What is a 'Brown Bag Meeting'

A brown bag meeting is a casual meeting that occurs during a lunch period. This type of meeting is referred to as a brown bag meeting because participants bring their own lunches to the meeting. The meeting typically takes place in the workplace, usually in a training room or conference room.

BREAKING DOWN 'Brown Bag Meeting'

Companies save money by offering brown bag meetings also known as lunch and learns or brown bag lunches because they do not supply food or beverages for the attendees. However, some companies offer to host formal meetings at an upscale restaurant by paying for all attendees’ food and beverages.

The meetings are informal and can be used as training meetings. Other organizations such as nonprofits and universities also offer brown bag meetings. These meetings usually last one hour and typically have a small number of participants.

For example, employees can attend a brown bag meeting to learn about a new department called the program management office that assigns, prioritizes and monitors projects in the organization. Employees benefit from the dialog about the new department, learn about the goals and objectives of the department, and find out about the impact to employees and their workload.

Benefits

These meetings offer an opportunity for training, sharing information and dialogue among employees. The meetings are either structured or unstructured and are used to transfer knowledge, solve problems, brainstorm and build trust among attendees. The meetings enhance teamwork and company values and increase employee engagement and motivation.

Employees can view a presentation or listen to a speaker discuss concepts, upcoming projects, new initiatives, benefit or policy changes or expert advice on employee concerns such as safety and wellness or budget cuts. Employees can cross train, explore a topic deeper, engage in continuous improvement and create a learning culture within their company.

Types

There are four types of brown bag meetings, seminar, small group, combination and social. The seminar type is the most widely used format. A guest speaker talks for a specific period on a selected topic to transfer his or her knowledge and experience to attendees.

In the small group type, each person at the table answers a pre-defined question. After the person answers the question, the other people can comment, ask for further explanation or discuss the responses. The process repeats until all the people at table answer the question. This format allows for maximum transfer of knowledge and experience.

The combination type merges features of the seminar and small group types. The meeting begins with a speaker that presents a topic for a limited time. After the speaker concludes, the remainder of the time is spent in a small group format. This format is useful for problem-solving and brainstorming.

The social type allows people at a small table to get to know each other and learn each person’s job role. This format builds trust between the people involved.

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