How to Create a Learning Smorgasbord

LearningParticipant profiles for an upcoming meeting, conference, or training and development program reveal:

  • there is a wide range of learning styles represented in the group.


  • the group's demographic profile indicates a wide spread in age groups or other key demographics

What's an event or meeting planner to do?

A highly effective approach for catering to diverse learning styles is the learning smorgasbord. The term learning smorgasbord was first coined by Dave Meier of the Center for Accelerated Learning in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Similar to a buffet that serves up variety for dining guests, a learning smorgasbord gives learners choices and options. To structure the learning smorgasbord, use a model like the HBDI discussed previously on the Cvent Event Blog; then, color code the exercises to make it easy for participants to identify the learning activities that fit their preferred learning styles. 

Now, set up the learning smorgasbord as follows:

  • Buffet tables in the main meeting room: Literally set up tables like a buffet table but, instead of putting out dishes, set out various exercises and learning activities.
  • Breakout rooms: Off the main meeting room, organize the material for the various exercises in breakout rooms with signage identifying the earning style to which you are catering; e.g., breakout rooms for kinesthetic learners can have music and tactile objects on the table. Rooms for visual learners should have colorful posters, engaging peripherals and tables with colorful learning aids and handouts. Rooms for analytical and structured learners can be quiet, without music, tactile objects or peripherals.)
  • Cracker barrel style set-up: Organize learning material for the various learning styles at breakout tables in the same room. (Similar to family style service for a dinner, where dishes are placed in the center of the table.
  • Serve as you go: Picture a dinner served by waiters. Pre-seat participants at tables based on learning styles and distribute the handouts or ask participants to download them using an app. when they are needed.
  • Set out the supplies. Participants will need including markers, Post-its, masking tape, and flip charts.

Tailor the set-up for group exercises based on learning styles. Preview the exercises and give attendees time to move to the table or room that appeals to them. A menu format integrated into the agenda can be a helpful for previews.

Stay tuned for part 2. Next week, we will discuss how to adapt facilitation for a learning smorgasbord.

For more tips, also read  Conference and Team Building Tips: Catering to Diverse Learning Styles.

Photo Credit: Robert Dennison

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