Role Play Prompt Patisserie, or, The Art of Learning with Your Food

Posted by Alana Kadden Ballon on Sep 19, 2014

90056835I hate working lunches. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy typing one handed while scarfing down a salad at my desk, but when I’m planning a training program with a client and they suggest that we “work through lunch,” I cringe. I like to let my mind wander during lunch. I like to surf the internet, walk around the block or, if I’m facilitating a program, get to know some of the training participants.

And it’s not just me – everyone needs a break. Our minds need a chance to press pause, to shift their focus and to do something different. Culturally, outside of the U.S., a working lunch is not acceptable. Eating is considered a crucial time to pause and take a break. Worse yet, working while eating may cause us to overeat because we aren’t paying attention to our food.

But, clients want to fit it all in. So how do I make everyone happy? My solution is to play with food. It’s an easy way to make people laugh and prompt a serious discussion.

Here are a few ways you can keep the learning going through lunchtime:

  1. Progressive table talk. Select key topics you want to cover during lunch. This is great for breakouts, where participants can select which topics they are interested in. Assign table hosts for each topic who will facilitate a discussion and make key points. Each course is 20 minutes and participants choose a new table for salad, entrees and dessert. Similarly, you can use the World Cafe exercise.
  2. It’s a Wrap. Prepare/order boxed lunches, create pairs of cards that connect to your topic. When participants open their boxes, they need to find the person (or people) with the card that matches theirs.  For example, if the cards are printed with the names of your competitors, ask participants to talk about how they position against that competitor, case studies they utilize, and what traps to watch out for.
  3. Custom Fortune Cookies. Want to start a discussion without any instructions? Drop off a few fortune cookies on each table, custom-filled with different statements or questions. Participants will open them up and start talking about their “fortunes.”
  4. Takeaway Cake. Help your participants really digest a few key points. Have a cake iced with the points you want to make. Invite the participants over for a discussion, then enjoy!
  5. Monopoly, without McDonalds. McDonalds is famous for having cups with monopoly pieces that peel off the cups with the potential to win big prizes! You can order similar promotional materials and print them with questions, contests or steps in a process. For one client, whose methodology was involved, participants had steps printed on their cups and had to put the steps in order before time was up!
  6. Cocktail napkins. It’s happy hour and you still want more? Print an executive caricature and tips from that exec on napkins for reps to pick up while they are drinking. If you number them, reps will surely try and collect them all.