Brown Bag Meeting

What is a Brown Bag Meeting, what formal elements can it contain, and what should organisations be aware of?

Informal exchange over lunch

A Brown Bag Meeting is an informal exchange between colleagues and business partners in which each participant brings their own food. The term goes back to the brown paper bags – the so-called Brown Bags – in which the participants transport their lunch. Even though the format of the lunch break meeting is not unknown in German-speaking countries, the term as such is not widespread. The term is mainly used in North America and Australia; in Great Britain “Lunchtime Meeting” is more common.

Combining the pleasant with the useful – this is how a Brown Bag Meeting could be described. Brown bag meetings usually take place in training or conference rooms, so that several participants can participate in the exchange. But meetings for two in a simple office are also possible. Similar to an exchange in the coffee kitchen, where employees present share professional content while drinking coffee, the Brown Bag Meeting uses lunch time for a meeting. (That’s why it’s sometimes called a Brown Bag Lunch.) Unlike a meeting in the coffee kitchen, which usually happens by chance, the conversation can also contain some more formal elements:

  • There can be an agenda, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Guest speakers could give a keynote speech.
  • Colleagues from other areas could be explicitly invited.
  • Communication could follow predefined paths, e.g. with questions, feedback sessions, etc.

A Brown Bag Meeting is reminiscent of a Lean Coffee, i.e. an exchange between colleagues and employees in a pleasant atmosphere. It is also an uncomplicated possibility for organisations to inform employees about innovations or to train them in the application of new solutions. It is suitable as a format for information exchange and knowledge transfer. It promotes dialogue and can strengthen the morale of employees. However, organisations should pay attention to the voluntariness of participating in a Brown Bag Meeting, because not every employee wants to talk about work during his lunch break. Some colleagues tend to seek peace and quiet and distance, others prefer to eat out rather than bring food to the office or order something. If, in addition, the impression is created that the employer wants to shorten breaks or use them as disguised working time, the desired effect of the Brown Bag Meeting is completely lost.

Note:

A combination of the format, for example, with a stand-up meeting or a walk and talk meeting, usually makes little sense in practice.

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