What is a 'Brown Bag Meeting'

A brown-bag meeting, or a brown-bag seminar, is an informal meeting that occurs around lunchtime. This type of meeting is referred to as a brown bag meeting because participants typically bring their lunches often packed in brown paper bags. The meeting usually occurs in office training or conference rooms.

BREAKING DOWN 'Brown Bag Meeting'

Brown bag meetings are efficient and straightforward ways for corporations to save money while training or informing staff. 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 1-4 hours, and have a small number of participants.

Brown Bag Benefits

Brown bag meetings promote dialog and information sharing among participants. Sharing among participants enhances training and ensures consistent dissemination of information. The sessions can be structured or unstructured and are often used to transfer knowledge, solve problems, brainstorm, and build trust among attendees. Brown bag meetings promote teamwork, reinforce company values and missions, and increase employee morale.

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

Brown Bag Meeting Types

There are four primary types of brown bag meetings. These types include the seminar, small group, combination, and the social meeting.

  1. A seminar meeting is the most common and usually include a guest speaker or expert who transfers their knowledge and experience about a specific topic to the gathering. Often this format will include a short question and answer period at the end of the session.
  2. In the 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 all available 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.
  3. 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. Small group format is useful for problem-solving and brainstorming and team-building. Frequently the attendees will reconvene and each small group will present their findings to the group-at-large. 
  4. 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.
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