Post: How to Host a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Group of business employees attending a lunch and learn program

Are you looking for a great team-building activity or staff meeting idea? 

Do you want to bring your employees together in one place without all the noisy distractions of the office? 

If so, consider hosting a lunch and learn program!

What are lunch and learn programs?

It’s lunchtime and as you make your way down the hall to grab a bite, you hear it.

The sound of laughter and conversation from an open office door. You peek in and see what looks like lunch with colleagues – not just lunch, but lunch with learning included!

A lunch and learn is an opportunity to learn something new. Typically held in a conference room over lunchtime, experts in their respective fields share their knowledge with colleagues on a topic of mutual interest.

Personal development, leadership skills, career tools and training, the topics presented can vary greatly. 

Lunch and learn events are often more engaging than regular lectures because they’re tailored to the organization or the teams within that organization.

How do lunch and learn programs work?

A lunch and learn session is a lunchtime meeting between a group of team members where there is someone who presents on an interesting topic.

Often held in the middle of the day during a normal lunch break, because it’s easy for participants to come, a lunch and learn can also be held in the evening if more people can make it.

These events typically last for one hour, vary in size from ten people to a few dozen depending on venue capacity, and cover a variety of topics.

This lunchtime gathering training session can be done with just one expert or as many guest speakers as you wish- it all depends on how much time you have! 

Why lunch and learns are beneficial

The benefits of a lunch hour learning event include: increased employee engagement, reduced stress, improved productivity, enhanced creativity, and better communication skills between employees

Lunch and learn programs offer a variety of benefits. They allow staff members to expand their knowledge base by hearing different perspectives on a single subject. And can also help companies come up with creative solutions to problems and can improve communication between employees.

However, companies must design the program in a way that helps them receive the most benefit without wasting any time. 

To do this, lunch and learn sessions should be kept to an hour long. If your lunch and learn drags on, employees will quickly lose focus.

Offering lunch as part of the lunch and learn program can contribute to the success of the session. People are more willing to sit down and listen if they know that food will be provided. As long as a lunch and learn covers useful information, people won’t mind sitting through it.

Why lunch and learn programs are effective for work environments 

Lunch and learns give people opportunities to learn more about the company, their industry or other topics that are relevant to them personally which is not always shared during long meetings.

Rather than serious or potentially dull meeting topics like project deadlines and fiscal reports (sorry Finance department), lunch and learn events are less formal and all about personal development, cross training and life skills.

Essentially, a little less work talk, more professional development.

Four employees attending a breakfast lunch and learn training session
Everyone thinks and learns better with food!

How to Incorporate Lunch and Learn Programs Into Your Company Culture

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to make sure that employees are continuing their education, learning new things, and improving on skills. All while meeting over lunch!

Lunch and learn programs can be used for any topic from basic computer training to the latest in marketing techniques. It’s also a good chance for your company to show its appreciation of employees by hosting lunch and learns with food provided by the company.

In order to get started, you should first decide what type of lunch and learn program will work best for your company.

  • Do you want something general or specific?
  • How often do you want to host lunch and learns?
  • What is your budget?

Once you’ve decided on these questions it’s time to find someone who specializes in lunch-and-learn programs.

First look within your company. Has your HR department or someone in management ever hosted a lunch and learn before? If not you may need to hire an outside company.

A good lunch-and-learn expert will have a few lunch-and-learn ideas to choose from, or even create one on the fly. 

See what lunch and learn program is best for your company culture by talking with different lunch-and-learn providers.

Doing lunch and learns as frequently as possible will show employees that the company is interested in their continued education, and are a great addition to any company culture calendar.

After you’ve selected a program that works best for your company, it’s time to get some lunch!

Don’t miss a step in planning your first workplace lunch and learn.

Steps to starting a lunch and learn program in the workplace. 

