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How to Host Virtual Lunch and Learns That People Actually Want to Attend

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Virtual lunch and learns are a great way to help your remote team stay engaged, build bonds, and learn new skills. Here’s why they’re valuable, tips for how to host them, and some virtual lunch and learn topic ideas to help get you inspired.  

The concept of a virtual lunch and learn might seem counterintuitive. After all, asking your employees to sacrifice their lunch break to sit down and participate in a company-facilitated learning experience probably seems like a tall order.  

But when done right, you can host virtual lunch and learns that are equal parts enjoyable and educational and, most importantly, that your employees actually want to attend. 

What is a Virtual Lunch and Learn? 

Like the traditional in-person version, virtual lunch and learns are all about getting your team together to share a (company-provided) bite to eat and take part in a focused and informative session.  

And here’s some even better news: due to the fact that they don’t require a physical space, virtual lunch and learns are even easier to host than in-person ones and can be just as engaging.  

Why Should You Host a Virtual Lunch and Learn? 

While the goals, formats, and topics of virtual lunch and learns vary vastly, most offer a number of important high-level benefits, including:  

  • Strengthening your company culture  
  • Building team morale 
  • Promoting individual and team development 
  • Facilitating a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing 
  • Breaking down silos 
  • Providing valuable facetime for remote teams  
  • Creating awareness and strategies for everyday problems and issues 
  • Strengthening employee engagement and performance 

And there are ample options available for how to achieve these benefits with a virtual lunch and learn. 

8 Tips on How to Host Virtual Lunch and Learns 

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Does the idea of planning a virtual lunch and learn seem stressful and daunting to you? Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be.  

Just follow these considerations and best practices.  

1. Ask Employees What They’re Interested in Learning  

In order for your virtual lunch and learn to be a success, it’s important that you get buy-in from your team.  

The most efficient and effective way to do that? Just ask!  

We recommend reaching out to your team when you’re planning your lunch and learn to see what they would be interested in. You can use a platform like SurveyMonkey to make this easy and, if necessary, anonymous.  

Here’s something that’s important to keep in mind though: you probably won’t be able to find a lunch and learn topic that’s everyone’s first choice, but that’s totally fine. As long as the presentation is engaging and offers value, it’s worthwhile.  

2. Decide on a Platform  

Unlike the in-person version, virtual lunch and learns don’t require a physical space, but they do require a digital platform to bring everyone together.  

So, while you’re planning, decide on a platform and then ensure everyone’s set up to use it. 

Your priority should be to use whatever’s easiest and most streamlined for your team. But you’ll also want to make sure that the video platform you choose has all the functionalities you need, such as: 

  • Screensharing 
  • Chat 
  • “Hand-raising” for questions  
  • The ability to record your meetings 

As far as platforms go, Zoom is probably your best bet since its free version can host up to 100 guests for meetings as long as 40 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re inviting people who are new to video conferencing, Whereby is a good option because it’s entirely web-based and doesn’t require an account or a downloaded app. All your guests need is to click a link to get into your virtual lunch and learn. 

3. Determine How You’re Handling the Lunch Portion  

As the name implies, no virtual lunch and learn is complete without lunch.  

When hosting in-person, you could just order food for everyone to eat. But with a virtual lunch and learn, you’ll need to get creative with how you provide your team with a bite to eat. 

One option is to reimburse them for food delivery or takeout. Another option is to use a service like GrubHub that can deliver food to your team, wherever they’re located. A service like Caroo is also a great option because it allows you to send healthy snacks to team members at any time. 

You can also opt for simply asking your colleagues to bring their own lunch to the meeting but, in our experience, finding a way to provide them with their food goes a long way in increasing the enjoyment and impact of your lunch and learn. 

Or, you can simply reimburse employees for meals they order so that they can have the flexibility to choose whatever they’d like.  

4. Check Your Team’s Availability  

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Virtual lunch and learns provide a slight added layer of complexity in terms of coordinating a date and time for your event. 

Since remote employees often work in different time zones and given that flexibility is one of the many perks of working remotely, it’s wise to connect with your team well in advance to lock down a date and time that work for everyone. 

5. Decide on Your Goal 

The best lunch and learns are chosen based on a goal or a desired learning outcome. For instance, this could be to:  

  • Teach your team how to use a new tool you’re implementing in your organization 
  • Facilitate cross-departmental learning 
  • Support employee wellness 
  • Encourage team building and bonding  
  • Teach new soft skills 

Picking your topic should be an exercise in reverse engineering your goals. 

6. Choose a Format 

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The next big question is what format of lunch and learn you’d like to go with.  

If you’re looking to do cross-training among departments, it might be best to enlist the various department heads in your organization to create a presentation. 

On the other hand, if your goal is to support employee wellness, you might want to source an expert to lead your virtual lunch and learn. 

