Boy, virtual events have certainly given us a challenge this year, not to mention finding lunch and learn topics during a pandemic.
Not only can it be hard to engage people with multiple distractions in their households but we’ve also had to listen to people complaining about paying for virtual events.
But regardless of the medium by which we conduct the exchange, the content should always be more valuable than the drink ticket or the appetizer.
It’s just been a challenge to get people to realize this.
Part of hosting a good event is having content that people connect with. This is absolutely essential to lunch ‘n learn topics, which used to be focused around hearing valuable information … over a shared meal.
Whether you charged for that meal or not, even when the content was the value, what people saw–and what was in the title–was the “lunch.” It superseded the “learn.”
Now that many of us are no longer hosting in person events, how do you get people excited about “Lunch N Learn” topics without the lunch? It all begins with marketing.
Then we’ll talk about content.
Marketing Without Lunch
Before we get into some strong Lunch and Learn topics, let’s address how you’re marketing these virtual events.
Rebranding: Is It Just Lunch?
First, you need to decide if they will remain “Lunch and Learns” and be relegated to the lunch hour (or two) or be rebranded under a different name and assume the freedom to occur at any time of day.
Some chambers are rebranding under an educational series type of title for more flexibility and recognition of the value of the content. When you lead with a title like “Lunch and Learn,” you are placing the meal ahead of the content. This means that a virtual event with no shared meal is less appealing even though the chamber may not have been providing lunch in the first place.
Lunch and Learn Formats
As mentioned, if you change the event name, you have more flexibility in the event timing.
You can also be flexible about the format you use. While most Lunch and Learns tend to be a single presenter with a slide deck, you can create a panel discussion of subject matter experts or create an attendee exchange of best practices on a designated topic.
You can also bring in a subject matter expert and have a “pick the presenter’s brain” session where attendees can ask whatever question they’d like on the topic.
Once you decide a format (and you can select a different format each time based on the topic and the format that fits it best), you need to think about marketing the session.
What’s In It For Them? Writing a Great Marketing Description
When marketing your Lunch and Learn (or rebranded educational series), you must be very clear about what your audience will learn and how they will benefit. Often times, a chamber will book a member speaker who gives a lot of thought to their presentation and not so much thought to how they will market the presentation. The presenter usually slaps a presentation description together at the chamber’s request.
What the chamber receives as a description of the presentation is frequently not appealing to members. That’s not to say the presentation won’t be appealing. There’s a reason you asked the presenter to speak but how well do they communicate that idea to your membership?
Knowing the material and understanding marketing/copywriting are two different skill sets.
Plus, no one knows your members like you do. You know what challenges they have and what they need to learn. That’s likely why you lined up their speaker/topic to begin with.
Take what the presenter has given you as a description of their presentation and customize it to your members’ needs.
A good formula for crafting a presentation description is:
- State the agreed-upon problem
- Tell why it’s a problem/challenge
- List things the attendee will learn
- Present solution that will occur if the member attends and puts learning into action
- Restate the desired effect/solution
- Add a call to action with the fear of missing out or a time sensitive message
A “Lunch and Learn” description should look something like this at its most basic level (obviously you can add more exciting language but here’s a skeleton based on the above formula). The numbers correlate to the description above.
(1) Most businesses want more revenue but (2) it can be difficult to grow your customer base during COVID. However, it doesn’t have to be. There are several low-cost tips that can help you make this your best year yet. In our Tuesday Lunch and Learn, Joe Smith from Joe Smith Marketing will go over his easy sales tactics to:
- (3) get more customers in minutes a day
- become a social media powerhouse with tons of engaged followers
- turn your audience into a referral machine in less than a month
(4) Using Joe’s practices most businesses see a 10% increase in engaged followers in the first month. (5) If you want more customers, you can’t afford to miss this special webinar. (6) Seats are limited so reserve your spot today.
Once you write the description, be sure you share it on every piece of real estate you have. Create a checklist to ensure you don’t miss one. The most common places you’ll likely want to share it are:
- social media profiles (share it as the chamber and ask staff, ambassadors, board, etc. to share it as well)
- chamber newsletter
- community pages or calendars
- chamber calendar
- chamber webpage
- email blasts
The best marketing in the world won’t help you “sell” tickets to a Lunch and Learn on a topic that no one is interested in.
That’s why it’s important to use topics that get to the bottom of what your audience wants to learn and what they’d have difficulty learning on their own. If they can watch a 3-minute video and become a master of the topic, it’s likely not a good idea for your Lunch and Learn.
25 Engaging Lunch and Learn Topics (Even When There’s No Lunch)
- Q&A with city leader or local captain of industry.
- Favorite apps or productivity tools.
- Virtual leadership book club.
- TEDx format presentations (create a call for applicants and give them a board topic like “innovation” or “overcoming challenges”).
- Dealing with adversity and overcoming it.
- Diversity and inclusion (this topic is best suited to conversations, not just a one-way dissemination of information through a presentation)
- Legislative update on bill or ballot issues that affect business. (This can be a dry subject for most so it’s essential in your marketing to ensure businesses know exactly how this could affect them and what they could gain or lose.)
- The importance of getting enough sleep and how you can do it when your schedule already feels suffocating.
- Maintaining your health when you work from home.
- Home office audit: is it working for you? or how to be more productive there.
- Developing leadership (or networking) skills.
- Surviving (or adapting to) change.
- Creating a more agile environment.
- Managing time and meeting deadlines when there is no work/life balance.
- How to manage a young family and a career.
- Finding the time to “do” social media.
- Overcoming career (or industry) burnout.
- Improving creativity. Make sure you give reasons that a business would benefit from this even in a traditionally “non-creative” industry.
- Understanding whether your social media efforts are working. This subject would go over analytics for those who hate analytics.
- Learning to talk about your business without boring other people. This is an interactive session where attendees would come out feeling confident and comfortable to talk about the services they offer without sounding salesy.
- Email etiquette for the new grad (or other demographic).
- Conflict management topics such as dealing with difficult clients or coworkers.
- How to fire a client or only do business with people who are a good fit.
- Home office organization on a shoestring budget.
- Selling on Amazon, eBay, Marketplace, etc. If you can’t beat them, join them.
It may also be a great idea to open up a conversation with your members as to what they want to learn next. Their suggestions may surprise you.
Continue the Conversation
A way to make your Lunch and Learns more valuable is to create a space where interested parties can continue the conversation after the event. This may not be necessary for every topic but some naturally invite additional comments and conversation. If that is the case with your topic, give people a spot to have those conversations through a Facebook group or social media post thread.
While Lunch and Learn topics may need to have changed over this past year, they are still a valuable part of what the chamber can do for members. With a little work on marketing and selecting the most valuable topics, you can convince people to join you even if you’re not sharing a meal in the same room.