As the curtain goes up on the Democratic National Convention, I found myself wondering why we have these conventions at all. They were originally designed to choose a candidate – yet the candidates in this election, and pretty much every election I can remember, were determined long before either party’s conventions opened. So what’s the point? Most experts would say to rally the base, and to some extent put on a show.
The same kinds of conversations are happening in corporate conference rooms. Do we really need to hold these employee town hall meetings? Can’t we just do a video conference call? Or send an email update? These meetings are time consuming, expensive – and heck, I am not sure anyone even wants to come. (Not to mention the numerous work streams to prep, script and orchestrate the meetings in question.)
- Build Community – sometimes the greatest value of bringing people together is literally to bring people together. Reinvigorate passion and enthusiasm for your “cause” and re-commit as a team to the common goals by framing them within the current context. We saw this last week at the Republican National Convention where Making America Great Again took on a new form – of keeping America safe in light of recent events.
- Showcase the Leadership Team – There is great thought and strategy dedicated to the speaker line-up of a national political convention, with each speaker selected to highlight a particular strength, aspect or focus of the candidate. But these speeches inevitably change the way we view the speechmakers themselves. John F. Kennedy Jr.’s introduction of Ted Kennedy in 1988 and Marco Rubio’s speech just four years ago catapulted them into the category of “potential future contender.” Michelle Obama’s introduction of her husband humanized President Obama in a way that no one else could, and also made her the First Lady that everyone wanted to have as their BFF.
- Build Trust – We trust people, not companies, and not positions. Giving employees the opportunity to see their leadership team up close and personal goes a long way to humanizing your leaders and building trust with your team. The more interactive and engaging the format of the meeting can be, the better. Trust is often earned in the Q&A section of those meetings where spontaneous, informal interactions show the depth and breadth of your leaders in a way that just doesn’t happen via Power Point presentation.
As we watch the conventions unfold, there will undoubtedly be moments of learning and inspiration about how to do a town hall meeting better. One thing we know for sure, even an average employee town hall meeting has more impact than an email.