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The Ultimate All-Hands Meeting Guide 2024: Agenda + Free Template!


Lawrence Haywood 06 December, 2023 15 min read

Big memos going missing? New staff waiting to be introduced? Teams smashing their goals but getting no recognition? Looks like an all-hands meeting is on the agenda!

A company all-hands is possibly the best way to unite your entire team in a casual but intensely productive meeting.

Here’s how to do it right, with an example agenda and a free, interactive template!

Table of Contents

What is an All-Hands Meeting?

An all-hands meeting is simply a meeting involving all staff of a company. It’s a regular meeting – happening maybe once a month – and is usually run by the heads of the company.

An all-hands meeting tries to accomplish a few key things…

  • to update staff with any new announcements not fit for email.
  • to set company goals and track progress towards existing ones.
  • to reward outstanding achievements from individuals and teams.
  • to acknowledge staff who have joined as well as those who have left.
  • to answer employee questions from every corner of the business.

With all of that, the ultimate goal of an all-hands meeting is to inject a sense of unity into a company. Not surprisingly, these days, that’s something that’s more and more in demand, and all-hands meetings are enjoying a surge in popularity amongst companies looking to keep connections strong within their ranks.

all hands meeting meaning | what is an all hands meeting

Fun Fact ⚓ The meaning of ‘all-hands meeting’ comes from the old naval call, ‘all hands on deck’, used to bring all crewmembers of a ship to the top deck to help navigate a storm.

Is an ‘All-Hands’ Meeting the Same as a ‘Town Hall’?

To be blunt, no. Though quite similar, a town hall meeting is different from an all-hands meeting in one big way:

An all-hands focuses more on delivering pre-planned information, while a town hall focuses more on Q&A.

This means that while an all-hands has the feel of a regular meeting, a town hall can feel more like a relaxed political event, which is actually where it gets its name.

Still, they are two of the same in many regards. Both are regular company-wide meetings, run by the top brass, that provide employees with necessary info and accolades.

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Why Run an All-Hands Meeting?

I get it; we’re all trying to avoid the ‘not another meeting’ syndrome. Adding another one to the roster of weekly, monthly and yearly meetings may seem like a good way to turn your staff against you, but actually, it could reduce the number of meetings you hold.

How? Because an all-hands meeting is all-encompassing. It takes the important parts of many of the other meetings you’ll have in your working month and condenses it down to a tight 1-hour time slot.

Ultimately, this can really free up some time in your schedule. Here are some of the other benefits of an all-hands meeting…

  1. Be Inclusive – It’s hard to express just how much it can mean to your team that you’re willing to sit down with them every week or month. Giving them the chance to ask their burning questions through a Q&A and being as open and honest with them as possible builds a wonderful company culture.
  2. Be a Team – Just as it’s great to hear from the boss, it’s also great to see the faces of fellow employees. Remote work and segmented offices can often isolate the people who are meant to be gelling the most. An all-hands meeting offers them an informal chance to see and chat with each other again.
  3. Don’t miss anyone – The whole idea behind an all-hands meeting is that it’s all hands on deck. While you may have a few absences, you can deliver your messages with the knowledge that everyone, including remote workers, is hearing what they need to hear.

Hands up for All-Hands!

If everyone’s going to be there, put on a show. Grab this free, interactive presentation template for your next all-hands meeting!

A man presenting an all-hands meeting on AhaSlides interactive presentation software

All-Hands Meeting Agenda

Need an all-hands meeting agenda example to truly wrap your head around what actually happens in an all-hands?

Here are 6 typical items you might see on the agenda, as well as recommended time limits to keep everything to a lean 1 hour.

1. Ice Breakers

5 minutes

Being a company-wide meeting with potentially some new faces, there’s a good chance that some colleagues haven’t had the chance to sit and chat with each other in a while. Use 1 or 2 ice breakers to keep team spirit strong and warm up those beautiful brains before the heft of the meeting begins.

An ice breaker to kick off an all-hands meeting on AhaSlides
An icebreaker to kick off an all-hands meeting on AhaSlides

Try some of these ideas:

  • Which GIF describes your mood? – Present everyone with a few GIFs and ask them to vote for the one which best applies to how they’re feeling.
  • Share an embarrassing story – Here’s one that’s proven to generate good ideas. Ask everyone to write a short, embarrassing story and submit it anonymously. Reading these out can be a hilarious start to your all-hands meeting agenda.
  • Pop quiz! – There’s no situation that can’t be heightened with a bit of trivia. A quick 5-minute quiz on current events or company practices can inspire creativity and start your all-hands with some good clean fun.

💡 Check out 10 ice breakers for any meeting – online or otherwise! Along with a few ideas for the project kickoff meeting!

2. Team Updates

5 minutes

There’s a chance that you’ll be looking at some new faces in this meeting, as well as missing a couple of recent departures. It’s best to address this early in the agenda so that no one’s sitting around awkwardly waiting to be introduced.

Giving big thanks to the staff who have just left is not only good leadership, it humanises you in front of your people. Likewise, introducing new faces to the company early is a great way to help them feel included and put everyone at ease for the rest of the meeting.

Just a quick thanks and greeting will do for this, but you can go the extra mile by making a short presentation.

team update | all hands meeting
Team updates notify everyone about who’s new and who leaves

3. Company News

5 minutes

Another quick but essential item in your all-hands meeting agenda is that in which you can update your team on the comings and goings of the company.

