Whether your company has five employees or five hundred, there’s something special about bringing everyone together in one place (virtual or otherwise). An all-hands meeting does just that, inviting every employee, regardless of title or location, to join in. All-hands meetings can be key opportunities to build company culture.
All-hands A meeting that every employee of a particular company is invited to attend.
MURAL holds a company-wide all-hands meeting every two weeks. While we’re fans of this regular cadence, an all-hands has value even if it’s held only for special announcements or to highlight a specific team or initiative. For distributed or hybrid teams, all-hands are even more critical, uniting your whole team no matter where they work.
However, putting together an effective all-hands isn’t easy. And because they include everyone, they’re one of the most expensive meetings you can hold. Making the most of the event — and your investment in it — is paramount.
Over the past three years, I’ve helped MURAL organize and execute successful virtual all-hands meetings. In that time, attendance to MURAL all-hands events has grown from several dozen to several hundred, and with that growth, our processes have evolved and shifted. Even though the responsibility for all-hands meetings is no longer solely my responsibility, all-hands meetings are one of my favorite types of meetings to facilitate.
All-hands meetings: What are they good for?
An all-hands meeting has a specific kind of energy. Getting all of your colleagues in the same physical (or virtual) space doesn’t happen every day. They’re great for getting everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. All-hands often include celebrations and the sharing of exciting news. They’re key for making big announcements to ensure everyone knows what’s up.
Overall, all-hands meetings encourage org-wide clarity and purpose. They’re a common experience for your entire company.
All-hands meetings are especially well-suited for:
Making major company announcements — like hiring a new exec, organizational changes, acquisitions, or completed rounds of funding
Celebrating milestones (growth, revenue, customers, years in business, etc.)
Sharing new company-wide initiatives (especially at the start of a quarter) as well as updates on current initiatives
Giving executives the floor to make statements around big-picture goals and market trends
Giving individual employees or teams the floor to highlight initiatives and projects that all employees should know about
Inviting customers to share their experiences with your products and services
Inviting external partners and consultants to speak on high-priority topics
Those are the basics. Now, let’s jump into how we run all-hands meetings at MURAL.
Kicking off a (virtual) all-hands
MURAL is a remote-first company. Being remote-first, our all-hands meetings are digital-first, a critical practice for making hybrid collaboration work. All-hands at MURAL are held using a combination of Zoom and the MURAL app as the primary points of visual interaction. Also at MURAL, we have a designated Slack channel (#event-all-hands) for conversation, which ensures Zoom chat isn't overwhelmed with comments and feedback. (Using Slack for all-hands meeting comments also makes reactions and threaded conversations possible.)
Around the time of the meeting, attendees start filing in before the “main event” actually begins. During this time, I’ve found that total silence can feel awkward, so I play some music. It makes a huge difference. In fact, I have a playlist specifically for this portion of the all-hands. I also try to chat (off mute) with a few of the attendees as they arrive.
As everyone joins, I make sure to have the shared mural up with the agenda visible.
👉 New to the concept of a “visual” all-hands like we run at MURAL? Get started with this all-hands template.
When it’s time, I announce the start of the meeting, say hello, and go over the agenda, explaining what the meeting will cover. I also cover logistics, taking a moment to remind people to stay on mute, ask questions using Mentimeter, and use the #event-all-hands Slack channel.
If you’re unfamiliar, Mentimeter empowers employees to ask (anonymous) questions that can be addressed during the Q&A portion of the meeting. Participants can add or upvote a question using Mentimeter at any time, and questions are addressed at the end of the meeting (starting with the most upvoted). Slido is another option to consider. If neither is an option, you can direct people to a shared mural to leave sticky note questions. (No matter what you use, capturing questions to answer at a designated time facilitates a more efficient discussion and also makes it possible to document questions for later follow-up if time runs out.)
A fun, free app we use to bring additional engagement during all-hands meetings is BWAMP. BWAMP is a way to crowdsource sound effects — like clapping, laughing, and more. It solves that problem of being able to give audible feedback when most everyone is in a video conference and not in the same physical space. (Give it a try to see what I mean.)
Once logistics are covered, I lead everyone into the next agenda item: the warm up.
The all-hands warm up
Each MURAL all-hands includes a warm up activity. The goal is to get everyone feeling relaxed and ready to dive into the “meat” of the meeting. These warm ups really go a long way to create a sense of connection and common experience despite being in a virtual environment with hundreds of people.
🔥 Warm ups Online warm ups are short exercises performed at the beginning of a meeting to introduce new team members, conquer awkwardness, and help teammates get to know each other.
The warm ups we use for MURAL all-hands are specially designed to work well for a large group of people. If that describes your org’s all-hands, here are a few ideas you might want to try.
5 all-hands warm-up activities to try
1. Sticky art tournament
In this warm-up, a bit over 200 MURAListas were invited into a mural set up as a football (soccer!) field. Two teams were quickly established based on birthdays (first half of year vs. second).
