KEEP IN MIND
Always follow up on concerns raised by your audience. You might ask team leaders or others who may be more familiar or less threatening to follow up on issues in smaller groups afterwards.
Design your meeting with purpose.
Your meeting should have a clear agenda and goals. Are you announcing a policy, providing a Q&A session, or both? Consider holding a live meeting if you want to answer questions or if you can't reach all your employees through other means. Communicating in writing is another option. This is a good way to keep control of your message and avoid misunderstandings, especially when emotions are likely to run high.
Set ground rules.
Outline your plan for the meeting up front. What topics will you cover, how long you will speak, and when you will allow questions? Be clear that Q&A periods are for questions. Ask people to keep comments brief so that everyone has a chance to voice their concerns. Suggest continuing discussions that wander too far from your goals in a separate meeting or medium.
Facilitating Respectful Public Meetings
HR and other organizational leaders may need to communicate policies in large, public meetings. Some policies may be potentially divisive. It's important to feel confident and maintain a calm and inclusive environment.
Use available tools to streamline digital meetings.
It can be harder for people to get the floor or avoid accidental interruptions online. Mute participants during parts of the meeting that are not open for questions, or limit questions to text. Have a team member monitor the chat to sort through and choose relevant questions for the speaker. Most virtual meeting platforms have a “webinar” feature that stops audience audio or video sharing. Use a password to protect your meetings from unwanted disruptions.
Don’t reward interruptions or belligerent behavior.
If someone tries to talk over you, it’s often best to keep speaking and prevent them from taking the floor. You may be able to de-escalate the situation by refusing to acknowledge the belligerent behavior. You can also address the audience at large rather than the individual. If this doesn’t work, try the opposite approach – give them the floor so they can say their piece. This can make them feel heard and less likely to interrupt again. You can also address behaviors that are making it difficult for you to achieve your goals. For example, ask people to hold their comments so that you can get through the information everyone needs to hear.
Engage trusted figures.
Trust in both the organization and the messengers is key to effective communication. Consider having a scientific or medical expert there to answer technical questions you may not have the expertise to address. You might also invite senior employees who approve of your messaging to share their thoughts and experiences with the group. Be sure to ask their permission to do so before the meeting.
Stay focused on your goals.
Your goal is to communicate effectively. Most likely, you won't be able to convince each individual person in the meeting. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
Listen before you react.
If emotions run high, you may feel attacked or flustered. Because someone is emotional or resistant does not mean they are acting in bad faith. Stay calm, respectful and compassionate even if you feel upset. Be curious and make sure you are listening deeply to understand what people are saying. Avoid getting personal. Also avoid humor as it is likely to land poorly and may inflame frustrations.