Bear in mind that this isn’t about projects and goals (that comes in a minute), but more about announcements that affect the whole company. This can be about new deals struck, new team-building plans in the pipeline and also all that necessary boring stuff, like what day the plumber’s coming to pick up the coffee mug he left last time.

4. Goal Progress

20 minutes

Now we’re in the real meat of your all-hands. This is where you’ll show the goals and boast proudly (or cry publicly) about your team’s progress towards them.

This is possibly the most important section of your meeting, so check these quick tips…

  • Use visual data – This might come as no surprise, but graphs and charts do a much better job of clarifying data than text. Show each department’s progress as a point on a graph to give them a clearer indication of where they’re coming from and where they’re (hopefully) going.
  • Congratulate and nudge – For your team, this might be the most nerve-wracking part of the whole all-hands meeting agenda. Allay fears by congratulating teams on their good work, and gently nudging teams who are underperforming by asking them what they would need to have a better chance of reaching their goals.
  • Make it interactive – As the longest part of your all-hands meeting, and with many aspects not applying directly to everyone, you may want to keep the focus in the room with some interactivity. Try a poll, scale rating, a word cloud or even a quiz to see how on track your team think they are.
Using a scale slide to ask how marketing feels about their numbers

Once you’ve delivered this part of the talk, it’s a good idea to put teams into breakout rooms so that they can brainstorm a 3-pronged response…

  1. What they liked about their progress update.
  2. What they disliked about their progress update.
  3. A blocker that is getting in the way of better progress.

5. Staff Recognition

10 minutes

There’s nothing worse than slaving away over something you get no credit for. It’s a fundamental desire of each of your staff members to crave credit where credit’s due, so use this part of your all-hands meeting to give them the spotlight they deserve.

You don’t have to put on a whole song and dance (many of your staff might feel uncomfortable with this anyway), but some recognition and possibly a small prize can do a lot, not just for the individual, but for your meeting as a whole.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to do this:

  1. Before the meeting, all team leaders submit the name of someone in their team who’s gone above and beyond in their role. Use the meeting to acknowledge the most submitted name from each team.
  2. During the meeting – Hold a live word cloud for everyone’s ‘silent hero’. The most submitted name from your audience will loom large at the centre of the word cloud, giving you a chance to publicly acknowledge whoever it is.
Using a word cloud to ask for a company's silent hero in an all-hands meeting

Tip 💡 A spinner wheel is the perfect prize giveaway tool. There’s nothing like it for audience engagement!

6. Open Q&A

15 minutes

Finish up with what many consider to be the highest priority in an all-hands meeting: the live Q&A.

This is a chance for anyone from any department to fire questions at the top brass. Expect anything and everything from this segment, and welcome it as well, as your team may feel like it’s the only time they can get a direct answer to a valid concern.

If you’ve got a large team, one way to deal with the Q&A efficiently is to ask for questions a few days before your all-hands meeting, then filter through them to find the ones worth answering in front of the crowd.

A Q&A slide to gather questions from the audience at the end of an all-hands meeting

But, if you want to be more transparent about the whole process, simply let your team ask you questions via a live Q&A platform. This way, you can keep everything organised, moderated and 100% friendly for remote workers.

Extra Helpings for an All-Hands Meeting

If you’re looking to flesh out your all-hands into something a bit longer than 1 hour, try these extra activities…

1. Customer Stories

Times, when your company has touched a customer, can be a hugely powerful motivation for your team.

Either before or during the meeting, have your team send you any glowing reviews from customers. Read these out for the whole team, or even have a quiz so everyone can guess which customer gave which review.

2. Team Talk

Let’s be honest, team members are often a lot closer to their team leaders than their CEO.

Let everyone hear from a familiar voice by inviting the leaders of each team to come to the stage and deliver their version of the goal progress step. This is more likely to be relatable and accurate, and it gives others a break from your voice!

3. Quiz Time!

Spice up your all-hands with a competitive quiz. You can put each team into… teams, then have them challenge for the leaderboard through questions relating to work.

What’s our projected content output this year? What was the adoption rate of our biggest feature last year? Questions like these don’t only teach some important company metrics, they also get your meeting pumping and help to build the teams you want.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between town hall and all hands?

Town halls are more localized update/Q&A sessions, while all-hands are full-company orientations led by top executives.

What is the agenda for an all-hands meet?

It varies on companies, but an all-hands meeting agenda typically includes:
– Company Updates – The CEO or other executives provide an overview of the company’s performance over the last period (quarter or year), major business updates, new products/initiatives launched, etc.
– Financial Updates – CFO shares key financial metrics like revenue, profitability, growth compared to past periods and analyst estimates.
– Strategy Deep Dive – Leadership focuses on one area of the business/strategy in depth like new market expansion plans, technology roadmap, partnerships.
– Recognition – Acknowledge top performers, teams, and their accomplishments.
– People Updates – CHRO speaks about hiring goals, retention strategies, benefits changes, promotions process etc.
– Q&A Session – Allocate time for employees to ask questions to the executive team.
– Roadmap Discussion – Leadership shares the strategic roadmap and priorities for the next 6-12 months.

What is a better name for an all hands meeting?

Here are some alternative names for an all-hands meeting that could potentially be better than “all-hands”:
– Company Update Meeting – Focuses on the informational/update purpose without specifying it’s for all employees.
– State of the [Company] – Implies a broader strategic outlook like a “State of the Union” address.
– All-Team Gathering – A softer term than “all-hands” that still conveys it’s for the entire team.