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Doing Town Hall Meetings Better
American Greetings Corp. has gained a number of benefits from its monthly town hall meetings. The meetings, which have been conducted for two years, are limited to 25 people, so participants can interact one-on-one with the president or CEO in an informal setting. American Greetings announces on its intranet that it is scheduling the meetings and asks interested department managers to schedule one by signing up electronically.
The company's president and CEO alternate in presiding over the informal meetings, which are held during an extended lunch hour-11:30 to 1. All participants-the CEO and the president as well as the other employees-bring their own lunches. Employees can submit a question or suggest a topic of interest ahead of time anonymously. The discussion starts with one of the submitted questions.
"We prefer that our town halls be somewhat spontaneous," adds Laure Henrichsen, consumer public relations manager for American Greetings, "but we've found that having at least a few general topics of interest to start with helps facilitate interaction." Tables are set up in either a circle or a horseshoe formation so everyone can be seen and can feel like part of the conversation. Sessions are not recorded so employees feel more comfortable speaking their minds.
Nancy Hatch Woodward is a freelance writer based in Tennessee and a frequent contributor to HR Magazine.
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