How To Plan a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Cassy Aite
April 3, 2024
How To Plan a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Lunch and learns are a really powerful addition to your company culture. They help your staff learn new skills, improve existing ones, and serve as an ideal way for people to get to mingle and socialize 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 way to combine learning and socializing. Think of it as a way to maximize professional development, skill building, and team bonding simultaneously.

Lunch and learns — also known as "brown bags" — are short, training-focused programs during your attendees' lunch break. Generally, you host a lunch and learn to introduce a new concept or strategy or to discuss a key topic like diversity or well-being. However, the format is open to your tastes and style.

Most lunch and learns are short and take between 30 to 60 minutes. These can take place as a singular event, or you can do a lunch and learn series periodically — think monthly or quarterly.

Most lunch and learns occur internally with everyone from the same organization in attendance. Occasionally, companies will host a lunch and learn for employees at other businesses in their community to join in. This format is a notable way to expand your professional network or allow others to experience your company culture.

Can You Have a Remote Lunch and Learn?

A lunch and learn was originally an in-person perk in larger organizations. Companies needed to address issues or discuss certain topics. But as an added benefit, they offered a fully catered meal and opportunities to network and chat.

While this is still the norm in many organizations, remote teams are getting in on the fun as well. Organizers use collaboration tools like Slack to get the word out and use Zoom or another videoconferencing platform to host the event.

These events emulate in-person lunch and learns, with the obvious exception of being over video. But like in-person lunch-and-learn events, you can use them to discuss a specific topic, address teamwork, or build professional skills.

Popular Lunch and Learn Topics

Lunch and learns present an opportunity to cover a specific topic through a relevant seminar, training session, or discussion. The topic is your choice and you can have a more rigid or laidback approach. Icebreakers are always a great way to set the tone, but after that, it’s up to you.

If you’re short on ideas for your next lunch and learn, 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 budgeting, time management, and how to feel more confident.
  • Personal development skill set: Dive into soft skills such as presentations, public speaking, or leadership skills.
  • 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 discuss topics they’re knowledgeable or passionate about in the style of a TED talk, even if it's not work-related
  • Meet the team: Host an event that focuses on individual members of the team and getting to know them — often used in unison with a cross-training lunch and learn.
  • Interest clubs: Transform your lunch and learn into a book club or a regular session focused on learning skills like coding, journaling, or blogging.

The Benefits of a Lunch and Learn

Employees having a lunch and learn at the office

There's a lot to love about lunch and learn programs. They can have a powerful impact on people's experience at your company with minimal time requirements and low costs. Here are some of the advantages.

Offer a Space for Discussion

Lunch and learns give your team a forum to share information and ideas with each other. This open space is especially relevant if you cover topics like mental health and wellness, budgeting, or positivity — discussions where people can open up in a way they can't around the office. This fosters a sense of community across your organization, and people will look forward to getting together.

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, tools, or office software.

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 sometimes feel tough if you work in a remote organization or are a new hire. Thankfully, Lunch and learns are the perfect way to make introductions and build friendships across departments.

Encourage people to see your lunch and learns as a way to learn something new and understand the people they work with. Moreover, you can weave in some team building without it feeling forced.

Challenges and How To Overcome Them

Even the best concepts have challenges, and lunch and learns are no exception. When planning your next lunch and learn, keep these hurdles in mind to avoid any issues.

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 on occasion 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.

If people on your team often miss a lunch and learn, take a poll to choose the optimal time.

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.

Avoid overscheduling to make your lunch and learn program feel relevant and fresh. Introduce it as a monthly event, or poll your teams to see how often they want one. These fun training events should feel like an added bonus — not a routine 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 fun and personalization to your lunch. With Hoppier, guests will receive a digital card with a spending limit. They can use this to order their ideal lunch wherever they are — which makes it perfect for virtual lunch and learns too.

You can even buy virtual bulk gift cards simultaneously to ensure you never run out. Plus, any remaining balance after the expiration date goes back into your account, saving you on waste and sunken costs.

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.

virtual lunch and learn gift card from Hoppier

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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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo

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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo


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