Starting a Team Lunch and Learn

A Team at Work

“Lunch and Learn” programs are a great way for a team to develop common knowledge by watching presentations together. This can be helpful for research or training - software development teams often start lunch and learn programs to learn about the latest tools in the field. Lunch and learn programs also change the culture of a team - ideas that come from an outside party tend to have inherent credibility.

Here are some tips for ensuring your lunch and learn is a success:

  1. Consistency is important - having the same time and location each week helps people get in the habit of attending.

  2. If you are choosing videos, you’ll get better attendence if you cater topics to the audience. Highly technical content is suitable for a very focused team, whereas general interest content is suitable for building relationships in a heterogeneous team.

  3. Often, the best material from a lunch and learn is the discussion at the end of a presentation. To facilitate this, it’s important to leave time.

  4. If you’re watching a video, make sure to leave time to set up! This can be more time consuming than you’d expect.

  5. If you don’t have lunch places nearby, have a team member get a group order. It takes extra work to coordinate, but food is usually more interesting than any video.

  6. Use lunch and learn program to practice talks for conferences

  7. Invite sales team members to demonstrate what they show to clients - this is a great way to get a different perspective on your business.

  8. If you choose videos, preview them in advance to check for problems with the audio or speaker. Videos that discuss sensitive issues can be “not safe for work” in a mixed audience, even if the content is otherwise of high quality.

  9. Use a shared spreadsheet to vote on lunch places or video topics

  10. Encourage team members to develop their public speaking skills. If you have summer interns, have them work on a project and demo their work at the end of the term. started as a list of videos from our lunch and learn.

If you’re looking for a place to start, here are ten places with great collections of videos, that aren’t just TED talks:

  1. Gresham College - This UK university has offered public lectures for over 400 years. Many of these are fascinating historical topics.
  2. Startup School - This educational series by Y Combinator covers aspects of starting a tech business.
  3. Hacker News - Also a Y Combinator production, searching for interviews and conference talks turns up great crowd-sourced suggestions.
  4. InfoQ puts on sizeable tech conferences every year - they have a ton of content.
  5. Lanyrd - this is a social media site for conference speakers / organizers - lots of great material buried in the site.
  6. is a video recording company that does a lot of tech-oriented conferences.
  7. Google has a great lunch and learn program - why not use their videos?
  8. University of California TV - This is a public broadcasting channel with tons of great videos.
  9. UCLA Archives - UCLA maintains a fantastic collection of speeches by cultural icons from the 1960s and 1970s. I’ve found that videos by famous musicians are especially popular for company lunch and learns.
  10. The Chicago Humanities Festival brings in cultural icons to speak about a range of contemporary topics.

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