How to host a brown-bag session
Brown bag sessions are traditionally held over a shared lunch hour and participants are encouraged to bring their own lunch. You may want to incentivize participation by asking your bosses to let you order pizza or dessert or even just try bringing candy. Remember journalists will eat that week-old corner slice of birthday cake leftover in the breakroom: the bar here is pretty low.
- That being said, you should ask around and make sure your order is inclusive of folks’ food restrictions and preferences. Some common dietary preferences or restrictions include gluten-free, vegetarian and/or vegan, pork-free, nut-free and dairy-free (obviously not a comprehensive list, but these are some common ones to check for).
There are several ways you can decide your topic for your brown bag lunch session. You may want to simply give a more public version of the memo you wrote for your leadership team: reviewing the top themes and takeaways then sharing your suggestions. You may want to do a deeper dive on a narrow topic. You may want to team up with others who attended the same event and do a quick round of 5-minute Lightning-style talks.
- Try to think in terms of goals for your colleagues: should they be trying a new skill immediately? Should they be ready to collaborate with a new team? Should they be ready to change their workflow over the coming weeks?
Consider who you are targeting with this session: is this meant to be a summary of what you learned with everyone across the newsroom in mind? Is it meant to help two teams better work together on projects moving forward? Is it meant to share story ideas with editors and reporters?
Create an agenda for your session and send it out at least 1 week in advance. Send an email or Slack reminder 1 day before your session and about 30 minutes before. This helps people plan and see in advance what they might miss if they skip your session!
- Also be very clear with folks about whether lunch will be provided or whether they are expected/invited to bring their own. (It’s a little chaotic when there is confusion over this! You don’t want to distract from the message and takeaways from your session)
Decide how you want to make the session available to folks who are not in the office that day or who get deterred at the last minute by breaking news: will you record the session? send your slides and handouts around after via email? Can remote staff dial in to hear and see your screenshare? Will there be a repeat session later in the day or week for the night and weekend teams?
Remember to book a conference room and set the reservation for 15 minutes before your session is going to start (11:45 for a 12 meeting, etc) if at all possible. This will give you the opportunity to get set up if you are bringing in food, test your slides or visuals, etc. If you can’t get that 15 minute window, find another time to test your AV needs. Basically do anything you can to avoid losing 5-10 minutes of your actual session time to finding a dongle or figuring out how to get your slides on screen.
Make handouts (see the next section of this guide for more tips!) and have them printed. If you’re trying to save the planet, just email the handouts or slides around to your team at the start of your session.
Follow up immediately after your session. Make your materials available via email, Slack, and any shared drives like Dropbox or Google. Make sure your materials are available to the night shift, the weekend team, and any remote folks.
This resource is part of the OpenNews After Party toolkit, developed by Emma Carew Grovum. It’s meant to help you get the most out of SRCCON—or any journalism event—and share what you learn with your own organization. The toolkit is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0, and we’d love to see you use or adapt it for your own event—all we need is a link back here.
We’d also be thrilled to hear how you put what you learn into practice, so please tweet us at #OpenNewsAfterParty, or if you have any questions, let us know!