Learn from Microsoft: Best practices for engaging employees with AMAs and live events
Published Feb 13 2024 03:32 PM 3,641 Views
Microsoft

At the beginning of each fiscal year, Rajesh Jha, Executive Vice President of Experiences + Devices at Microsoft, hosts a kick-off event for his organization of more than 40,000 employees. During the event he is eager to get his employees excited about what is to come, listen to, and engage with colleagues through their questions. This year was more engaging than ever as they adopted new technology to achieve their goals: Ask Me Anything (AMA) events and live events in Viva Engage.

 

"Colleagues have been clear and consistent in their desire to hear directly from our leaders on the topics that matter most to them. Viva Engage Ask Me Anything events have given us a powerful tool to answer the questions that are truly top of mind for them in a transparent way that encourages constructive dialogue across different levels of the organization. Viva Engage also gives us, as corporate communications professionals, the right tools and settings to enable the right style of event from smaller team events through to scaling AMAs to tens of thousands of employees. Feedback has been positive from our leader (Rajesh), the leadership team, our event team and, most importantly, our colleagues; so much so that we are increasing the cadence of our AMAs to every other month."
- Alexander Bradley, Director of Communications

 

AMAs and live events

An AMA is an event during which leaders and employees connect to ask and answer questions. It’s a two-way engagement—leaders create the space for conversation, and employees drive the agenda through their questions. AMA events are available as a part of the Viva Suite or Communications and Communities plan. AMAs can be customized with options including moderation, upvoting, and anonymous submission. Previously where you could only submit questions via forms or email, now you can generate engagement before the event with features like upvoting. Upvoting helps to signal moderators and communicators what’s important and top of mind for employees. Participation can be controlled and limited to a specific set of people, or open for anyone in the organization to participate.

 

Events bring people together to spark dialogue and engagement. They’re an opportunity for leaders to create clarity and spark energy—to inform and inspire employees, and to listen and respond to employees. Events can be in person, but hybrid events with live and on-demand video have become standard, particularly to engage a large, distributed workforce. Live events can be hosted in Viva Engage, where conversations in an event become part of the community’s ongoing discussion.


Rajesh and his team put these two capabilities together in what has proven an excellent, repeatable model. They created the AMA before the event to gather questions and feedback from employees and then proceeded to leverage the ‘upvoting’ from colleagues to inform which topics/questions they took live during the event. They streamed the event live on Viva Engage in their private community, enabling robust conversation alongside the live video, and incorporate a few live questions, apart from the AMA, demonstrating agility in the moment and responsiveness to colleagues’ ‘in the moment’ questions. They then brought the recording and key content back to Viva Engage to share broadly with people who could not attend the live event, hosting the video on Stream and launching via a Viva Engage Storyline announcement from Rajesh; something that previously would have happened over email, limiting the potential for ongoing dialogue.

 

In this article, we share the best practices that Rajesh and his team learned before, during, and after the event—the ingredients that made it a success. Many of the learnings and best practices mentioned below can be found in the AMA playbook.

 

Peering into our crystal ball, we can share that we are working to deeply integrate the capabilities Rajesh and his team leveraged into a seamless, end-to-end events experience. We’ll have much more to share in 2024 but, for now, you can have confidence that following these best practices today will set you up for even more success in the coming months.

 

Before the event

Like any event, success requires planning and preparation. Rajesh’s team determined that the event would be a public AMA event, promoted to the employees of his Experiences + Devices (E+D) organization, but discoverable by anyone in the organization. They also decided that the event would consist of approximately 25% prepared content, in which Rajesh would share vision and top-of-mind, and 75% Q&A.

 

1-2 weeks before the event

 

Before the event, Rajesh and his communications team prepared the content and videos for the vision and updates portion. From the E+D community in Viva Engage, they scheduled the live event for the interactive, video portion of the event. Learn more about live events.

 

To gather questions before the event they leveraged the new ask-me-anything (AMA) feature in Engage. They scheduled the AMA for the same timeframe as the live event, but published the AMA so that it was “live” for several weeks leading up to the event. This gave employees time to submit questions before the live event, upvote questions they found interesting, and react or comment on questions from coworkers. Learn more about AMAs.

