the same standards you’re now going to hold yourself to, lest they sabotage your Town Hall. It isn’t theirs – they’re providing supporting content, they’re speaking on your behalf. Sure, they may be the subject matter expert, but you’re the expert in knowing what you want your audience to take away, what behaviour you want to change, what ROI you’re shooting for. This Town Hall is on your dime, so you should get what you want out of it. It’s yours – you need to control the message and the content. All of it. If you don’t have the time to do this, reconsider holding a Town Hall, since there’s a lot more at stake than a few hours of your time.
How do you do this? Simple, one month before the town hall, instruct your presenters with what you’re after, the key messages you want them to offer up in their piece. Make it clear just how you’re expecting their messages to resonate with the 80%. Remind them who the audience is, since they may not know. Explain what your ROI is for this town hall.
Don’t just tell the Finance guy to talk about the numbers. Tell him specifically about the metrics you want covered – this metric is down, here’s what it means and how we got there. Here’s what you can do to fix this. Here’s what happens for you, the rep, when you do this, and when you don’t.
Is the Product lead speaking? It isn’t good enough for him to sweep through a high-level roadmap and collect applause. The audience won’t recall a word he said by the next day. And they won’t care. Get specific, tell them how the new widget fits in what they do. Tell them how it will make money for them! Give them a reason to start making a prospect list for the new product. And frankly, lead with the reason so you have their attention.
Town Halls can be an effective means of communicating information to a broad audience. If done right, it’s well worth the investment. If done wrong, it’s simply a colossal waste of everyone’s time. It’s even worse if they actually see it as a waste of their time. Instead, do it right: know the audience and talk to them, keep it real, ask for behavioural changes and tell them what’s in it for them.