How & Why To Run Brown Bag Sessions (Meetings)

Brown bag sessions

Access the free agenda in Docs | Download all 50 for $47

This is part of our series on meeting agenda templates. You can edit this brown bag session agenda in Google Docs or Word or print it out. 

Meeting Agenda Templates > Team Meeting Agendas > Brown Bag Session Agenda

This is my stance on meetings: most are crap and a waste of time. Some could be done over email (they’re just updates), others are solely for uninformed managers, and others still seem useful but lack any follow-up. 

So if most meetings are, in fact, a waste of time… then what might a good meeting look like?

  1. A meeting is a win if it ends with colleagues knowing or trusting each other better.
  2. A meeting is a win if people have learned something valuable they can use.

There are other uses for meetings, but those two are always a net positive. That’s where brown bag sessions come into play. They hit on #1 and #2, therefore making them useful.

I’ve been part of brown bag sessions at multiple companies (in person and remote), and I’ll share everything I know in the article below.


What is a Brown Bag Session?

Brown Bag Session Meeting

A brown bag session is an informal meeting during a meal, usually at lunchtime (think: brown bag lunches from middle school). Simply put, a group of colleagues talk and eat over a meal they bring, so it’s not a fancy, expensive luncheon.

Here’s what I’d say are the characteristics that distinguish brown bag meetings from other meetings:

  • Informal
  • Voluntary
  • Non-work or open-ended discussions about work
  • Educational


Types of Brown Bag Sessions

If you’re looking for more structure, there are different versions of brown bag meetings you can run.



You could do an educational brown bag meeting a few ways:

  • Guest Speaker/Presentation: Invite a guest speaker to present on a specific topic for anyone to learn from.
  • Structured Discussion: Pick a certain topic for people to share what they know, ask questions, and discuss.


Social (Non-Work)

Simply give people a chance for people to have a meal together. There’s no pressure to discuss work.



Pick a business issue that needs to be fixed or an idea that needs to be discussed, invite people, and facilitate brainstorming over lunch.


Benefits of Brown Bag Sessions

Here are some of the benefits I’ve experienced while using brown bag sessions at multiple companies.

  • Encourages learning: These sessions provide a platform for continuous learning and skill sharing without the need for formal training programs.
  • Builds connections with each other: Informal settings, particularly meals, are a good way to get to know each other.
  • Builds connections to the company/vision: People might learn more about where the company is heading or what it stands for in a session like this.
  • Gather good ideas from people: Lots of good ideas can come out of these informal discussions.
  • Flattens the hierarchy: People at all levels feel like there is a chance to be heard and to discuss with people they typically might not access
  • Inexpensive (free): An expensive, all-team catered lunch might be a big decision. Brown bag sessions won’t need budget approval or justification.


Tips On How To Run A Brown Bag Meeting

As you’ve learned so far in the article, brown bag sessions are informal discussions. They are quite easy to run, so I’ll give you some out-of-the-box ideas for you to consider:

  1. It doesn’t need to be around a meal. You could just schedule an informal meeting on a topic, or you could move a brainstorm outside during nice weather, or you could invite a guest speaker during a happy hour. Food doesn’t need to be included.
  2. It doesn’t need to be a brown bag. If you keep the groups small enough, you could easily go out to lunch and pay for it. People appreciate that. 
  3. Consider a time other than lunch. You might annoy people asking them to use their lunch hour for work. So, consider 10 AM or 4 PM or some other time – with or without snacks.
  4. Don’t force participation. Some people want to come just to listen. Don’t force it by going around the circle for everyone to speak. You’ll turn away some interested people.
  5. Ask for guest speaker ideas. Who you find interesting won’t be the same as other people at your company. Take recommendations on who to invite (or topics to discuss).
  6.  Keep it informal. Do not over-agenda and over-schedule it. The point is to get to know each other better, learn, and come up with ideas freely.

For Remote Teams

  1. Do video meetings. You’ll get to know each other better by adding in some of the body language.
  2. Don’t eat. Eating together over Zoom is kind of disgusting (we tried it). I would say do this type of meeting without the food.
  3. Change the setting (walking meetings, cafes). For a brainstorm, it can be helpful to get outside of your daily workspace. Encourage people to walk during the meeting or go to a cafe.


Simple Brown Bag Session Agenda

Brown bag sessions

Access the free agenda in Docs | Download all 50 for $47

Remember: the format of a brown bag session should be informal and flexible. I don’t think you need an agenda, personally, but if you’d like to provide some structure, here you go:

  • Chit chat (10 min)
    • Scheduled time to chat openly before you start
  • Presentation (20 min)
    • The guest speaker presents
  • Q&A/Interactive Segment (20 min)
    • The audience asks questions
  • Wrap-Up (10 minutes)
    • Summarize the session, ask for feedback, and discuss what might need to happen next

Brown bag sessions offer a unique way for people to get to know each other, learn, and come up with ideas. Simply put, they are one of the few informal styles of meeting. Those should have a place at your company.


Similar Meeting Agendas

Click the links below to access another meeting agenda template.

View the complete meeting agenda template library


Download This (& More) Meeting Agendas

Want to download this meeting agenda in Google Docs or Word?

It’s part of our meeting agenda library that you can download here

Download meeting agenda templates

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *