Researching an article for ContentWise, the fabulous-online-newsletter-I-write-for-that's-available-free-right-here, I came across a remark that struck me as true.
Commenting on an article about employee town hall meetings on Melcrum's web site, a Patrick Gibbons wrote:
hall" for most employee meetings. The definition has evolved over the
years (into electronic forums, bulletin boards, and others), but the
term "town hall" signifies a forum or place where stakeholders gather
to discuss emerging issues, voice concerns and offer opinions.
Attendees at town halls are supposed to get a vote, which is rarely is
the case in corporate settings.
One of the big challenges we face in internal communications is
managing employee expectations, so it is important to use the most
accurate terms possible. Using terms like town hall, when we really
mean (semi-annual or quarterly) employee meeting, is less than helpful
and may actually create new problems. Other frequently misused
employee-engagement terms include partnering, consulting,
collaborating, and involving.
That's exactly right. We're b.s.ing employees and one another by calling these corporate events "town hall meetings" when they're really nothing of the sort. But especially inside the communication industry, we do need a more descriptive term than "employee meeting" to imply a give and take.
Or do we simply need to reconcile ourselves to the notion that we're probably not going to get really great exchanges between most CEOs and most employee audiences, who are usually too frightened of one another to say much of anything at all, let alone in such a big forum?
As Rachel Maddow likes to self-indulgently say, "Talk me down!"