A few people reached out recently asking for tips on running townhalls. I led over 50 major townhalls over ten years, raising NPS scores from the +20s to the +70s. I learned a lot the long and hard way. In the hope of a swifter, easier journey for others, I thought I'd share my learnings here. So here are 7 tips that should pretty much guarantee a successful event.
1. Give it a theme
Don’t call it a “Townhall”. Make it unique, enticing and grounded in the business. If it’s about the launch of a new strategy, call it “The Future Starts Here”. If it’s about engagement, call it “Breakfast with [Name]”. If it’s about innovation, call it “Ready, Fire, Aim!”.
2. Mix it up
Don’t think of it as an hour-long event, but a series of linked micro-events averaging 7-10 mins. Chop your hour into thirds, then divide each sub-part in two, eg “Intro/interview”, “ppt/video’, ‘panel/Q&A’. Ensure plenty of contrast, eg in terms of pace, tone, format, speakers, live versus pre-record.
3. Make it about them
The audience should be participants - attendees, not viewers. Get a regular employee to host, allow time for Q&A, let employees post live comments, and include a CTA. Employee-created content counts double.
4. Make it fun
Townhalls are showcases for what your organisation aspires to be - a big part of that should be having fun. Style the event on well-loved shows, activities or cultures. Consider elements like food, games, music, competitions, quizzes, greenscreen, virtual event platforms, unscripted dialogue or planned hijacks. Go easy on PowerPoint (none is good).
5. Challenge practice
Practice through table-top exercises, in-situ scoping visits and full rehearsal. Ensure multiple voices are heard, including those who don’t have direct responsibility for the event, with at least one person asking the challenging ‘what if’ questions. Often some of the best edits and ideas are dropped in late.
6. Promote & repurpose
Engagement starts long before showtime. Make it unmissable by building anticipation in the prior weeks. Get it in people’s diaries. Post event teasers. Issue pre-event activities aligned with the theme, eg if your theme is “Our Future,” ask staff to share their personal hopes and dreams. After the event, reap full reward for your work by repurposing into fresh content for your intranet and social media.
7. Feedback & Review
The process for your next event begins with seeking feedback on the last one. What formats and themes resonated? Were there any surprises that can be avoided/repeated? Were any parts of the audience unintentionally excluded? Did viewership increase/decrease and why? What key messages did the audience take away - were they different to the ones intended?
These are just a few tips from a quick memory shake. If you have others please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading :)