How To Plan a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Thomas Paris
July 15, 2021
How To Plan a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Lunch and learns can be a really powerful addition to your company culture. Not only do they help your people learn new skills or improve existing ones, they’re also an ideal way for people to get to know each other in a genuine way.

In this guide we'll introduce you to the concept of a lunch and learn, the opportunities and challenges, and the process for planning a successful lunch and learn program.

What Is a Lunch and Learn?

A lunch and learn is a fun combination of a learning and social event. Think of it as a way to maximize professional development, skill building, and team bonding at the same time.

Lunch and learns — also known as "brown bags" — are short, training-focused programs that take place over your attendees' lunch break. You might host a lunch and learn to introduce a new concept or strategy, or to discuss a key topic like diversity or wellbeing. Most lunch and learns are short and take place over 30-60 minutes.

Most lunch and learns take place internally with everyone attending from the same organization. Sometimes companies will host a lunch and learn as an occasion for employees at other businesses in their community to join in. This format can be a great way to forge connections or allow others to experience your culture.

Popular Lunch and Learn Topics

Lunch and learns present an opportunity to cover a specific topic through a relevant seminar, training session, or discussion session.

Here are some of the most popular lunch and learn topics:

  • Cross training: have one person share or teach what they do with others in your organization
  • Product training: get team members up to speed on new features or introduce a new product
  • Life skills: cover topics like how to budget, time management, and how to feel more confident
  • Personal development: dive into soft skills, including presentation skills or exploring career journeys
  • Mini hackathon: introduce a challenge and use your lunch and learn to solicit your teams to help find a solution
  • "TED talks": offer up the stage for your employees to talk about a topic close to their heart in the style of a TED talk, even if it's not work related
  • Meet the team: host an event like a cross training session, but more focused on individual members of the team and getting to know them
  • Interest clubs: transform your lunch and learn into a book club or a regular session focused on learning a skill like coding, journaling, or blogging

Why Lunch and Learn Programs Are So Great

There's a lot to love about lunch and learn programs. They can have a powerful impact on people's experience at your company. Here's a look at some of the benefits.

Offer a Space for Discussion

Lunch and learns give your team a place to share information and ideas with each other. With a lunch and learn, there's a dedicated place to talk about a specific topic or learn something new.

This open space is especially relevant if you cover a topic like wellness, budgeting, or positivity — where people can discuss the topic with each other in a way they can't around the office. This helps foster a sense of community across your organization, and people will look forward to the chance to get together and talk.

Support Professional Development

Long, detailed training sessions are useful, but attendees can quickly feel tired or lose focus. A lunch and learn gives you the ideal setup to cover some ground and introduce new skills.

You can use these bite-sized training sessions to upskill your team on software, ideas, or strategies, or you can use them for wider professional development goals — like productivity or leadership. They're also a great way to help people develop skills like presenting ideas or leading discussions.

Provide a Chance for People To Get To Know Each Other

Getting to know people can feel tough at times, especially if you work in a remote organization or you're a new hire. Lunch and learns are the perfect way to make introductions and build friendships across departments.

Encourage people to see your lunch and learns not only as a way to learn something new, but as a way to understand the people they work with. You can weave in some team building without it feeling forced.

Challenges and How To Overcome Them

Even the best concepts have their challenges, and lunch and learns are no exception. Here are some of the most common struggles that companies run into.

Fear of Missing Out

You want people to look forward to your lunch and learn events, but you don't want them to feel excluded if they can't make it.

To avoid this, schedule your lunch and learns at a time that works best for most people. Switch it up sometimes too so everyone gets the chance to attend. Make lunch and learns a priority at your organization and take steps so that any team members who want to get involved can.

Hosting Too Frequently

Your staff members might love your lunch and learns, but if you host them too frequently people will simply stop showing up.

Make your lunch and learn program always feel relevant and fresh by avoiding overscheduling. Introduce it as a monthly event, or poll your teams to see how often they want to have one. These fun training events should feel like an added bonus — not a frequent obligation.

Limited Catering Options

Your typical lunch options for catered workshops and training events can be a little uninspiring. Trays of sandwiches and chips are a welcome free lunch, but they don't make your event attendees feel excited and energized.

Instead of offering a standard lunch option, use Hoppier to add some fun and personalization to your lunch. With Hoppier, your guests will receive a digital card with a spending limit.

Lunch and learn options with Hoppier virtual credit cards

They can use this to order their ideal lunch wherever they are — which makes it perfect for virtual lunch and learns too. No more leftover sandwiches, and your guests will truly enjoy the lunch part of your lunch and learn.

Uninspiring Topics

People are giving up their regular lunch break to join your event, so make it count. Dull topics that don't interest your employees won't have them racing to the door or video conference room.

Keep your lunch and learn topics interesting by asking your people what they want to learn more about. Ask for ideas, and put them to a vote — with the most popular choice getting scheduled next.

9 Tips To Help You Plan a Successful Lunch and Learn Event

A hand writes on a planning guide, surrounded by a laptop, folio, paper clips, and sticky notes

Ready to host an amazing lunch and learn program? Here are our best tips to help you plan events your teams will be excited to attend.

1. Set a Goal

Understand what the purpose of each lunch and learn event is. Do you need to introduce a new way of working? Are you getting ready to move in a new direction? Do you want to create a space to talk openly about challenges? Set a learning objective, and you'll stay focused.

As well as setting a goal for your event, think of some key takeaways you want your attendees to leave with. For example, you might want your guests to consider how they can apply the idea to their work day or feel more confident in their presenting skills.

2. Find the Right Topic

To get people to attend, you first have to have a compelling topic. An introduction to budgeting might not be everyone's cup of tea, but team members might be interested in the chance to contribute to the company's marketing plans.

If you're not sure which topic to start with, ask your planned attendees. They'll come up with plenty of things they'd love to know more about, and you can work that into a program plan for the next few months.

3. Make Your Event Remote Friendly

These days, more companies are working remotely than ever. Lunch and learns translate well to virtual event platforms and video calls where people can tune in and learn something new from the comfort of their own workspace.

Even if you maintain a physical office space, create opportunities for your remote employees to get involved. Host a livestream from your conference room while the event is taking place, and opt for a digital-first approach.

4. Choose an Inspiring Space

Most companies host a lunch and learn from their office space or HQ, which makes room choices limited. Still, look for a space that's built for thinking and learning if possible.

A quiet conference room away from the distractions of phones and interruptions is a great option. This also means you're not disturbing others who are taking a private lunch break in the cafeteria. If it's an option, book a space at a local café for your lunch and learn — or host it at a nearby coworking space.

5. Provide a Great Lunch

Restaurants where attendees can use their $25 lunch and learn credit

Don't leave your lunch and learn guests feeling hungry or disappointed by your lunch offer. Set them up with a good variety of options so they feel welcome.

With Hoppier, you can easily send a digital card with a lunch allowance to your lunch and learn attendees. You're free to limit the options so they align with your brand and company culture, or leave it open for people to buy their own lunch favorites.

6. Use a Facilitator

Every great event needs someone to lead it, and lunch and learns are just the same. Don't put the pressure to run the event on your attendees. Instead, bring someone in to lead the session.

For sessions with a guest speaker, the speaker can often lead and facilitate the discussion for you. For in-house programs, have someone who isn't participating lead the way. You could also hire an external consultant or facilitator to fill this role for you, which might work best for a small team where you all want to get involved.

7. Respect People's Time

You're hosting this event over people's lunch hour, so it's essential that you respect their time. Be extra hot on your time management and plan your training session with a one-hour maximum window.

Start your lunch and learn session on time, and try not to run over. If you do, make it clear that there's no rush for people to head back to work. You want them to leave feeling inspired, not like they have to make up for lost time.

8. Leave Room for Discussion Afterwards

While lunch breaks run for a finite time, give your people enough time and space to talk openly afterwards. This might mean booking the conference room out for longer, or leaving the video call open for people to continue talking.

You might find this is the part of the session where the most ideas and free discussion come about. Give people time to properly take in and process what they've just learned, and they'll be more likely to remember and use the information.

9. Welcome Feedback

If you're introducing a new lunch and learn program, you'll want to know exactly how it's going. Let people know you welcome their open and honest feedback, and offer an easy way for them to give it.

Set up a simple online form where people can share their thoughts on your program. Give them the opportunity to suggest ideas and initiatives for future events, or to get involved with the process in a bigger way. You can then refine your program to make it even more effective.

Create Your Own Amazing Lunch and Learn Program

Feeling inspired to launch your own lunch and learn program? They're a great way to bring people together, explore new concepts, and create a culture of learning and development.

Find the perfect topic idea and choose a date that works for everyone. Bring in a guest speaker or challenge your teams to present what they know. Make your lunch and learn a central part of your culture and encourage your team to get excited about learning.

And don't forget about the lunch part of your lunch and learn. Book a demo call to discover how you can use Hoppier to create a personalized way for your guests to enjoy good food while they learn.

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