Flip your meetings


American business people attend 11,000,000 business meetings every day and half of it’s a waste of time.

Knowledge workers spend three hours a day in meetings. Senior executives spend more. Four out of five of us have brought other work to do during a meeting. One in ten of us admits to daydreaming. Four in ten have fallen asleep. What a waste.

Bringing people together face-to-face is a catalyst for innovation, collegiality, and rewarding conversations. Collaboration has its intrinsic rewards. It is sinful to waste this time together aimlessly or passively listening to presentations.

Over the course of a career, you will attend tens of thousands of meetings. It adds up to years of meetings. They could be great or they could be horrible. The choice is yours.

You can re-jigger your meetings to make them relevant, challenging, and fun by adopting an approach that is revolutionizing secondary school learning.

It’s called Flipping the Meeting. Flipped meetings focus people’s face-to-face time on working with one another to solve problems. You prepare in advance at your own pace with resources framing the business issue. When people convene, they spend their time collaborating to solve a problem. Conversations cross-fertilize ideas and fuel learning. In the flipped meeting, you focus on making the decision before the bell goes off.

Two teachers pioneered the philosophy of flip starting back in 2007. Students read their homework before class and use the classroom for discussion, not presentation. Grades go up, as does retention. Millions of students have signed up for flipped instruction through The Khan Academy. This is the same philosophy that underlies the Flipped Meeting. Be prepared to be inspired and listen to the founders of the flip:

How to Conduct a Flipped Meeting 

Provide the content and purpose beforehand, use face-to-face time for interactive problem-solving. It flippin’ works. Your flipped meetings will be characterized by::

  • Faster decisions
  • Better allocation of time
  • Action-oriented
  • More engagement
  • Innovative thinking
  • Shorter meetings

Tell your colleagues you want to experiment with a way to save time and improve performance in company meetings. Tell them about Flipped Meetings. Point them to this post. Get folks to agree to experiment for a few rounds. You can do it. It’s not rocket science.

Before the meeting

At least 24 hours in advance, tell participants what problem the meeting is expected to solve. Provide links to relevant documents and reference materials.

Make the problem a specific task, e.g. “create a plan to cut costs 20%” or “design new assessment strategy.” Here’s a sample invitation.

This simple step of sending background material in advance addresses the most frequent complaint lodged against traditional meetings: We don’t know the purpose of this meeting.

By the way, Amazon has banned PowerPoint as a way to explain the nature of the problem.

During the meeting

Facilitator encourages interaction and progression to solving the problem.

Don’t spend time talking about ideas or initiatives you know you won’t take action on.

Good practices:

  • Appoint a recorder.
  • Collaboration rules. Perhaps sit in a circle — or stand up!
  • Diversity is good. Encourage it.
  • Use Twitter as a backchannel for communications.
  • Solve the problem before departing.
  • Leave as soon as the problem is solved.
  • Final 30 seconds: How was this session? Would you recommend it to a colleague?

After the meeting

Share recorder’s notes and all notes, drawings, PostIt notes, and artifacts from the session.

Ask yourself, was this meeting worthwhile? Could we have accomplished our work in half the time? Overall, could we benefit from more 15-minute meetings? Half-hour sessions?

Why not experiment? Flip some meetings. It will improve your quality of life.


Research sponsored by Litmos.