The ‘Flipped’ meeting
Each leader will develop a style of meeting that works for them and their team. In this short module I will provide you with insight into a model that has worked very successfully for me, called the flipped meeting. These meetings save time, make more impactful discussions possible and are more focussed and useful for the people that attend them. They also have the capacity to draw in opinion from a wider audience without having to include everyone around the table for the actual meeting. Here’s how to hold a flipped meeting.
In most organisations, and especially in schools, our time is very precious. I am sure that none of us like to spend unnecessary time sitting in a meeting room listening to things that you either know already, or you feel are irrelevant to you. To save time in meetings we need to make sure that our conversations are as succinct as possible, and in order to do this we need to remove any superfluous conversation from the actual meeting forum.
As the chair of a meeting, this is best done by providing all attendees with the relevant documents, videos etc. in advance and asking them to watch or read them before they even enter the meeting room. This will ensure that everyone involved arrives, ready to discuss the issues at hand. In doing this you will create a platform that will set the scene for a high quality discussion when you are together. But this is just good practice, as we have already learned in a previous module, not an abnormal strategy. And typically, as you can see in this graphic, normal meetings are a two step process where the information is provided and then discussed. This is a very clear two stage process.
The flipped meeting, however, follows a three step process. The first step is the same, that is the generation of the materials to be discussed. The second step is a period of pre-meeting discussion, and the final stage is the actual meeting.
Flipped meetings allow for much of the content of the meeting, not only to be read or watched in advance, but also to be engaged with to a greater degree by all participants. The idea being that they read the relevant material, watch any relevant videos, but, importantly, provide comments that they have in advance as well. Let’s look at each of the steps individually starting with the content generation.
The meeting chair would be responsible for providing the relevant content to all the participants, in advance of the meeting. This is similar to the expectation in a conventional meeting except that for best effect, electronic means that allow for collaborative working should be used.
The next step is the sharing of the content. The chair should choose who to share the content with. This does not only need to be the people who will attend the final meeting; it can also include other team members who may have a valuable contribution to make but don’t necessarily need to be in the final debate. In this way the breadth of buy-in to any decision making processes can be broadened. For example if you are meeting to decide the way forward on the school sporting programme, you may wish to invite comments from the sports teachers to better understand the requirements for each sport, but it may not be appropriate to have them in on the final discussion where you will be deciding how to integrate the sports fixture list into the wider school calendar.
By allowing participants to comment beforehand you allow for initial challenges and discussions that need to be made, to be dealt with. This will fuel a deeper level of understanding before the meeting so that during the meeting time, conversations are not only properly informed, but they have had a robust level of discussion already, and people have already had time to think through the issues and synthesise them in their own minds.
The third stage is the Content Discussion stage. By the time the relevant people sit down at the table to discuss the issue, there has already been a robust level of discussion on the topic and everyone around the table would have had the time to really think through the issues being discussed. This sets the scene for a debate style meeting in which the team can really dig down deep into the issues at hand, giving them the best chance of coming up with excellent outcomes.
Key advantages of holding flipped meetings as opposed to conventional meetings are:
Firstly, they can often be much shorter as well because there is no need to rehash the basics of the problem to make sure that everyone is on the same page before discussing the issue. When people are already up to date with what is being discussed it makes for focused and interesting discussions which tend to have a higher level of engagement.
Secondly, the chair of the meeting is able to gain a little insight into how the sentiment or direction of the meeting will proceed, just from keeping an eye on the comments that are made beforehand. This can make life easier for them in the actual meeting.
Some examples of where this approach can be used highly effectively are in the flipping of a general meeting agenda. By asking members to have a look at the agenda and contribute their thoughts beforehand, many of the smaller items can be taken care of before the meeting even opens. Another case where they are highly effective is where you may be wanting to implement a new process or system. By getting someone on your team who is championing the new system to give a presentation and asking everyone in the team to watch it in advance, you are already empowering people with knowledge before the discussion even starts.
As Einstein said, “If I’m given an hour to solve a problem, I like to spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” The flipped meeting does just this, but in an organisational context. And as the leader of a team it may take a little time to shift your team’s mindset on to doing this differently, but in the case of flipped meetings it is an easy shift to encourage because there are advantages for everyone.
Point of Reflection
’Flipping’ meetings has several advantages, not least of which is the saving of time. Reflect on the time you spend in meetings and consider where flipping meetings may help you reduce this time.
Personal Development Activity
Meeting Preparation (1 hour)
One of the key elements of a flipped meeting is the establishment of a dynamic Agenda & Minutes document. If your school or organisation makes use of a platform such as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 you should be able to do this relatively easily. If not, you may have to make creative use of traditional Word documents to achieve this task.
The activity is to create a dynamic Agenda & Minutes document that people can contribute to in advance of team meetings. This document should then be shared with all who are involved in the meeting so that they can populate it with their comments and ideas before your next meeting.
Once you’ve created the document and shared it with your colleagues, communicate the purpose behind it and explain how it is to be utilised. Then gather feedback during your meeting as to how well it was received.
Feed back to your online colleagues in the PLC.