How to Host a Successful Lunch and Learn
Whether you need to introduce new company initiatives or want to encourage employee growth in an informal setting, a “lunch and learn” can provide an ideal environment. A carefully crafted midday training program can be both effective and enjoyable, providing an engaging learning opportunity for everyone attending. Discover what goes into successful lunch and learn sessions and how to make lunchtime meetings work for your team.
What is a lunch and learn?
A lunch and learn is an opportunity to acquire knowledge while enjoying a noontime meal at work. These lunchtime learning sessions can come in many styles and offer substantial potential for education, development and team-building. For some companies, lunch and learn events tend to focus on employee development, while other organizations focus these programs on training, boosting skills or learning from other departments. Lunch and learns can also build a sense of community and raise awareness of critical events.
How to build a lunch and learn program
Keep these steps in mind as you develop your company’s lunch and learn program:
Master the basics.
Choose topics that resonate.
Present the right content.
Identify effective presenters.
Make sessions accessible.
Start with learning goals.
Provide plenty of takeaways.
Keep the conversation going.
1. Master the basics
While it is essential to decide on a successful theme for your company’s lunch and learn program, the meal portion of the event is just as important. Some organizations ask employees to bring their own lunches to accommodate personal preferences and keep costs as low as possible. Others make the meal a focal point of the event and sponsor lunch for all employees.
Cost and local catering options will likely impact how your business approaches this aspect of the event. However, it is important to remember that providing lunch can both encourage attendance and give you an opportunity to help your coworkers make healthy lunchtime choices.
Remember that no matter how appealing the catering might be, lunch and learn events should always be voluntary, especially if they take place during break times. If some team members cannot make the event, consider creating a way to share the most important materials after the meeting.
2. Choose topics that resonate
To develop a truly successful program, choose topics that resonate with your team. To start, reflect on your program’s theme. If you will be focusing on training and development, consider the areas in which your team needs the greatest improvement. From strategies for advancing technical skills to tips for improving soft skills, a lunch and learn can help other employees make considerable progress.
If your intention is to focus more on team-building and community, consider collaborating on ideas for workplace lunch and learn topics. By asking your team members to contribute their ideas, you can encourage staff investment and ensure that you choose topics that matter to your coworkers. With this theme, you can also focus on different aspects of your company’s corporate culture and mission. Design your lunch and learn events based on what makes your organization unique, and you will help staff feel like they are part of something that matters.
Consider asking for input from your team before scheduling each session or for feedback after each event. By asking colleagues to rate the topics, you will increase your chances of choosing meaningful concepts.
3. Present the right content
Embrace the opportunity to get creative with the content and format you feature. Think about what would impact your team members, or ask them about their preferences directly.
Many people benefit from interactive learning formats. To increase employee involvement and investment, try a content format that requires teams to participate in the event. Ask them to review material in advance, and then call on them to contribute during the event. To inspire even more participation, make the event lively. Encourage staff members to move, converse or be physically active. Do keep in mind that people will be eating, so any activities should be able to be done from a comfortable, seated position.
Try changing the types of content you highlight to create a unique experience for each lunch and learn. No matter what format you choose, remember to keep the content relevant to your team and your company. Review your organization’s monthly or quarterly goals to ensure that your content aligns with larger objectives. Just as you might for a normal meeting, start by explaining what you want everyone to gain from the session by the end.
Read more: Learning Styles for Career Development
4. Identify effective presenters
In addition to choosing the right material for your lunch and learn program, try to find the best presenters. Ideally, you should find a balance between continuity and novelty. To create a framework that you can repeat with every lunch and learn session, try assigning one person to host every event, preferably a manager or executive. Attendees will know to expect the same manager to lead each lunch and learn, but they will also anticipate the presenter to offer fresh content.
Depending on your organization, it might also be helpful to select individual contributors to present so participants can learn from their peers.
To find the right presenter for each event, review your goals for your programs. If you are crafting sessions around training or skills objectives, you may want to ask a human resources manager or a departmental director to present the material. In contrast, if you are highlighting collaborative topics or team contributions, you could ask individual employees to present. Be sure to offer tips for great presentation skills and help presenters craft their talks to make each session successful.
Another option is to offer an outside perspective by showcasing external expertise. A well-known voice can increase attendance, keep colleagues engaged and make your lunch and learn sessions some of the most highly anticipated events of the quarter.
Read more: 10 Tips for Giving a Great Presentation
5. Make sessions accessible
Since lunch and learn events should be voluntary, you will want to encourage attendance by making them as accessible as possible.
Always hold them on-site**, which will help keep participation levels high. To improve accessibility even more, consider live streaming each event and making it available online. By offering this option, you will give remote employees a chance to attend, and you will also invite busy team members to participate from their desks or mobile devices.
Consider timing carefully. Strive to host lunch and learn events at a time that fits into the schedule for the largest number of employees. Remember to check your company’s meeting and event schedules to ensure you are planning lunchtime programs that do not interrupt any other important or mandatory events.
Consider the frequency of your lunch and learn programs to make sure they have a bigger impact. Scheduling a monthly event, for example, could keep others interested and engaged without overwhelming their schedules.
No matter how accessible you have made your lunch and learn sessions, remember that your coworkers need regular reminders to increase attendance. Work with team leaders, departmental supervisors or even human resources managers to create email invitations or printed posters. Provide calendar links so team members can add the event to their schedules, or send email notifications the day before and a few minutes prior to help coworkers remember to attend.
6. Start with learning goals
One of the biggest benefits of hosting a lunch and learn program is offering support for people to master concepts and acquire skills important to your organization. With the right goals and guides, you can help attendees maximize their learning potential. To help team members gain as much as possible from your program, always provide a lunch and learn agenda. It will help to create structure, show audience members what to expect from the session and help them see where they need to focus their attention.
Before you start each session, identify the main learning objective, and clarify it for your audience. Those in attendance will have an easier time following the program when they understand why you have selected a particular goal. Spend a minute or two providing context and helping teams understand how the objective factors into larger company goals or departmental initiatives.
7. Provide plenty of takeaways
No matter how engaged attendees might be during a lunch and learn, they can gain more from the experience if they review it periodically. To help attendees remember what they have learned, provide key takeaways. While many people might retain memorable quotes from the lunchtime program, you should offer reminders, too.
For example, if you want your attendees to understand the company’s history and how it developed into the organization’s current mission, provide staff members with a blank timeline and a mission statement to fill out. Taking notes can help staff members commit what they have heard to memory, and it also gives them a helpful reminder to reference later.
You may also want to consider distributing helpful takeaways that your coworkers can use, such as a short follow-up email with main points from the presentation or starter kits that teams can use to advance their newfound skills.
8. Keep the conversation going
Many of the best lunch and learn programs continue education or engagement process after the event ends.
First, decide where to drive engagement to encourage ongoing discussions about your lunch and learn program. If your team communicates best online, consider creating a dedicated online chat room or an email thread where team members can contribute. If your staff members prefer to talk in person, consider having a discussion during a few minutes of each departmental meeting or another recurring event.
Offer prompts to get staff members talking rather than leaving the direction of the conversation up to individual employees. Ask specific questions, which could include encouraging staff members to reveal the most valuable thing they learned or to repeat the most memorable quote from the presenter. Prompt attendees to share how they have implemented what they learned or ask them to discuss follow-up questions that arose after the presentation.
Continue the discussion to help market the lunch and learn program. In addition to helping staff members learn more and build a stronger community after each lunch and learn, keeping the conversation going can help organizers build attendance.
Whether you want to motivate your team to do their best work or simply share information, a lunch and learn session can provide an effective setting.
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