 

To encourage attendance and engagement, the team promoted the event in relevant Engage communities, on Rajesh’s storyline, and via Outlook. We’ve included sample communications at the end of this article. Communications emphasized the importance of upvoting and mentioned that Rajesh would address the most upvoted questions live during the event.

 

Rajesh announced the event and encouraged employees to upvote colleagues' questions and submit their own.Rajesh announced the event and encouraged employees to upvote colleagues' questions and submit their own.

 

 

For a more recent event, Rajesh's team shared an announcement from his storyline using a visually-compelling image that takes advantage of new layouts for media that feature a video or image above the text of the post.

 

At a more recent event, Rajesh used the new layout for images in posts in his announcement. He encouraged employees to submit questions and upvote colleagues' questions.At a more recent event, Rajesh used the new layout for images in posts in his announcement. He encouraged employees to submit questions and upvote colleagues' questions.

 

 

To create a space where employees felt comfortable expressing their concerns and questions, the team enabled the option for anonymous submission. They found—as we see across customers—that enabling anonymous questions increased both the quantity and quality of input form employees. The team also enabled moderation, so that organizers could vet questions before the questions were approved and shown to attendees for upvoting.

 

Moderation options allow a host or organizer to approve questions before they are published.Moderation options allow a host or organizer to approve questions before they are published.

 

 

They approved 2/3rds of the anonymous questions. The team also found that moderation allowed them to reduce the number of duplicate or highly related questions being asked.

 

The team checked the AMA daily and moderated questions regularly. Because they had a good rhythm in place, they leveraged the new notifications toggle to disable notifications for each new question. Our team is continuing to make more improvements to the , organizers, and attendees.

Invitation and notification options. Organizers and hosts can be sent a calendar invite and can receive notifications for new questions.Invitation and notification options. Organizers and hosts can be sent a calendar invite and can receive notifications for new questions.

 

 

1-2 days before the event

 

There was on the AMA before the live portion of the event. The team could filter questions to the most upvoted questions. They then prepared to address those questions.

 

On the event's AMA page, organizers can filter by most upvoted questions.On the event's AMA page, organizers can filter by most upvoted questions.

 

 

 

 

During the event

The live event was a broadcast viewed by attendees in the E+D community. There are several ways to produce live events in Viva Engage:

 

 

After the vision and update portion of the event, Rajesh and his team began answering questions from employees. They answered ALL questions that had been submitted in the AMA with more than 50 upvotes, delivering on their promise to address the questions that we’re truly top of mind for employees.

 

Live events in Viva Engage also support questions and conversation during the live event. Throughout this event they showcased the questions Rajesh was asking in real time in the event with Rajesh!  

 

During the live event, Rajesh answered the most upvoted questions from employees.During the live event, Rajesh answered the most upvoted questions from employees.

 

Showcasing impact after the event 

A post-event survey was sent out to those who attended to see how this new format worked in the days that followed the event. The feedback was clear—people really enjoyed the new Q&A powered by Viva Engage AMAs and were happy at how many questions Rajesh was able to answer.

 

The AMA insights panel assisted Rajesh and his team in evaluating the impact of this event compared to previous events.

 

After the event, analytics provide insights on activity and engagement.After the event, analytics provide insights on activity and engagement.

 

 

 

Rajesh and his team look forward to continuing to leverage this format to engage his employees in upcoming Q&A events! In fact, they've committed to hosting AMA Town Hall events bi-monthly.

 

AMA + Live Event Communications Plan

Since the initial AMA, Rajesh’s team has hosted a few more AMAs and we’ve learned some best practices about communicating expectations about the event and how to provide the best guidance for employees. Here’s an example communications plan for this type of AMA + Live Event. We hope that this helps your teams make your first AMA event a success.

 

Timeline

Type

Highlights

2 weeks before the event

Calendar invite

 

The calendar invite has all relevant links to live event and AMA.

 

A week before event

Storyline Announcement from leader

A week before event an announcement to the leaders audience that describes the upcoming events and links to the AMA for gathers questions before hand. This communication also mentions how they will prioritize the most upvoted questions.

 

Day before event

Storyline Announcement from leader

The day prior, remind employees about the event and how to engage

Hour before the live event is host

Post an Announcement in the community where the Live Event

Reminder that the event starts soon and how to join the live event.

After the event

Event Summary

Share out recap and high level key points and event recording

 

Try it in your own network!

Try hosting an AMA alongside your next town hall or all hands.

 

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