How to Run a Learning Smorgasbord

handoutsWe've previously discussed several options for learning smorgasbord formats and how to set up a learning smorgasbord. Some facilitators and speakers have never used this innovative format for catering to diverse learning strategies so here is a simple way to explain how it works. We'll also offer some examples of the variety of instructional methods that can be integrated into learning smorgasbord.

Just as a meal has 4 courses (e.g. appetizer, salad, main course, dessert), effective learning requires:

  • Preparation: To get learners energized and ready for learning
  • Presentation: To convey concepts, ideas and information
  • Practice: To ensure skill mastery
  • Performance: To apply learning and transfer it to the work environment

Rapid Instructional Design

Center For Accelerated Learning

Sticking with the dining analogy, some people love spicy food. Others have a  more conservative palette. I like to think of seasoning as a metaphor for the degree of creativity in learning. Some individuals are strictly meat and potatoes. Others go for healthy vegetarian options. There are already many examples of dishes that give individuals an opportunity to "season to taste" and customize to fit their palettes (e.g. pizza, hamburgers, salad bars). So, let's apply the same idea to learning.

Just as buffets offer a range of dishes for each course of a meal, for learning smorgasbords, facilitators can give participants options at every stage of the learning cycle. Here are some examples of how this can work for each phase of learning.

Don't feel pressured to create all of the content yourself. Engage attendees through interactive"Write your own" exercises. It's an ideal learning method to to ensure that content is laser beam focused on what is relevant to attendees. Save this participant generated content for further sessions.


Before presenting new concepts, give participants and opportunity to work in pairs or trios options can include:

  • Analytical: Write your own case study exercise to identify specific situations that are relevant to the challenges they face at work.
  • Structured: Write your own role-play exercise
  • Visual: A short film or an exercise that involves flip charting or identifying issues of concern with post-it notes.
  • Kinesthetic: A short card game

Part of preparing the learner involves preparing them for new approaches to learning. Don't just dive in. Take the time to explain why a new approach is being used and describe how it will work.


The word presentation usually makes one think of PowerPoint and a presenter at the front of the room but there are other options. For sure use presentations but keep them brief followed by a method that gives participants an opportunity to dig deeper based on their learning style.

  • Analytical: Quiet reading and reflection or a short research project to identify learning concepts. Internet based exercises will appeal to analytical learners.
  • Structured: Exercise that involved computing
  • Visual: Infographic
  • Kinesthetic: Board game.


This phase involves practice exercises and review and re-cap. 

  • Analytical: Create a summary or job aid to be shared with all participants. App driven games.
  • Structured: Develop solutions for the cases developed by the analytical learners during Preparation.
  • Visual: Develop a storyboard to summarize the concepts that have been presented.
  • Kinesthetic: Role-play using the role-play scenarios created by the structured learners during the Preparation phase. 


There are many ways to apply learning to the job and demonstrate skill mastery.

  • Analytical: Present the summary of key learning concepts.
  • Structured: Share the solutions to the case studies.
  • Visual: Prepare a wall poster to be posted in the office with highlights of the training session.
  • Kinesthetic: Use a game show to demonstrate knowledge acquisition or demonstrate a new skill to show skill mastery.

For more ideas that work well with learning smorgasbords,  also read  Conference and Team Building Tips: Catering to Diverse Learning Styles 10 Active Learning Methods to Retain Short Attention Spans, 12 Attendee Engagement Tips, and 8 Ways to Use Cracker Barrel Sessions.

Photo Credit: Rhona-Mae Acra

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