HR Magazine: Guidelines for Speakers

Doing Town Hall Meetings Better

By Nancy Hatch Woodward Dec 1, 2006

HR Magazine, December 2006Here is some advice from the professionals about what not to do:

  • Don't let on that you have already heard the same question 20 times. United Rentals' executives conducted town hall meetings in more than 40 cities, and they had to be fresh for every meeting, says Joyce Leone, director of compensation. "You would never hear them say, 'Yeah, we heard that at another meeting.' That would have sent the wrong message."
  • Don't get emotional if you're asked difficult questions, says Nicole Rowe, director, global corporate communications for software firm Parametric Technology Corp. Instead, keep in mind that employees are trying to understand how to do their jobs better and are looking for a level of comfort from their leaders, Rowe says.
  • Don't roll your eyes or react negatively if you're asked what you think is a stupid question. If someone says, "Why do you get a better parking space than I do?" answer it, says John Guiniven, associate professor of communications at Elon University in Elon, N.C. It may sound like a stupid question, but there might be more behind it. For example, the question could signify an employee's perception of unfair privilege.
  • Don't fail to be respectful and provide a complete answer-even if you think everyone should already know the answer to the question.

Nancy Hatch Woodward is a freelance writer based in Tennessee and a frequent contributor to HR Magazine.

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