Read Cindy's bio and previous columns
September 29, 2008
Ban the Lunch and Learn, Please
I’ve done a lot of
things on my lunch hour.
Nearly every single
day, I work through it, so I can pick my kids up as soon as possible and
get them home for dinner and family time. About once every three weeks,
I manage to meet a friend or a former colleague, just to keep up on a
miniscule amount of personal and professional scoop.
But lately, I’ve been
invited to a strangely large number of the dreaded of all noontime
activities: The Lunch and Learn.
Where exactly do I
start when it comes to boycotting this corporate juggernaut, which
requires such devotion to one’s career and such propensity for utter
First, there’s the
name. Old. Tired. If I was invited to just one of these that somebody
dared to call “Eat and Educate” instead, or even “Masticate and Master,”
I’d probably go, just to show my support of their creativity.
Instead, like most
people I know, I “Chew and Do.” Do the grocery shopping. Do the
get-the-gift-for-the-friend’s-daughter’s-birthday-party thing. Do the
stop at daycare. Do the nap in my car. (Only when I was pregnant, I
Second, there’s the
expectations. I once had a client who hosted Lunch ‘n Learns (the ‘n
makes the event so much cooler than the “and” would), and every month,
would wonder why we couldn’t get any journalists to come and sit through
it, and why on earth the media wouldn’t publicize it beforehand.
Of course, the
response, “If you can’t get people there, how do you expect me to get
the media there?” never worked. Instead, I’d find an angle, talk to a
different journalist than last time, and once in every 10 or 12 months,
luck out with a slow news day or a green reporter who actually did want
to learn about off-site network backup programs.
The hosts of every
Lunch and Learn I’ve ever been to always start their speeches out the
same way, with “We’re going to wait a few more minutes for the rest of
the guests to arrive.” One guy trickles in 10 minutes later, but you can
see by the looks on their faces that 10 to who-know-how-many-more were
So, at 12:10 p.m., the
next line is usually something to the effect of:
“Everybody go ahead and
move up to the front. Just one or two more rows. We’ve got more room
than expected (shocker). Don’t be shy. We’re all friends here (awkward
I do prefer the Lunch
and Learns when no icebreaker ensues. After all, one uncomfortable
introduction is enough for me during one lunch hour.
Finally, there’s the
“learning” part. Maybe I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but it
typically takes me longer than an hour to learn something. In college, I
preferred once-a-week night classes, as I found my professors and fellow
students just starting to warm up after the first hour. And actually
learning from each other, fostering dialogue, and problem-solving.
The Lunch and Learn
leaves no room for that. Although at one particularly successful one, I
did learn how to turn on my Blackberry. After that, the instructors lost
me, which I blame on all the pretty graphics and photo-taking features.
Does anyone really,
truly enjoy and find value in the Lunch and Learn? As for me, I’d rather
lunch and lactate, and trust me – that is torture. Often, when I think
back on the many weeks in a row in which I did do that after returning
from maternity leave, it was actually more enjoyable than a Lunch and
So, once corporate
America solves the banking crisis, ends internal presentations and bans
Power Point software, I can only hope that the Lunch and Learn is next
on their list!
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