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EXPERT TIPS

Maximizing Leader Messages at Town Halls

By Barb Willis, Jeff Winton Associates Consultant

Jan. 2021

What makes one employee Town Hall resonate and another become instantly forgettable? Sure, graphically attractive PowerPoint decks make a difference. 

However, the key to a memorable Town Hall lies squarely with the executive delivering the program. 

Recent Gallup data revealed that just 13 percent of employees strongly agree that their leaders communicate effectively inside the company.* This supports the need for more thoughtful and thorough preparation for Town Halls or other internal forums. While not every leader is able to work a crowd like Jimmy Kimmel, there are certain fundamental actions that leaders can take to ensure an immediate as well as a lasting impression with their employees. These three simple tips apply whether the meeting is in person or virtual.

 

  • Address what’s on the mind of employees. One of the biggest mistakes that many leaders make is to talk only about the things they want to share, such as new programs, processes and launches. It is vital to take the pulse of the organization prior to a Town Hall. That employee feedback should be woven into the fabric of the program rather than held for the Q&A at the end when time often runs out. This lets employees know they were heard.
     

  • Use clear language that everyone can understand. Leaders often slip into corporate jargon. “Know your audience” should be every leader’s mantra when drafting presentations. Some employees may have deep knowledge of the subjects presented, but many employees are likely hearing the information for the first time. Message clarity goes a long way toward ensuring message retention.
     

  • Breathe, pause, inflect. The worst thing a speaker can do is to read the PowerPoint slides verbatim in a monotone voice. Summarizing what appears on the slide can help put the messages into context. Additionally, vocal modulation and pauses for effect work together to reinforce certain words and phrases. This helps employees to better process what is most important in the message. 

 

When the Town Hall is over, it’s a good idea to survey employees to see what worked and what questions remain. Leaders then need to take the time to truly reflect on this valuable input, clear up any matters in a post-Town Hall email and use the feedback to further improve the next Town Hall program. 

 

*Chris Musser and Gerard Taboada, “Use Internal Communications to Execute a Winning Strategy,” Gallup Workplace, 09-Jul-2020, Gallup.com (web), https://bit.ly/36n9fEb, (Accessed 10/01/2020)

Barb Willis is a seasoned communicator who has provided strategic counsel and customized communications campaigns for several Fortune 100 companies, including Merck, Schering-Plough, UnitedHealthcare and Simon malls.