How can organisations get everyone on the same page in the hybrid work era? Improving the experience in Town Hall meetings for all participants may be the key
As organisations make the move back to offices after the pandemic, business leaders are putting a lot of thought into how the work environment will need to change in the next few years. After a couple of years of working at home, there has been an evolution in the way in which individuals and teams work, especially as virtual meetings have proven pretty effective for many aspects of work.
While organisations get back to the office, however, it is likely that how we work together may have changed for the long term. While the benefits of teams meeting face-to-face remain important, it is clear that this doesn’t apply to all interaction types and contexts. Most business leaders anticipate a more permanent shift to the virtual environment for more transactional meetings like reviews and perhaps interviews. But for true collaboration and high-value meetings where interactions need to be more involved, the richer experience of face-to-face interactions continues to be important.
As individuals within organisations continue to become more dispersed and hybrid work seems an increasingly likely model for organisations of all sizes, keeping teams engaged with the organisation and with each other can seem more challenging.
Therefore Town Hall meetings, which have become the rare opportunity for entire organisations to meet and interact directly with business leaders, have become an important way to bridge the gap. To be effective and equitable, however, organisations need an environment where virtual participants can experience and participate in the event as naturally and comfortably as in-person attendees.
How do Town Hall Spaces need to Evolve for Hybrid Audiences?
While virtual town halls have become common over the last two to three years, they have had some limitations in terms of the experience that they provide.
The challenge for most global or distributed organisations, therefore, lies in bringing in-person and virtual engagement together in a way that creates more connectedness, while also ensuring that virtual participants are not disadvantaged. This goes a long way in helping achieve their goal of sharing company news, team successes and fostering a sense of community.
In order to do this, there are several elements that Hybrid All Hands or Hybrid Town Hall spaces need to bring together.
Create Great In-Person Interactions that are Natural
In-person town hall events can bring a different energy to team interactions – allowing interactions that are more informal and spontaneous. It is an opportunity for business leaders to connect more naturally with teams, involve them in the conversations and allow for more dynamic interactions. Hybrid town halls need to enable presenters and leaders to move around as they speak (presenter tracking capabilities) while allowing the audience to see and hear them with great clarity (multiple well-placed displays and speakers).
Allow Individuals to Connect and Participate from Anywhere
While virtual town halls allow anyone to connect to events via the cloud, there is a limitation to the visibility and participation it can provide virtual team members. The hybrid town hall space must ensure that virtual audiences can be seen, heard, and participate as near as possible to how in-person attendees are able to. It must also support virtual participants who have varying modes and levels of connectivity using smartphones, laptops, or VC rooms.
Enhance the Ability to Manage Town Hall Events Centrally
It takes a lot of different technologies working together to make a hybrid event work well. This means getting hardware, software, cloud VC platform, and networks to work smoothly. The ability to monitor and manage each aspect to identify and resolve problems is therefore critical for event organisers and IT administrators. Powerful tools that allow them to ensure they can manage the hybrid town hall are therefore critical, to avoid disruptions to the event.
Tools that Support and Enhance Interactions
Interactivity is critical to meaningful and engaged participation in town hall events. Therefore it’s important to have a variety of tools that facilitate live, two-way engagement — polls, Q&As, hand raising, and video participation etc. It is also important to design your event with short segments and changes in the mode of interactions to ensure people remain engaged over a longer duration.
Event Video Post-Production and Editing
Making the event content available on-demand for team members who couldn’t make it or for archiving purposes is another aspect that organisations may want to consider. Video production and broadcast capabilities help create concise, high-quality town hall event videos in-house and make them available without delay. This means a simple, streamlined workflow for town hall content — spanning video capture, streaming, sharing, and distribution.
Redesigning your Town Hall Space for Hybrid Participation
Many large enterprises may already have Town Hall-cum-Cafeteria spaces that are used for in-person All Hands Meetings. While these spaces may have worked well enough in the past, they may now be ideal for a hybrid-event situation. Technology for video meetings and events has also changed rapidly over the last few years, so this may be a good time to consider an upgrade.
When designing your new town hall space, however, there needs to be a greater focus on the experience and interactivity for all participants. A more equitable experience for virtual participants is probably the single most important area for improvement. Organisations need to bring various elements together to achieve this — technology, content, and live production management.
When done well it can lead to better organisational alignment, more engaged employees, more flexibility for individuals, and significantly lower costs too.