Designing meetings to accommodate different learner types

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Someone asked me recently about how meetings professionals can accommodate participants who have various different preferences in how they learn (for example, say your group is composed of visual learners, kinesthetic learners, auditory learners, extroverts, introverts, newbies and regulars, etc.). Do you think you really have to tailor every session to meet all these different learning preferences and needs? After all, at least according to my experience, very few meetings are designed with formats outside the usual lecture (with or without Q&A), panels, and roundtable sessions.

I have some issues with all of these formats as they usually are used: Lecture is too passive to be engaging (unless the speaker is really, really good and knows how to engage the audience using senses other than hearing), Q&As tend to be puffery disguised as questions more often than not, and are too intimidating for many who may have good things to say but are too intimidated to go to the mic. Panels generally are just mini lectures strung together with too-long introductions, not real discussion and interaction even amongst the panel members, much less the audience. Roundtables can, and often are, highjacked by one person who wants to talk about his/her problems/solutions exclusively, have an uneven level of expertise per table (some have plenty to talk about and share, other tables may run out of gas pretty quickly), and exclude learning from the experts people signed up to learn from.

None of these formats is broken, at least I don't think they are. But we do have to rethink how we use them to be more inclusive of different learning needs if we are to continue to use them. How have you tweaked the traditional session formats to be more learner-inclusive? What innovations have you tried that seemed to work for different learner types? Can you accommodate everyone within the same session, or should you have formats friendly to different learner types scattered throughout the program?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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