Difficult Situations or People

All things are difficult before they are easy.
Thomas Fuller

Whenever you host a lunch and learn, you will have to deal with people. Most of the people you encounter will be pleasant. There is a small percentage, however, who will make your job difficult. It is imperative that you learn how to handle difficult situations or people before you encounter them. Being prepared for the worst will enable you to give the best presentation possible.

Disruptions are annoying. They take valuable time away for presenting information, and they cause everyone to lose focus. It is important to understand that most disruptions are not deliberate attempts at sabotage. So, remember to stay calm and be polite when handling disruptive behavior. Being polite does not mean ignoring poor behavior; you must address the disruption immediately or you risk the entire session unraveling.

How to Handle Disruptions:
Most distractions can be prevented with your ground rules and using the parking lot. It may be necessary to take remind students of these guidelines during the presentation.

You may assign tasks to participants who seem to need extra attention. Tasks may include keeping time, taking notes, monitoring the parking lot, etc.In extreme cases, you may need to confront someone directly. Try to address the person away from the group.If a participant is unstable or dangerous, do not hesitate to call security.

Food Issues
Food can be disruptive, but many of these disruptions can be preventing by completing your prep work. Many office buildings and offsite locations have food policies, which you should consult before making any decisions regarding food. Even if the location does not have food policies in place, it is a good idea to consult the participants about common food issues.

Common Issues:

  • Smell
  • Mess
  • Allergies

Allergies are always a concern, particularly when people are eating in a confined space. Additionally, smell is exacerbated by enclosed spaces, and some foods are more likely to cause messes than others. Determining the menu based on a dialogue with participants will diminish food issues and help the event run smoothly.

Senior Management Buy in
The buy in of senior management is useful in any business endeavor. The same rule is true of lunch and learns. When senior management is involved, the participants see the event as credible. This will limit the number of difficult students who attend and your lunch and learns and draw the truly motivated.

Ways to Create Buy in

  • Make the need for change apparent.
  • Show the value of the lunch and learn.
  • Provide a detailed vision.
  • Be willing to be flexible in the implementation.

Do not underestimate the importance of management buy in. It will trickle down to employee buy in and improve your lunch and learn.

People Not Participating?
Everyone who presents at lunch and learns will face the dilemma of participants who do not participate. Lunch and learns without participation are awkward and boring. Engaging participants will improve the chances of participation.

There are a few ways to liven the meeting and improve participation.

  • Be Interesting: Make the topic, visuals, and delivery as interesting as possible. A monotone drone of technical jargon will not generate interest or participation.
  • Create the environment: The set up can affect participation. Setting up the room so that people face each other is an incentive for participation.
  • External incentives:  Provide incentives to people who participate. Consider handing out candy or other prizes such as coupons or gift cards.

Case Study


Oliver was disappointed after his first lunch and learn. Many of the participants did not seem to have any interest in the topic at all. One person told him that the company strongly recommends taking these classes occasionally, but management never follows up. The attitude in the room was that the lunch and learns never change anything. During the presentation, no one participated. He even saw people playing games on their phones while he was talking. Oliver considered never hosting a lunch and learn again.