How do you find speakers for Lunch & Learns?

My organization recently started doing Lunch & Learns, and I’m struggling a bit to find speakers to present topics. Our organization is small (below 50 employees), and I haven’t gotten any volunteers.

Should I approach employees in person and ask they volunteer? If so, how should I approach it (especially since I don’t know which topics people may be most suited for)?

Alternatively, does anyone know any strategies for reaching out to speakers outside the company?

Cheers, and thanks!

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Depending on the type of business you are in and the topics you are looking for, related associations could help. For instance, CPA offers financial literacy sessions for free https://www.cpacanada.ca/en/the-cpa-profession/financial-literacy/financial-literacy-education.

Another idea is to reach out to your senior leaders and see if any of their contacts would be willing to speak - having a list of topics would be helpful.

I would also reach out to your managers and see if anyone has “presentation skills” or presenting on their development plans in any of the teams. This may be an obvious choice for an employee presenting and a good sell for why they should do it.

Hope these help!

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Hi Tamara,

I am a speaker and have done presentations in front of groups from 10-1000. If you are in the Greater Denver area, I would be happy to speak on topics included in my knowledge base. Could you provide me with more information on topics/group size/location? If you are not in the Greater Denver Area, I would suggest that you go on LinkedIn there there are a number of groups dedicated to finding public speakers and knowledge leaders. The prices would range, if you use me, I’d be glad to do it for free as I LOVE to speak publicly and get jazzed from employee interaction.
Take care and good luck,
Kelly Wenzel
817.449.3311
kelly@garkle.com

PS. I also have a background in group building and getting the crowd off their feet during presentations. If you aren’t in the Denver area, I am willing to provide services if my expenses are paid for flying/staying in your area.

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Hi Tamara,
One way could be to approach the problem from the other side and ask the people from who and what they would like to learn. Ask them to suggest topics, inside or outside experts instead of asking them to volunteer. Or you could start it yourself :smiley: and ask them after your talk.

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What is the goal of the series? Is it to improve internal knowledge sharing? Is it to inspire new ideas? Is it for people to learn something new? Is it to increase individuals presentation and storytelling skills? Once you have clarity on the goal, it could lead to some new thoughts on how to meet the goal.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, I can provide you tons of good speaker names on a variety of subjects. Just let me know if that’d be helpful. I know people building their portfolios who will speak for free and others who range in terms of fees. :grinning:

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When I’ve done this in the past in smaller organisations, there were three different approaches:

  1. Ask internal people who I knew would be keen to run a session and had something interesting to say, to pick a topic or two (even better if it’s over a few sessions, to build deeper knowledge)
  2. Ask staff generally what they would like to learn about - but give guidance to help frame things (eg. give examples of technical training - MS Office, whatever your industry is, etc; professional development - public speaking, time management, etc). If you give a complete blank piece of paper, people won’t know where to start
  3. We had a strong culture of knowledge sharing, sharing current events, trends, etc - so for a number of sessions, where the staff group had recently shared a thought article that they read, I reached out to the author and asked them to speak to us. For example - a professor of communication ran a session on what was happening with print media

My suggestion is to get a handful of sessions to act as a “seed” for the program, send that around to everyone, then actively seek further ideas plus staff to sponsor and continue running it. The more organic, the better.

You already have some excellent suggestions. If you want to generate more internal speakers, consider how people will be recognized for their extra effort of presenting a topic. A big shout out from the CEO at the next town hall meeting? Gift card for a coffee break? Also consider who is speaking at external events / conferences / industry networking groups. Ask them to present the same topic at one of the lunch’n’learns. Definitely poll your group to see what topics they would find interesting, then see if leadership can tap someone on the shoulder for each topic.

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We do Lunch and Learns and they are primarily done internally by employees. It’s one of the best ways that we nurture authenticity and an environment of inclusivity. Topics range from personal passions outside of work to experiences that have shaped their lives. Some memorable topics include: adoption from both an adoptive parent and birth mother perspective, a personal journey as a transgender woman, coping with anxiety, depression and panic attacks, and a primer on non-binary gender language. Regardless of the topic, the aim is to learn more about each other and appreciate the experiences that shape each of us.

I agree with “seeding” the program to get it off the ground. We have had success with asking people specifically to share an experience or story, as well as our CEO modeling it and requesting that our leadership team step up and do a Lunch and Learn.

Occasionally, we will invite a vendor or non-profit in to tell us more about the work they are doing.

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This is an awesome initiative- lunch & learns can be a great way to facilitate co-learning, empower our employees, and increase a feeling of camaraderie amongst our teams. One thing that I have found to be helpful is to acknowledge when someone has done a great job - on a project, using a tool, or outside of work! Tell them how valuable it is (whether financially, culturally, etc.) and share how big of a value add this would be for the rest of the organization to learn. I find that more often than not, we all have special talents or skills that we don’t recognize as being special. Thus, we don’t volunteer to share them because we don’t realize how needed they are by others!

Would love to hear about some of the lunch and learns you’ve had and which of these ideas panned out! Please keep us updated @Tamara_Mendelson :slight_smile: