The anatomy of an all-hands meeting agenda (+ 6 Topic ideas)

Some people call them “town halls.” Others say “all-staff meetings.” But, when it comes to an all-hands, everyone’s discussing the same thing: a crucial company-wide gathering where employees, leaders, and stakeholders share business updates, celebrate milestones, and discuss key organizational matters.

Our previous post on this topic detailed how to run one. Today, we’re taking a closer look at creating your all-hands meeting agenda. Like a GPS telling you where to turn, setting this in advance should ensure the session runs smoothly, covers everything without overrunning, and keeps attendees engaged from start to finish. Sounds good? Read on to discover what an effective agenda looks like.

Sample all-hands meeting agenda

Here’s a potential structure for your next all-hands meeting, including how long we suggest you spend on each item. Feel free to use the sample agenda as-is or adjust it according to your business’s needs. If you’re looking for additional all-hands topic ideas, don’t miss the final section of this post…

  1. Initial check-in/welcome (5 minutes)
  2. Ice-breaker activity or game (10 minutes)
  3. Announcements, milestones, and celebrations (10 minutes)
  4. Company updates and org-wide topics (20 minutes)
  5. Special session (15 minutes)
  6. Q&A (10 minutes)
  7. Check-out (5 minutes)

All staff meeting agenda breakdown

Now we’ve seen its constituent parts, let’s look at each element of our proposed all-hands meeting agenda in more detail:

1. Initial check-in/welcome (5 minutes)

Whether you’re meeting in person or online, a logical place to start an all-hands is by welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming. You could point out any notable absences too, run through the agenda very quickly, and/or indicate what you hope to achieve throughout the session.

Some companies also do a very short interactive activity at this point, such as a poll. While waiting for people to arrive/join, for instance, you could ask whoever’s already present to answer a question about the business or their role (e.g. “Describe the company culture in one word,” or “What’s one thing you enjoy about your job?”). Whoever’s leading the session can comment on the answers, laugh along with any amusing responses, and ask volunteers to give their thoughts on what’s been said.

Ultimately, this is a fun way to pass what can otherwise be an awkward few minutes waiting for latecomers. It also lifts the mood, encourages engagement, helps attendees loosen up, and gets people comfortable speaking in front of the group.

2. Ice-breaker activities or games (10 minutes)

Okay, so everyone’s now present, and you’ve welcomed them to the meeting. Whether you included a brief activity in the intro or not, we recommend moving on to an ice-breaker game.

The benefits of this resemble what we discussed regarding the poll. Entertaining ice-breakers put people in a good mood, which sets the tone for the rest of the session. They help everyone relax and thus facilitate participation too. And they promote a sense of togetherness that’s vital at all-hands meetings.

We have an entire article dedicated to ice-breaker activities, which we recommend checking out. In the meantime, here are a few quick and easy ones to try:

3. Announcements, milestones, and celebrations (10 minutes)

All-hands meetings are perfect opportunities to celebrate team wins, share individual achievements in this public domain, and talk about special occasions, such as recent birthdays or anniversaries within the company.

Having raised the energy levels with an ice-breaker, you can keep the good vibes flowing by dedicating 10 minutes or so to this positive news.

Maybe a customer gave the team some amazing feedback, or you landed a big new client, or the new girl sold her first widget. Perhaps everyone smashed their targets this month or made solid progress on the project they’ve been working on. Whatever the case, this part of the all-hands meeting agenda is sure to raise morale. 

Oh, and if you’ve hired new employees since the last all-hands meeting, now’s a great time to introduce them properly to other people/teams in the company.

4. Business updates and Org-wide topics (20 minutes) 

Moving on to official matters! It’s time for the CEO to talk about key metrics from the previous month and how the business is progressing toward its wider goals. Functional leads should update the group on individual projects, too – sharing key news, notable results, and so forth.

Of course, not all of these updates will be positive. This stage of the all-hands is also when you’d mention any issues or setbacks your team should be aware of, plus what’s being (or been) done to address them.

Don’t forget to remind everyone about the company’s broader vision here, either. The aim? To help them understand what they’re working so hard to achieve! Repeating this vision regularly should imbue their days with greater purpose, helping them stay committed to the business and its aspirations.

As an aside, this part of the session is when attendees are most likely to lose focus! So be sure to keep things as succinct, engaging, and interactive wherever possible. For example, you could seek instant feedback after each presentation or welcome quick-fire questions. 

5. Special session (15 minutes)

Some businesses dedicate the fifth segment of all-hands meetings to so-called “special sessions.” It’s up to you to decide what this entails, but the idea is to do something different (i.e. special) that benefits the team. 

For example, you could invite a guest speaker into the office, run a team-building activity, or do a “silent hero” activity.

The latter is where you ask the entire team to nominate colleagues who they think deserve recognition. They could put their hand up to say the person’s name and why they’re nominating them or submit their choices/reasons via a designated Slack channel that the CEO then reads from. If you’re meeting virtually, then you can make nominations in the chat box.

As you can imagine, things like this a) boost morale and b) make your all-hands meetings events to look forward to. If you’re looking for other ways to fill these 15 minutes, check out our next section entitled “additional all-hands meeting ideas.”

6. Q&A (10 minutes)

Now you’ve covered all the main points, consider opening the floor to questions. Does anyone have a query for the CEO or executive team? Do they have concerns they want to express? Or would they like clarity on anything that’s been discussed? If so, now’s the time to ask.

