Good Question!, Meeting Facilitation

How to Set Off a Brown Bag Session in Your Company – In 60 Minutes

First of all: What’s a Brown Bag Session? “A brown-bag seminar, session or lunch is generally a training or information session during a lunch break. The term “brown bag” refers to the packed lunch meals that are either brought along by the attendees or provided by the host.” (Wikipedia) At my current employer it is called Feed Your Brain and at my former employer it was called Pizza Driven Development.

At my current employer I successfully set off a “Brown Bag Session” with minimal effort (60 minutes), so I like to share this experience with everyone who is thinking about setting off a Brown Bag Session at her company but doesn’t know where or how to start.

This is what I did:

1) Find a sponsor – 10 minutes
“Do food” is always good and it is even better if you have a sponsor who is willing to pay for the pizza (or salad or sandwiches or…).
Adequate sponsors for your Brown Bag Session could be HR, CTO or CEO. Those people are interested that company folks get together and learn: Personal development and team building are the magic words. And both can be achieved very low priced with a Brown Bag Session. (The average costs for food for 30 people are about 180 €.)

2) Find a suitable day and room – 5 minutes
Check Outlook (or other tool) to see which convenient room is available over lunch in the next months. Block the room.

3) Find initial speakers – 10 minutes (2 minutes per speaker :))
This maybe the hardest part: Inspire some of your colleagues (you will know who to ask) about the idea of Brown Bag Sessions, offer yourself for the first sessions, ask external friends or ex-colleagues, … If you’re really having problems to fill the speaker slots for the first 3-4 sessions you could even show some TED talks or other conference videos (LKCE, SmashingConf etc.)

4) Inform everyone about the first session – 15 minutes
Depending on your company culture there will be different options how to do this: E-Mail, Intranet, Wiki, Flipchart… Even better a combination of those options.
You should provide at least the following information: What is a Brown Bag Session? Why are we starting this at our company? What is the first session about? Where will it happen (room)? What time? What will be future sessions be about/Who are your speakers? Who to contact if someone is interested to be a speaker in a future session?
Use an easy Google form (or other) to get information with a deadline: Who wants to attend? Who wants which pizza (veggie or non-veggie)?

5) Find a Pizza delivery service (or other) & talk to them – 10 minutes
Exactly. Find it and then talk to them. In my case I stopped by and explained that there would be an easy way for them to earn around 180 € on a weekly basis if they will deliver on time. They liked the idea… 😉
Maybe you even have an in-house canteen or cafeteria? Maybe you have a good reason not to ask them…

6) Order Pizza (or other) – 10 minutes
With the Google Doc (see 4) you know who will attend and who wants which food. Order on time because there is nothing worse than hungry people in front of a speaker. In my case I order already in the late afternoon on the day before the Brown Bag session.

That’s it. Start like this and then inspect & adapt…

Advanced ideas:

  • Think about how to document your “Brown Bag Sessions”:
    We record every Brown Bag Session with a camera and then provide the video plus PDF-presentation in our Wiki. It’s cool to review and there may be people who missed a talk.
  • Ask people what topics they like to hear about:
    Either at the beginning of a session using Post-Its or again via a Google form.
  • Have a shared Brown Bag Session:
    Some people are afraid of or think that they do not have enough to speak about for 1 hour. It is fun to have three different speakers with three different topics in 1 hour. Alternative: Do it like a world cafe with three groups. In that case the initial speaker stays at his table and repeats his talk for three times.

Let me know what you are thinking about Brown Bag Sessions and comment if you’re having trouble to set one off.

Videos from Brown Bag Sessions
Videos from Brown Bag Sessions
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Good Question!

Helpful Questions For Deciding On The New Job

In November I switched jobs. This post features a list of questions I asked myself and the possible new employers before I decided on the new job.

Switching jobs can have different reasons. I was lucky as I decided for myself to switch, so I could take my time to find a new employer and tried not to rush myself. I felt privileged because I didn’t have any difficulties to be invited to job interviews.

Nevertheless, job interviews mirror only a small extract of the working reality: Normally both sides try to represent themselves as glory and shiny as possible. Consequently, it will always be a bet when deciding on a new employer (or a new employee). The whole truth mostly reveals only 6 to 9 months after starting on a new job.

There is nothing much you can do about that.
Accept it, try to ask the right questions and carefully listen to the answers in the job interviews.

The following questions I either asked myself or the possible new employers during the job interviews. Finding the answers helped me with my final decision.

  • How was I treated as a job candidate? (How long was the reaction time on my application?
  • How was I treated before the first, second and last job interview?)
  • How is the company evaluation on kununu.com? What’s the general image of the company?
  • How big is the new challenge?
  • Could the company clearly define the expected job duties?
  • How much Change Agent vs. Project Manager vs. Agile Coach is asked for?
  • Is the company’s vision and mission clear and was it mentioned in the job interview? (Do I like it?)
  • Do I like the company’s product(s)? Do I understand them?
  • How much budget is there for future training?
  • How much fun can I expect?
  • What impression did I get from my future colleagues?
  • Can I get more inside information from ex-staff members? Maybe even the person who formerly executed the job?
  • How authentic was the impression of the company during the job interview?
  • How many leave days?
  • Is there a company pension plan or something comparable?
  • What’s my impression of the company’s building? About the working space? (Also a view of the restrooms can tell a lot…)
  • How much money will I earn?
  • What’s my perspective in this job in 1 or 2 years?
  • What’s the decision when I listening to my heart?

There is one outstanding question I would advise everyone to ask and then do:
Can I work for 1 or 2 days at your company?
The reaction on this question itself should already tell you a lot about the company…

I spent a day at two potential new employers and it helped me a lot with my decision: When spending a day or two with your potential new employer you will notice a lot of things you will never see during a job interviews. The observations help you to find better answers to the questions above…

During the time of the job interviews I also read “Decisive” from the Heath Brothers. They introduce the WRAP process to make better decisions: Widen Your Options, Reality-Test Your Assumptions, Attain Distance Before Deciding, Prepare To Be Wrong.
Definitely a good reading when you are switching jobs… 🙂

Please let me know if you found this post helpful. If you have any remarks or more questions that could help, feel free to leave a comment below.