Town hall live streaming: How to host a town hall
Not too long ago, town hall meetings involved physical event planning and carefully organized messages, with the goal of rallying employees and leaving them with a firm understanding of the company’s goals.
But with more and more companies making the permanent transition to a hybrid or a remote work environment, it’s more crucial than ever to engage employees wherever they are across continents and timezones.
Enter the virtual town hall. These live streamed meetings foster a sense of community and alignment for employees without requiring anyone to step foot in a physical conference room.
And these trends aren’t about to go away. Live streaming is quickly becoming the norm for many businesses — the 2018 Live Video Streaming Benchmark Report found that 53% of respondents were planning on increasing their live video budgets, and 23% were planning on increasing their budgets significantly. Additionally, town hall meetings rely on video and tech to bring staff together.
So what does this mean for your company’s internal communications strategy? In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know from what a town hall to leveraging video to live stream your next one.
What is a town hall?
A town hall, or all-hands meeting, is a company-wide meeting that helps leadership connect with employees, share business updates and results, review issues, spotlight successful employees, and align teams to the company’s goals.
Town hall meetings look very different than they did just a few years ago. Rather than communing in one central space, workplaces are increasingly distributed with employees collaborating on different digital platforms around the globe.
So how do distributed teams stay connected and informed? One of the best ways to maintain employee relationships and keep teams unified is through video. Live streaming a town hall allows employees to watch executive or team updates anywhere they’re located, ask questions and share feedback in real-time, all while maintaining a high level of personalization and interaction at every step.
How to host a virtual town hall meeting in 7 steps
Just like their in-person cousin, virtual town halls require lots of planning and organization. After all, a virtual town hall will likely help you reach a wider audience. While it’s easy enough to hit go live and start your live streaming video, you’ll want to make a great impression and engage your employees.
With some careful preparation, a few handy tech tools and some strategies to maximize engagement, anyone can create a virtual town hall (and a recurring live event) that’s set up for success. Here’s how to get started.
1. Plan your content with a clear message in mind
First thing’s first: align on the key message and purpose before organizing your town hall.
Start by asking a few basic questions. Are you communicating goals and priorities for the next quarter? Announcing new leadership hires? Or simply fielding questions after a major company-wide change through a Q&A period? The purpose behind your meeting will determine the content of your presentations.
Here are some additional questions to consider when crafting your messaging:
- By the end of your meeting, what impression or information will you expect your participants to walk away with?
- How will this message support your team’s immediate work objectives and roles?
- What type of feedback, if any, do you require from your viewers?
By knowing the answers to these questions, you’ll be in a better position to guide the agenda, speakers, and message of your company’s next town hall.
2. Build a concise and engaging presentation
Once you nail the central message of your town hall, the next step is building a presentation that communicates your purpose while keeping the audience engaged.
While taking meetings online means that you can reach every member of your organization at their homes, the drawback is that you can lose out on the focus and energy from a physical setting. You’ll need a clear and concise delivery, a creative approach to presenting yourself authentically, and build trust through engagement tools to nail your message on video.
To start, design your presentation materials to retain your audience’s attention. There are two simple ways any presenter can deliver a more engaging and authentic talk.
First, keep it short. When formatting text for slides, keep font sizes large and readable and try not to feature too much text in your slides. A handy rule of thumb is the 5-5-5 rule: Aim for five words per line, five lines per slide, and no more than five text-heavy slides in consecutive order.
Second, lean into improv. When it comes to a virtual or in-person presentation, it helps to skew on the side of human spontaneity rather than come off overly rehearsed. Sadly, that means that reading your presentation notes off a monitor isn’t going to cut it.
In a recent panel hosted by Vimeo on the topic of workplace communications, Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud noted the challenges of fostering organic interaction on virtual communications platforms.
“When you’re reading from notes, it comes off even harder for people to feel like you’re having a conversation and they’re hearing from you,” Anjali said. “You can’t be too real. The biggest mistake is not being real or unscripted enough.”
3. Encourage engagement
No matter how comfortable you are in front of the camera, addressing a large group of people virtually can be unnerving. Without the physical presence of people in front of you, it’s hard to know if the audience is fired up or distracted by their dog at home.
To help bridge the gap, add audience engagement tools to boost the energy of your live stream. Q&As, polls, and built-in chat all help turn attendees into active participants, allowing people to interact with leadership organically without detracting from your central message.
For example, the drugstore company Rite Aid made internal communications easy with video. The brand connected with almost 3,000 corporate and field employees in their homes for a town hall – almost sixfold the number of people they previously managed to reach with their annual in-person meetings.