Then, using an initially white set of sticky notes, each team raced to create three pixel art images. Teams had to do their best to "paint" by changing the color of their sticky notes. When the timer was up, BWAMPing sound reactions were used to determine the winning team — and then everyone moved to the next image. There were three sequential images: heart-eyes, baby Yoda, and a pizza. As you can see, by the end, instead of a pepperoni pizza — that is, the last image in the sequence — you have some mix of pizza-yoda-heart-eyes.
This was fun, frenzied, and hysterically funny.
2. Best gifts given, best gifts received
This was a delightfully appreciative warm-up done at the last all-hands of 2021. Here, Hailey Temple led an activity whereby everyone could select a digital “present” and write on it their best gift given and best gift received.
3. Rest and Relaxation
This activity is one that you can easily modify for any recent company event or initiative. At MURAL, we have been experimenting with having quarterly “days of rest.” This is an extra day off held on a specific day each quarter for everyone globally to relax and recharge. Like a holiday without the holiday traditions.
Recently, after one of these bonus days off, a “rest and relaxation” warm up was created. MURAListas were asked to add images onto a shared mural that shared what they did on their day off. The result was a beautiful collage with a couple hundred images, all created in just a couple minutes.
4. The Kudos Wall
One celebratory warm-up we tried? Something called “The Kudos Wall.” For this activity, a mural was set up with five different “kudos cards,” each celebrating a specific MURAL company value — that is:
Make others successful
Adapt to thrive
Play to wow
Experiment like an owner
(Read more about MURAL company values on our career page! Also, we’re hiring!)
The result of the Kudos Wall was a huge mural full of celebrations! 🎉 No team was left out and reviewing the mural revealed all kinds of exciting accomplishments across the company.
5. Ultimate Marching Band
This warm-up was especially fun. And don’t worry — there’s no actual marching or instrument-playing involved!
Here’s how it works. Each participant grabs a sticky note to represent them on the “field.” Then I (the “drum major” aka facilitator) call out words for the team to spell out. During the warm-up, marching band music is played. It’s a great way to watch teamwork happen in real time.
Now, once the warm up is over and everyone is feeling relaxed and connected, it’s time to move on to the “main event” of the all-hands: the speaker presentations.
Preparation for all-hands is critically important. You’re asking lots of people to take time away from working to be together, so make sure the time is well spent.
At MURAL, there’s a whole team behind each all-hands. Part of our planning process involves prepping our speakers. For us, these can be executives, heads of internal teams, sales leaders, customers, and/or other external guests. For example, we’ve invited experts on topics like remote work, accessibility, and diversity and inclusion to share, too.
About two weeks before each All Hands, the planning team creates a temporary Slack channel and invites presenters. The channel provides a place for them to connect with each other, ask for feedback on their content, and stay in the know of any changes to the agenda.
Each all-hands presenter takes part in a dry run in MURAL a few days before the main event. During this time, we prep any visuals and make sure they work. The day-of the event, we also do a quick “tech check” 15 minutes before everything begins.
On using MURAL
Note that the unique capabilities of MURAL make it particularly well-suited for running an all-hands with multiple speakers. For example:
“Nesting” — content can be added right on the mural, so everything shared is easy to find
Easy ability to zoom in and out — jump from “big picture” to details like key numbers and trends
Quick navigation between “slides” — no need to flip back and forth within a presentation. Using the outline function in MURAL also makes it easy to organize sections of the mural (even making certain sections private until that moment of the meeting).
Fun! — using visuals and especially animated GIFs (MURAL has an integration with GIPHY) make the mural feel like a living place, a space where things are happening. All meetings are more engaging when they’re fun.
Timers —Using timers on the mural can help keep presenters moving along and the meeting on schedule.
The wrap-up and follow-up
Before closing out the all-hands, assuming time is left, questions submitted during the presentations are addressed. As the facilitator of an all-hands, I share my screen and the questions on Mentimeter (as mentioned above, this Q&A tool is shared at the beginning of the all-hands).
Speaking of follow-up, both the recording of the all-hands and the full MURAL template are shared with all attendees after the meeting in the all-hands Slack channel. Each recording is also archived for reference on our intranet..
With the meeting complete, the team soon gets to work planning the next all-hands.
Make the most of your all-hands
Bringing your whole organization together is no easy task. It takes a lot of planning and preparation. The results — cross-company awareness, camaraderie, shared understanding, and even culture — are well worth it.
If you’re interested in trying an all-hands with MURAL, grab this all-hands MURAL template. This will give you a starting point, which you can customize however you need.
About the author
About the authors
Laïla von Alvensleben
Head of Culture & Collaboration
Laïla is Head of Culture & Collaboration at MURAL. She is also a remote work coach with a background in UX Design, helping distributed teams improve their collaboration practices and cultivate a remote working culture that will enable them to work from anywhere.