One of my early articles was Follow the ‘Flipped Classroom’ Model in Business Presentations. The main point was that it was time to flip your business meeting model.

I noted that the norms for teaching and presenting information in the classroom were making a 180-degree about face, and this change had and still has tremendous implications for business leaders. When Generation Z – the Internet generation – entered the workforce, their expectations for business presentations were drastically different from those of previous generations. If you didn’t and don’t change with them, no one is going to pay attention to you anymore.

The Flipped Classroom

Robert Heitmeier, general manager of PolyVision, a teaching and learning technology company, explained to me that the old norm for teaching was the “sage on the stage” delivering lectures and then students working through that thinking as homework.

The old norm for business presenting was “death by PowerPoint,” with a presenter standing in front of a darkened room sharing (or reading slide-by-slide) information. A typical one-hour meeting would be scheduled for 45 minutes of presentation, followed by 15 minutes of questions. Unfortunately, those meetings would typically start five minutes late and the presenter would run 10 minutes over, squeezing out all the questions.

Easy access to video changed the way people teach and learn. In what’s referred to as the “flipped classroom” model, students watch lectures at home before class, and then work through the thinking together in the classroom. This model has and will continue to alter peoples’ expectations of business presentations as well, switching the bias to sharing information before the meeting so that the meeting can focus on meaningful conversation.

The Flipped Business Meeting

People do one of four things in meetings: learn, contribute, decide or waste time. First prize is deciding, followed by contributing based on learning. In the flipped classroom model information sharing can happen outside of the meeting to free time for digesting, debating and applying that information in the meeting, as a group.

Of course, learning is important. It’s just that people learn in different ways. As Heitmeier put it,

When you have to retain the attention of auditory, visual, kinesthetic and tactile learners simultaneously, one way of presenting or teaching is futile. Presenters must learn to embrace these different ways rather than dismiss them.”

Let people absorb information on their own before meetings so you can use meeting time for conversations, contribution and decisions.

Businesses evolve on a continuous basis. We’re all new leaders all the time, continually adapting and adjusting to our evolving world. This change in how we learn is significant. Generation Z grew up with technology right alongside their Sippy cups. This generation is already learning differently in schools and they certainly will not sit still for boring PowerPoint presentations. If you don’t flip the way you communicate with them, you have no chance of connecting and engaging with them.

Current Best Thinking

Here’s the scary thing. That article was written over a decade ago. I could have written it yesterday. Very few of us have flipped the classroom yet. We’re still doing massive presentations covering too many topics with too many slides.

And the world has changed enormously. Technology has leapt forward. Internet access and speeds are up. We all learned to work remotely and by video during the pandemic. There’s no way the majority of people are going to sit still for long boring presentations. Enough is enough! Here’s the prescription:

  1. Pre-reads. Give people things to read in advance of meetings. Include an executive summary that tells them the main points, what to expect in the meeting, and what they’re being asked to do (decide, contribute, learn.) Include a readable, brief write-up or set of slides that elaborate on the main points. Include an appendix with more detailed information for those that want to go deeper.
  2. Meetings. Don’t present – ever. Instead, lead conversations. Highlight the main points just to get the conversations started. Then, let others ask questions to learn, debate and ratchet up the current best thinking to contribute, and make decisions.
  3. Follow-up. Give people any other useful information. Deliver on what you said you’d do. Support others to do what they need to do.