This successful town hall experience was the springboard they needed to make the permanent shift to live virtual events to support their teams, share content and strengthen relationships between leadership and employees.
“There is strong demand for video and live broadcasts across every department at Rite Aid, and Vimeo will allow us to help meet this demand in a re-imagined workplace that relies more on virtual communications,” says Peter Strella, Rite Aid’s Director of Communications & Creative Media Services.
4. Collect feedback
After your town hall or internal meeting, follow up with a quick feedback survey — a simple SurveyMonkey or Google form will easily allow you to gather useful feedback and input from your participants.
You can also gather feedback by sending out anonymous Q&As or by posting a poll immediately at the end of the all-hands meeting for feedback.
To yield the most helpful responses, questions should encourage honesty, highlight transparency and identify areas of improvement. The goal of a successful meeting should be to leave attendees with a clearer understanding of the company’s performance and goals, and the overall feeling that their time was well spent.
Beyond soliciting direct feedback from participants, analytics from your video can provide more granular insights in real-time. Built-in analytics dashboard offers stats, including total live viewers, viewer watch time (to help you gauge how engaging your content was), and geographic data to help you pinpoint where your viewers are logging in from.
Between the instant real time data at your fingertips and the survey results from attendees, you’ll have a wealth of information to glean from and apply to each upcoming town hall for continuous improvement.
5. Choose your equipment
So now you’ve sorted out your key message and you’ve booked a great lineup of speakers. You’ve got your survey ready to send or you’ve fielded the teams for question during the Q&A. Here’s where things might start looking dicey, especially if you don’t have the support of a production team.
No matter the live streaming or web conferencing platform you choose, remember to consider your additional live streaming equipment
You’ll need a camera as well as the necessary cables if you opt for a higher grade camera.
Audio quality is a make-or-break factor for the virtual audience. Make it easier for your meeting participants to stay with you by investing in high quality microphones to ensure the best audio quality for your stream.
To add to the production quality, consider adding a lighting rig or lighting setup that works for your space.
And to put all your video and audio elements together, make sure you have an encoder and switcher. These two components will support your production elements and convert a live feed into a format that can be viewable on computers and mobile devices.
For more information on how to put together the best encoding kit for you, check out essential live streaming equipment guide from Vimeo’s Live Production team lead, Tom Gott. We also have an beginner’s guide on how to live stream to ensure a smooth stream.
6. Choose your live streaming software
The technological fun doesn’t stop at live streaming equipment. Once you’ve got everything plugged in, you’ll still need a live streaming platform to bring your presentation to life.
For a successful town hall live stream, look for a feature-rich platform. Tools like white-labeling or corporate branded options, SSO, and password protection guarantee your content stays secure. Analytics provide insight into who is watching, from where, and on which device.
7. Test everything
Before you’re ready to go live with your town hall, you’ll need to test your tech to make sure that everything is in working order. Pay close attention to these elements:
To ensure your video and audio stream quality are exactly as you want them and plan to test your stream on your smartphone, web cam, or external camera before your go live date. You’ll also want to optimize your internet bandwidth by connecting directly to the router, if possible, and maxing out your upload speed and bandwidth.
Break out the circuits
The last thing you want after undergoing all the work to pull together a professional quality virtual town hall meeting is a short circuit. Lights, cameras, audio – all of those require sufficient power to run successfully, and that’s only attainable by making sure each has their own circuit. And that means everything — your encoders should each be on their own circuits too.
It takes a video village – so make room for one!
Even though your town hall meeting is taking place virtually, you’ll still want to clear some physical space for your video production team. Make sure you have adequate room and seating so that your production team can comfortably coordinate, set up their bulky equipment and produce your meeting to the best of their ability.
Wrap up: Launch your next town hall meeting
Hopefully you have a clearer idea of how to live stream your next town hall meeting. If this is your first time planning a virtual town hall or all-hands, it can be seriously daunting.
While virtual town halls may not have the intimate atmosphere of in-person meetings, there are a lot of benefits in a hybrid work world. Virtual town halls allow companies to reach more of their employees, foster a stronger team, and future-proof any internal communications strategies.
No matter the medium, town halls are not just a useful means of aligning team members on company values and objectives. They’re a necessary organizational investment as the workforce makes its permanent shift online.
To fast track your team into the future and unlock the unlimited potential of virtual communications, make internal comms easier with video.
Streaming your town hall meetings, company-wide events, and announcements is an easy, cost-effective way to reach every employee at the same time. Streaming globally helps your employees feel connected and engaged. With Vimeo’s enterprise-grade live streaming solutions, you have complete control over who sees your live event.
Originally published on January 26, 2017 by Caroline Golum. Updated on April 21, 2021 by Jessica Wei.