Lunch ‘n’ learns for virtual teams – a dozen ideas

A very common updating and learning tool in law firms, is the lunch n learn, but how can we make virtual lunch n learns more compelling?

I’ve been asking various PSLs, KMers and law firm leaders what they’re doing to help make their lunch n learns more compelling and have gathered a dozen ideas to help you.

  1. Get the basics right – you can’t get everyone superfast fibre broadband, but you can ensure everyone has access to decent laptops, headphones and microphones.
  2. Keep some elements the same as in-person learning (i.e. stick to the same times/days so everyone knows what to expect).
  3. Some elements will need extra thought and emphasis compared to in-person training
    • make sure everyone takes time to switch off from their work and switch on to learning and take a moment to focus on the purpose of the event/their personal learning aims;
    • if lecturing, you might also need to speak more slowly during online training and take more pauses to check understanding as you won’t be able to access body language in the same way;
    • review any slides previously used for in-person training – check images/text will this work for small screens or poor connectivity;
    • consider whether closed captioning be useful.
  4. Know your audience – adapt your delivery strategy depending on the audience and if there are different needs (most commonly partners versus trainees) consider running different sessions.
  5. Set expectations around attendance (easier to do with more frequent, shorter events).
  6. Encourage everyone to speak early on – this can be a “check-in” at the beginning of the session (an “appreciation, apology or aha” session or a discussion of intentions/personal challenges related to the topic).
  7. Improve interactivity – and include interactive elements such as quizzes, polls, encourage use of chat tools or group messaging. Quizzes and polls are useful to support anonymous answers and feedback, which might be important for your audience.
  8. Switch up elements of teaching – try a watch party followed by discussions; vary event lengths/times; think carefully about what needs to be synchronous (all on the same call) and be respectful of people’s out-of-hours time. Asynchronous elements (such as videos or articles) can be consumed at the individuals’ preferred time and perhaps commented on before the synchronous discussion.
  9. Improving the quality of discussions
    • 4-5 people is the ideal number for an interactive discussion.
    • If you need discussions in larger groups, the “2-4-more” strategy can help (running short discussions in groups of 2, then groups of 4, before moving to your larger groups, can help people to settle into discussions).
    • Sometimes the discussion itself is sufficient for learning and trying to capture comments (whether using lengthy plenaries or a padlet to write down responses) can inhibit the discussion.
    • If the discussion has to be captured, consider having some facilitators whose main role is note taking, to produce a mind map of discussions.
    • Consider whether recording a session will inhibit discussions and the relative importance of both.
    • You probably won’t need rules of engagement to ensure that discussions remain polite and inclusive, but keep an eye on this, and remind people that they can private message the organiser if they see something inappropriate.
    • Time spent on improving the quality of networks and trusting relationships between colleagues is never wasted and will help to improve respectful engagement and general knowledge sharing.
  10. Keep attendees engaged and fresh – if people are attending during their lunch hour, consider having more breaks or fun, interactive elements.
  11. Link and embed the learning in practice – ensure that attendees are signposted to relevant precedents and practice notes and encouraged to use new skills and learning as soon as possible.
  12. Keep improving – use feedback forms or encourage informal feedback to keep improving your online practice.

What do you do to make your lunch n learns more compelling? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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About knowledge4lawyers

I am a lawyer and a Knowledge Management expert. Through The Knowledge Business I help law firms improve their efficiency and profitability through knowledge services - consultancy, training and implementation help.
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3 Responses to Lunch ‘n’ learns for virtual teams – a dozen ideas

  1. Ajibade, Tayo says:

    Dear Helene,

    Thanks for sharing these insights. Was there sufficient feedback on the length of time a lunch and learn should run?

    Typically in my experience they have been either 45 mins or 1.5 hours. Not one hour.

    Many thanks.


    Tayo Ajibade
    Knowledge and Information Officer


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    • Hi Tayo, great question.

      Generally the people that I spoke to were running sessions which fitted inside a lunchtime, which probably translates to 45 mins of focused learning out of the hour-long lunchbreak.

      This could be more related to tradition than by design, as it can be hard to get anyone in a law firm to give up much more than an hour of their time, although personally, my own experience is that virtual learning events which last more than 1 hour need significantly more planning to avoid learner-fatigue (changes of pace, media, quizzes, discussions and need to include informal breaks).

      What’s your experience of the longer sessions?

  2. Pingback: Lunch n learns for virtual teams: a dozen ideas - LAW CONSULTANCY NETWORK

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