Telling your story to large groups

town hall meeting free to useAn important part of articulating a leadership vision is being able to tell the story effectively to large groups. One common strategy is to hold a town hall meeting. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, these face-to-face presentations by senior leaders can:

  • Build high trust and promote a leader’s credibility
  • Provide an opportunity for staff to give feedback 
  • Reduces confusion and misunderstanding
  • Build a personal connection between the leader and employees

During my career I have been at a few of these meetings that were highly engaging, and I’ve been to many more that were forgettable. These steps can help you make the most of large group meetings.

  1. Set up the topic in advance.  Provide key content before the meeting so people can come prepared. You might also survey people before the meeting to find out their questions and concerns.
  2. Start with a brief presentation (15 minutes). Use the techniques we have been talking about this month to make a compelling case for the change. Be well prepared, but don’t read from a script or rely on dense PowerPoints.
  3. Create low-risk opportunities for reacting.  Encourage people to turn to the person next to them and talk about their reactions to the presentation and the questions it generated. In his MnSCU town hall meetings, Chancellor Rosenstone often encourages people to e-mail his office with their reactions. This can provide another option for people who don’t like to speak our in public.
  4. Ask for audience reactions.  You are more likely to get open feedback after people have had a chance to talk in smaller groups. Invite them to share their questions and concerns and listen carefully to what they say. It might also be appropriate to ask a few people to start the discussion by preparing questions in advance. For example, find a student services leader who could ask a question from the viewpoint of the students.
  5. Respond appropriately.  Be genuine and promote open discussion. Be careful not to appear condescending. And if you don’t know an answer, say so and promise to find out.
  6. Follow up.  Don’t overload the meeting with too much information. Focus on your key points and provide more details in follow-up messages.

With thought and preparation, town hall meetings can be a valuable tool for sharing your leadership vision.

Dee Anne Bonebright

Read more:
Four Ways to Engage Employees in Your Town Hall Meeting
How Not to Conduct a Town Hall Meeting
Tips for Conducting Effective Town Hall Meetings
Town Hall Meetings – Essential Elements

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