What Is a Brown Bag Meeting? Definition, Types, and Key Benefits

What Is a Brown Bag Meeting?

A brown bag meeting is an informal meeting or training that generally occurs in the workplace around lunchtime. This type of meeting is referred to as a brown bag meeting or a brown bag seminar because participants typically bring their lunches, which are associated with being packed in brown paper bags.

Meetings of this kind don't necessarily have to occur during the lunch hour and can take place at any time during the workday or after hours. They usually are held in conference rooms.

Key Takeaways

  • A brown bag meeting is an informal meeting that takes place in the workplace, generally around lunchtime.
  • Brown bag meetings are typically informal training and learning sessions offered by employers.
  • Topics for brown bag meetings can be work-related or geared to help employees with their lives outside of work.
  • The seminar, small group meeting, hybrid meeting, and social meeting are the four most common types of brown bag meetings.
  • Brown bag meetings foster the sharing of information and teamwork and help ensure a consistent message is delivered.

Understanding Brown Bag Meetings

Brown bag meetings are informal training and learning sessions offered by employers to their staff. These meetings are also called lunch and learn sessions.

The brown bag meeting is an efficient and straightforward way for corporations to save money while training or informing staff. The underlying assumption is that employees will bring their own lunch to the meeting. Formal meetings are usually catered or held offsite, with the company assuming all dining costs. Depending on the number of attendees, these costs can be significant. 

Other organizations, such as nonprofits and academic institutions, also offer brown bag meetings. These meetings are usually informative, range from one to four hours, and have a small number of participants.

Types of Brown Bag Meetings

There are four primary types of brown bag meetings.

A seminar meeting is the most common and usually includes a guest speaker or expert who transfers their knowledge and experience about a specific topic to the gathering. This format often includes a short question-and-answer period at the end of the session.

In a small group meeting, each participant answers a single question or a set of pre-defined questions. Other attendees may comment, ask for more information or clarity, and discuss the responses. The process continues until all participants answer the topic questions. This format allows for the maximum transfer of knowledge and experience and reinforces group dynamics. Small group meetings are frequently referred to as workshops.

Brown bag meetings promote accuracy and consistency as the audience receives the same message or training.

A combination meeting is a hybrid of a seminar and a small group meeting. The meeting starts with a speaker presenting a key topic for the meeting. The remaining time is spent operating in a small group format. The small group format is useful for problem-solving, brainstorming, and team-building. The attendees will frequently reconvene, and each small group will present its findings to the group at large.

The social meeting type allows participants the opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed setting. Participants may learn each person’s role and career objectives. This format builds trust and promotes cohesiveness.

These meetings can also help disseminate topics not specifically related to work but that can be useful for employees. These include healthy living, investing, retirement options, technology-related topics, and safety outside the workplace.

Simply put, there is no limit to what employers can cover during these informal meetings.

The Benefits of Brown Bag Meetings

Brown bag meetings promote dialogue and information sharing among participants. Sharing among participants enhances training and ensures consistent dissemination of information.

They also promote teamwork, reinforce company values and missions, and increase employee morale. They can also help employees learn about and develop important skills they can use outside the workplace.

The sessions can be structured or unstructured and are often used to transfer knowledge, solve problems, brainstorm, and build trust among attendees.

Meetings may include presentations. They may also be led by speakers who provide expert advice, discuss policy changes, or talk about innovative products and services. Brown bag meetings are useful for cross-training, project management initiatives, and cross-functional team meetings.

Most brown bag meetings take place to inform employees about important work-related issues, including human resources training and policy changes.

Brown Bag Meeting FAQs

How Do You Run a Brown Bag Session?

Brown bag sessions are informal business meetings or training usually held in an office setting during lunchtime. Participants are allowed or even encouraged to bring their own lunch since the organizer will not cater food. To keep the session organized, consider appointing a moderator. They help facilitate discussions between participants and the speaker or trainer and ensure that the schedule is adhered to.

What Does Brown Bag Mean?

A brown bag meeting is an informal business meeting or training, occurring around lunchtime. The term brown bag refers to the practice of employees bringing brown-bagged lunches to these meetings.

What Is the Purpose of a Seminar?

A seminar is a meeting or training in which a guest or expert speaker presents a specific topic relevant to their audience and allows participants to engage in discussion.

Where Does the Term “Brown Bag” Come From?

The term brown bag refers to the brown bag lunches that employees would bring to informal business meetings and training.