And if you’re looking to teach soft skills or build bonds between colleagues, you might want to enlist the help of an external partner like Outback Team Building and Training that specializes in helping organizations achieve these goals.  

Pro tip: Whatever format you choose, you might want to consider some sort of icebreaker to kickstart your virtual lunch and learn to help alleviate some of that awkwardness and tension that inevitably comes at the beginning of most meetings. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can check out our comprehensive list of The 164 Best Team Building Icebreaker Questions for Work.  

7. Pick a Topic Accordingly  

Once you’ve decided on your goals and the format for your event, the next (and most important) step is to pick the perfect topic—but we’ll explore this more momentarily!  

It’s critical to ensure the topic you pick is beneficial enough for both your employees and your organization that it justifies the time and interruption to their workday.

Pro tip: Make sure to vet your presenter thoroughly, whether it’s an internal staff member or an external partner. Nothing can dampen a lunch and learn like a lackluster presenter with low energy levels or who reads from slides on a screen.  

8. Encourage Employees to Host Their Own Lunch and Learns  

Another great way to get your employees engaged is to encourage them to host lunch and learns of their own. This can be on any topic that’s relevant to the team or organization. Allow employees to conduct research and present their findings and support their efforts by providing lunch for the team. 

15 Amazing Topic Ideas for Virtual Lunch and Learns in 2021  

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The key to hosting an incredible virtual lunch and learn is to make it engaging and to keep it light. Here are 15 topic ideas for virtual lunch and learns. 

  1. How to Use the Pomodoro Time Management Technique: One of the most valuable skills for employees in every role is effective time management. Consider hosting a lunch and learn focused on the Pomodoro technique which is based in the theory that working in 25-minute increments with short breaks in between can supercharge time management and, in turn, productivity.  
  1. Presentation SkillsPublic speaking and presentations are hugely challenging and anxiety-inducing for many people. So, you can take the opportunity to leverage a virtual lunch and learn to help people to become more confident in their presentation skills.  
  1. Email Communication: Remote work is new to many people and so are the nuances of remote communication. Hosting a virtual lunch and learn focused on virtual communication best practices can help make life easier for your team. You might want to consider a training program like Clear Communication that will help develop your team’s written and verbal communication skills.  
  1. Financial Health for Employees: While it’s often not discussed at work or considered an employee perk, financial health is critically important for employees. This is a great topic that will benefit your team significantly in both the short and long terms.  
  1. Conflict Management: Conflict at work is virtually inevitable, but how it’s handled can be the difference between a negative outcome and a positive and productive learning experience. Gather your leadership team for a virtual lunch and learn focused on conflict resolution and watch how the benefits trickle down through your organization. 
  1. Giving Back as a Team: There aren’t many things that help colleagues bond as effectively as doing some good and giving back as a team. And you can host a virtual lunch and learn that checks both boxes with a charitable team building activity like The Virtual Do-Good Games which is all about building awareness around local and global challenges, raising funds for charity, and doing some good in the world with your colleagues. In this activity, you and your colleagues will compete to complete challenges and earn points that will be converted into charitable donation dollars. 
  1. Work/Life Balance Tips: In a remote work environment, the line between your professional and personal life can become blurred. That’s why a virtual lunch and learn focused on tips for work/life balance can be a great way to keep morale high and reduce the chance of employee fatigue and burnout.  
  1. Mindfulness: The concept of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its proven ability to relieve stress, improve sleep, and generally improve mental wellbeing. So, in the midst of such challenging times, hosting a virtual lunch and learn focused on mindfulness could be the perfect fit for your team.  
  1. Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Your eating habits have been proven to have an impact on your mood and productivity. So, you can host a virtual lunch and learn (with a healthy lunch component!) focused on teaching your team how to properly fuel their bodies and their minds in order to maximize every workday.  
  1. TED Talks: If you don’t have a big virtual lunch and learn budget, you can tap into the wisdom of some incredible TED Talks that can deliver important lessons for business and life. Check out Simon Sinek’s talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action and marketing guru Seth Godin’s talk, This is Broken. 

Pro tip: make sure you have takeaway materials ready post-event so that you can share the key points with your team for future reference. We’d also recommend sending a post-event survey to get people’s feedback as a key learning for next time. 

Virtual lunch and learns offer a ton of benefits for organizations and their employees, both professionally and personally. So, if you’ve been looking for a sign to host one for your team, this is it! 

Have you ever hosted a virtual lunch and learn? If so, what was the topic, and how did you find it worked out? Let us know in the comments section below!  


Learn More About Team Building and Training Sessions for Your Next Virtual Lunch and Learn 

If you’ve got questions about how team building and group skills training programs can make for a perfect virtual lunch and learn, reach out to an Employee Engagement Consultant.    


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