The All Hands Meeting

Every startup has rituals, from chiming a gong when a sale is made to the CEO writing a weekly email newsletter to the team. An important part of a startup’s weekly routine should be the All Hands Meeting. This is the primary staff meeting and likely the only time that the entire group (especially as we grow) is together, focused on the same thing in one room. It is an incredibly important opportunity for leadership to communicate directly with the team in order to:

  1. Share important updates from each functional area
  2. Praise successes, highlight individual achievements and areas to improve
  3. Get the team excited about the mission, vision and strategy

Each of those 3 items are critical to the team’s performance. We must reinforce them every single week to ensure the team is aligned and focused. Consider this proposed meeting schedule:

  • Props (2 minutes): praising specific people for excellence that week
  • Metrics (3 minutes): sharing KPIs, such as user growth or customers
  • Functional updates (20 minutes): leaders share department summaries
  • Strategy / passion (5 minutes): CEO or COO shares strategy and the “why”

If we use that schedule, let’s dive into the top 10 guidelines to making it a success:

1. Keep it to 30 minutes

Even a high performing team has a limited attention span, and a ton of other meetings and tasks each day. To respect everyone’s time and keep their attention, limit the weekly All Hands meeting to 30 minutes. It should be on the same day and time weekly, ideally Monday morning or Friday afternoon.

2. Structure updates from each functional leader

The “meat” of the All Hands meeting is key updates from each functional leader. This gives each of them an opportunity to speak to the entire team, share what their department is working on, how it is impacting the overall strategy and why it matters to everyone else. This is important for keeping everyone on the same page.

3. Stay high level  

Our goal is to give everyone just the key updates for each department. We must avoid going into highly specific detail. The sales team cares about what the product team is building, not necessarily how they are building it. For All Hands, focus on the results, not the process.

4. Have slides

A great All Hands meeting is structured. Slides help keep the flow organized, and are beneficial for those on the team that learn visually. Prior to the meeting, every functional leader should edit a slide template and input their key updates. These might include charts of their metrics, screenshots of new product features or just a bulleted list of accomplishments and challenges.

5. Let lots of people speak

All Hands is an excellent opportunity to let team members speak to the group. This is not only great public speaking practice, but also makes everyone feel included. It’s best that functional leaders start talking about their department, and then turn the mic over to one of their team members to provide detail.

6. Give group recognition

Particularly as the company grows and the team splits into different departments like Marketing and Product, team members don’t always understand what each other’s jobs entail. All Hands is a perfect opportunity to publically recognize individual accomplishments and how they are impacting the entire company. This makes people feel good and helps them perform better.

7. Be transparent

All Hands is about sharing information with the team. It’s a prime opportunity to be transparent and publicly call out what is working and what is broken. It’s a time when leaders can look into the eyes of the team and share candid group feedback, and overall company strategy.

8. No low energy

Always avoid low energy. All Hands should get everyone pumped up and excited. The last thing we want is someone that speaks quietly and monotone addressing the group. Play to everyone’s strengths and strive to only have the most energized, excited team members speak.

9. Avoid phone-in speakers

As the team grows, some folks may be remote or traveling during All Hands. It’s important that we provide a conference line and share our screen so they can participate remotely. In general, it’s best to have the speakers be in person. If we have to enable someone on the conference line to speak, invest in a real speaker phone so they come through loud and clear.

10. Make the slides available

For anyone that might miss the meeting, be sure to keep the slides available in a shared drive. When we hire new team members, an effective strategy to get them up to speed is to send them all of the recent All Hands slides to review.

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