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to capitalize on relaxed lunch time conversations. Here are 10 steps to organizing and hosting a lunch and learn program in your workplace:

  1. Find a lunch room or conference room.
  2. Decide on a date and time.
  3. Brainstorm 3 to 5 topics that you think people might be interested in learning about. Maybe even consider a theme that will pique people’s interest.
  4. Survey employees or team members for which topic or new skill training they are most interested in.
  5. Invite lunch and learn speaker(s) and confirm availability.
  6. Create an agenda for the lunch and learn sessions
  7. Set up lunch time slots for people to sign up for lunch and learn sessions
  8. Promote your lunch and learns by sending out emails, posting on social media, or inviting colleagues to join you at the next session!
  9. Prepare or order a simple lunch but make it tasty!
  10. Monitor attendance so you don’t have too many no shows; this will ensure successful future events as well.

From seating arrangements to catering services, lunch and learns often require an investment on behalf of the organization hosting it.

Despite this investment, lunch and learns can be worth it if you are able to avoid these common mistakes.

Three Common Mistakes When Planning a Learn at Lunch Event

1) Not inviting all possible participants

To ensure maximum attendance, lunch and learn sessions should be publicized to as many employees in the organization as possible. Sending out an email invitation or creating a poster for lunch and learns can do just that.

Pro tip: have attendees sign up for specific time slots and place a cap on attendance to prevent overcrowding.

2) Not being prepared

Lunch and learn sessions don’t have to be highly formal, but they shouldn’t be too informal as well. The tone of these lunch and learn sessions should reflect the event’s purpose: educational. Presentations and discussions should be thought out and rehearsed in advance.

3) Launching training events too frequently

One lunch and learn session a month may sound great, but employees may think it’s too much. Especially if you have other team building events and activities planned.

4) Not catering lunch

Lunch and learns are more likely to be successful when good food is present. Providing a free lunch to employees attending a session will not only increase their engagement but also provide a great incentive for employees to attend. 

All in all, lunch and learn training sessions are an effective way for organizations to bring employees together, even those with remote employees.

Tips on how to make lunch with learning more successful 

Three ways you can make your next lunch and learn “wow” employees!

  1. Get creative with your training sessions by providing demonstrations and real-life examples. The more your audiences can identify with the topic, the easier it will be to remember what you’ve taught them.
  2. Play a game, incorporate a 5 minute team building activity or begin the session with some friendly icebreaker questions.
  3. Take your learn at lunch off site. While this tip will add to the overall expense, getting your employees and teammates outside and away from the office is always a great way to enhance the lunch and learn experience.
  4. Hire a professional speaker.

Hire a lunch and learn speaker who will grab an audience’s attention, engage their interest and hold their gaze throughout the lunch hour.

Having two speakers can always work nicely. Consider one host the MC (master of ceremonies) and the other the educator so to speak. Your MC will keep things light while your educator will deliver the program lesson.

Quick check in: why lunch and learns might not work for your company

It’s important for people to feel comfortable with one another. If your office environment is formal or open to the public, a lunch and learn may not be the best idea and could hurt customer service. Offices with call centers may also have to think twice as more often than not, someone is always left behind.

Businesses who are unable to offer longer lunch periods due to shift work or increased wage rates as a result of overtime, may not suit lunch and learn programs either.

Last but not least, lunch and learns that occur too frequently may disrupt the office atmosphere.

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to bring your employees together. They can be difficult, however, if you have an office lunch with everyone crowded around one or two tables things can get awkward quick.

Not all businesses suit lunch and learns, so it’s important to survey employees or colleagues in advance to see if there’s interest before you host a lunch training session. Some employees are protective over their lunchtime.

The more creative you get with these events – from hiring professional speakers who will grab their attention during lunch time all while being engaging – the better chance it has at success!

Thinking of implementing this type of program as a way to enhance  employee engagement? We can help!

Woyago has been organizing and hosting virtual events for corporations like Apple, Google, and Airbnb since 2020. Our goal is to connect, laugh, and learn. Contact us today!

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