All Hands Meeting Strategy: Why Every Company Needs One
Best practices for planning your All Hands meeting and making it a highly effective, super fun, and very informative hour of your week.
An All Hands meeting is a vital tool for any successful business and team.
While they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, every company’s All Hands meeting has the same purpose: to get your entire team feeling confident, included, and excited about your organization and the direction you are headed.
At Almanac, we always want to make sure that our meetings are as effective and purposeful as possible. As a fully-distributed, async-first company with 40+ people located all over the world, we’ve had to figure out a way to hold effective, transparent All Hands meetings using online tools.
Here’s how we do it!
How to Plan a Weekly All Hands Meeting (Asynchronously!)
At Almanac, we hold a 1-hour, company-wide All Hands meeting on Fridays.
Our preparation, however, starts on Monday. In order for this meeting to be highly effective and purposeful, everyone needs to come prepared with insights and learnings.
On Mondays, we send out a “Week of” agenda document that captures what we’ll be talking about that week. This gives everyone four days to prepare their sections, and to gather the appropriate presentation materials (like test results, customer feedback, new feature demos, or growth updates.) And, if we have any company-wide announcements, we list them at the top.
Because we build the agenda collaboratively throughout the week, we never have to hold a meeting to plan the meeting. Instead, one person from the operations team is in charge of distributing the agenda document every Monday. And they create a task within the document for each scheduled presenter, reminding them to fill in their section in time for the meeting.
💡 If you want to follow the same meeting format we use at Almanac, feel free to make a copy of our Weekly Standup Agenda Template!
Best Practices for All Hands Meetings
Spend One-Third of Your All Hands Meeting Time on Learning
At Almanac, our most important metric is week-over-week learning.
We believe seeking the truth starts by partnering with our customers: learning about the realities of their work lives, listening to their aspirations and frustrations, and staying open and curious to what might be possible. Getting outside our own preconceptions and beliefs is the first step towards seeing what was hidden for others.
We care deeply about getting it right where others haven’t.
But even when you’re committed to learning, iterating, and improving, all of this learning gets scattered. Knowledge becomes siloed within single teams. And even within those teams, learning gets trapped in individual documents, spreadsheets, and databases.
To overcome this tendency, we spend the first 20 minutes of our weekly All Hands meeting sharing learnings from the week. Each team comes prepared with 1-3 insights to share with the entire company. At Almanac, our:
- Growth team shares test results on what messaging/positioning is working, so everyone knows what is resonating the most.
- Analytics team shares insights about product activation and retention, so everyone understands how their work is making an impact on users.
- Product team shares what we released that week, so the marketing team knows what to promote to our community.
- Customer team shares videos of customers talking about our product, so our engineers and product managers can hear feedback directly from customers.
Here’s an example of a theme (with video) the customer team shared recently:
Spend One-Third of Your All Hands Meeting Time Sharing Progress
In addition to keeping the company up-to-date on what each team is learning, we also want to share the progress we’re making.
At Almanac, we believe in the power of velocity. We move like our lives depend on it. Our customers trust us with their productivity, and therefore their careers. To earn this trust, we need to maintain an obsessive focus on our users’ needs, intense discipline around our own output, and most importantly, superhuman levels of iteration and refinement.
We spend the middle portion of our weekly All Hands on a Top 10 round up of live demos. Teams share work in progress and new features that shipped this week. Designers share the designs they are working on.
Here’s a screenshot of a WIP design for in-document timers that one of our designers shared at one of our recent All Hands:
This is a great time for people to show off what they’re working on, learn about what’s happening in other parts of the company, and get hyped about what’s coming soon for our customers.
Spend One-Third of Your All Hands Meeting Time Cementing Culture
We do a virtues retro every week, because our virtues aren’t just a piece of paper on the wall. They are behaviors we practice every day — and we want to recognize the folks living them out.
One of the best parts of our weekly All Hands meeting is seeing people acknowledge and celebrate those who lived out our virtues during the week. Here’s a look at the table we fill in every week (with some examples):
We have learned that it is not enough to give generic praise to teammates. If you choose to do a virtues retro or give public shoutouts, make sure to tie your praise to the behaviors your company thinks will make it successful.
We also give out awards each week tied to our quarterly strategy. People who received the award last week nominate someone new for the next week. Here’s a look at some of the awards we’ve given out in the past:
And finally, our CEO ends our meetings by delivering an inspiring message. Some people in the company don’t spend a lot of time with the leadership team, so it is really valuable for them to hear directly from the CEO. Here is a look at some “wisdom” Adam delivered to the team recently:
Encourage live reactions and commentary throughout
While only one person presents at a time during the All Hands meeting, the whole team actively engages, responding in our Zoom chat and using emoji reactions. Everything from virtual claps and celebrations to jokes and commentary are welcome. 🎉
We bring our full selves to work and love to see our team members’ personalities shine through as we recap our learning and growth as company each week. As an async-first company, we want to make the most of our live meeting time to build positive energy and a sense of connection across our team.
So there you have it. Our best practices for planning your All Hands meeting and making it a highly effective, super fun, and very informative hour of your week.
Copy the Weekly Standup Agenda Template doc to make your meetings more purposeful today!
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