There are a few ways to run these Q&As, though.

The first is to take questions on the spot and do your best to respond off the cuff. However, this can be a daunting prospect – and it isn’t without risks. For instance, you might not know the answer but attempt one nonetheless, inadvertently skirting the question or, in worst-case scenarios, even lying.

Alas, this sends the wrong message to the team and can deflate the room. Hence why many businesses take questions before the session instead.

A third option is to do a combination of both: accepting some in advance and others on the spot. We like this approach because it guarantees there’ll be questions and allows people to ask about anything that comes to mind throughout the meeting.

If you don’t know something, don’t worry. Admit that’s the case, and commit to getting the answer to them later! Oh, and try to respond to every question you receive. If time runs out, address them afterward via email or in a quick one-to-one. 

7. Check-out (5 minutes)

With the Q&A over, all that’s left to do is thank people for coming and express your gratitude for their continued hard work. Feel free to summarize the session by providing a few key takeaways too, or offer some inspiring words for everyone to take back to the office.

However, before they leave, you could also seek their feedback about the meeting. Use an anonymous paper form or online survey to see what they thought. What did attendees enjoy, and what, if anything, could have been better? Is there something they want more/less of in future sessions? What would they have done differently?

Take it on board and this feedback will help you hone future all-hands meetings to ensure attendees gain as much value as possible.

Additional all-hands meeting ideas

Wherever you do it, that sample agenda should provide a successful structure for your next all-staff meeting. However, there are many other components you could choose to include! In this final section, we’ll reveal a selection of alternative topics and ideas to consider:

1. Invite a guest speaker

Inviting a guest speaker to lead a section of an all-hands meeting has numerous advantages. It gives the management team a break. It prevents the monotony that can arise from routine meetings. And most importantly, it provides employees with fresh perspectives and knowledge! Engagement should surge as a result.

As for the speakers, think about inviting people from a wide range of backgrounds. One month you could ask the company’s founder to talk about their original vision for the business. The next could be an elite endurance athlete who discusses the value of perseverance. And after that, you could have a psychologist sharing proven stress-management strategies.

Remember, the topic doesn’t have to be work-related! All you’re looking for is someone who can add value by discussing topics you want to cover in the meeting.

2. Do a mini hackathon

Hackathons are events where people work together intensely to solve a specific problem or design a new product. They usually last between 24 and 48 hours, but there are no hard and fast rules.

If there’s enough time, you could run a hackathon for an hour or two at the offsite all hands meeting on your annual company retreat. Or why not try a condensed 15-minute hackathon in your monthly one? Instead of trying to build/solve something too tricky, you could set this strict time limit and challenge teams to:

You’d then ask each team/individual to give quick-fire presentations of what they achieved. Trust us, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results you can get from collaborating in such a short, concentrated way!

3. Run a lunch and learn

Lunch and learn sessions are presentations or workshops held during lunchtime to educate/upskill employees on a particular topic. The idea is to step away from the desk for an hour, get together as a team, and have lunch while learning something fun and informative.

Attendance is usually optional, but there’s nothing stopping you from turning your all-hands meeting into a lunch and learn! In fact, it could be a perfect option if there’s something you think everyone will gain from learning.

4. Ask for employee referrals

Another option for your all-hands meeting is to highlight any job openings in the company and ask your current employees to refer anyone they think would be suitable for the role(s).

This type of referral marketing is a simple, efficient, and cheap way to find high-quality candidates. Just be sure to accurately describe the position and the skills/qualifications you’re looking for, as well as what the application process will involve – including the hiring timeline.

To gather the necessary information, you can hand out forms for people to return with the contact details of their potential candidate(s) or set up a designated email address for receiving referrals. Likewise, consider sweetening the deal for your employees by offering rewards, such as cash bonuses or tickets to events.

5. Turn presentations into games

One way to make the official, business-related portion of your all-hands meeting more engaging is to turn it into a game. For example, as you run through the numbers for last month, you could take certain metrics (e.g. number of sales, number of new clients, total revenue, client turnover, and so on) and ask your team to guess the results before you reveal them.

You could even create a slideshow presentation where each slide contains a particular stat. You’d then pose a series of questions (e.g. “how much revenue did we make this month?”), get people to guess and then divulge the real answers; whoever’s closest wins a prize!

6. Department show and tell

Employees of large organizations don’t always know or appreciate what the other departments within the business do. They know they exist, but their actual roles and responsibilities remain a mystery. Unless that is, you do something like a department show and tell in your next company-wide gathering…

This activity entails putting each department in the spotlight. You introduce the different teams and employees (or let them do it themselves) to everyone else in the room, explain their jobs, and give the others a chance to ask questions.

Strapped for time? Consider featuring a different department in the 15-minute “Special Session” of each all hands meeting. Alternatively, you could spend an entire meeting running through each department in the company.

Hire Surf Office to organize your offsite all-hands meeting

All-hands meetings can help foster a strong company culture, give employees a voice, and celebrate both team and individual achievements. If you want them to deliver such rewards and run smoothly from start to finish, though, it’s crucial to create an all-hands meeting agenda before the big day.

We hope the insights in this article will help you do exactly that. Keep the structure, topics, and meeting ideas in mind, and you should be one step closer to a successful company-wide session. Hoping to organize one offsite?

Surf Office can help with the logistics of such a huge undertaking. We’ll find you the ideal venue and arrange an entire hotel buyout, so you don’t have to. Contact us today to learn more about it and get the ball rolling.

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