Knowledge-sharing events

One of the ways that knowledge managers encourage knowledge-sharing is through small gatherings of people. These might be advertised as ‘lunch and learn’ or ‘brown bag sessions’.

Speakers can be other members of the team who share their experience, people from other teams or external speakers.


Plan a programme up to 6 months ahead. This gives you an opportunity to create themes and to invite a variety of speakers.

Make sure the speaker understands what will be of relevance to the audience and the organisation, as well as what’s in it for themselves. Both parties should gain from participating. It can be as simple as raising a profile, making connections or influencing a whole set of people.


Some of the audience attending knowledge-sharing events like them to be scheduled at the same time every week in the same location. This offers certainty. While I understand that this might be desirable, I am not wedded to this idea. I see that as a constraint that can stop some speakers if they are unable to fit into a rigid timetable.

Always send out invitations or advertise the event at least 1-2 weeks in advance. This gets it in to people’s calendar.

Eventbrite is ideal for making bookings.


I encourage the speaker to share their experience and speak from the heart.

I ask that talks are limited to 40 minutes. If you follow the TED talks model, then this would be even shorter – 18 minutes. All talks should allow time for questions and answers and conversation. Not everyone buys a time constraint, however.

I discourage the use of electronic presentations, such as PowerPoint, unless it adds a different dimension, such as a video. You do not want to risk technical failure.

I once attended a talk by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, which was held in a large and impressive historic room. He had brought his Apple Mac along on so he could link to the internet to illustrate his talk. 15 minutes in to the talk, the technology failed completely as the room had a poor broadband connection. Luckily, he was a good raconteur and he completed his talk without the aid of technology. One of the drawbacks was that the audience missed some cool links he wanted to share. The other was the host organisation’s reputation took a beating.

A conversation starter

I like to start a presentation by asking people in the audience to take a couple of minutes to introduce themselves to their neighbour or to find someone they have never talked to before. This raises the energy in the room instantly and makes most people more ready to listen attentively to the presenter.

I also request the presenter to encourage conversation amongst the audience at points throughout the event. You may find the audience is well-informed, able to provide unexpected insights to the presenter. This is a good place to make connections, so make the session come alive and be memorable.

Knowledge Cafe

The knowledge cafe is a great way to get people talking and sharing. I have met a wide range of people at these events, learned from them, shared my own experience, and found them to be much more engaging than sitting in a traditional-style lecture being talked to for 40 minutes.

David Gurteen travels the world promoting the knowledge cafe. To learn more, see his website to learn more about this concept:


It is useful to find out what people learned from an event. From a knowledge management point of view, liking or disliking the presentation is not so important. What is important is to understand what they took away with them. Will they do anything different as a result? Have they learned something new that they can use? Have they met someone new?

I recommend using SurveyMonkey when seeking feedback.

More about what works:

What is knowledge management?