Applying The Fisch Flip To Your Conference Model

Image by Zach Dischner

Have you heard about the Fisch Flip or Flip-Thinking?

Dan Pink wrote about Flip Thinking and how some people are reversing the usual sequence of things.

Pink talks about Karl Fisch, a 20-year educator who has decided to flip the standard high-school math class. Fisch puts all of his lectures on YouTube and assigns them as homework to his students. When they come to class, he facilitates activities, exercises, questions and discussion. Instead of the lecture occurring in class and the students then having to do homework alone, he’s flipped the model. Now his students can pause his lectures, replay portions that don’t make sense and view it as many times as they want. In class, he can help students with activities and they are there to help each other. The focus in class is on doing something instead of passively listening. They are practicing in class what they viewed in his lectures.

Fisch has clearly flipped the old classroom model. And if you’re like me, you may have said, “Well, duh! That makes a lot of sense.”

“…That’s the power of flipping. It melts calcified thinking and leads to solutions that are simple to envision and to implement,” says Pink.

Business Flips To Success

Publishing Industry

Some in the publishing industry have flipped the traditional model. Instead of waiting for the hardcover to be published, authors have made eBooks available online. Or they’ve allowed soft cover print on demand.

HR Department Going Away Parties

Some companies have flipped the traditional last day at work party. Instead of holding a party on the last day of employment before the employee moves on to another job, the company holds a welcome party on the first day of employment.

Restaurant Flips

In Dallas, one restaurateur flipped the traditional restaurant experience. Instead of opening a restaurant for six or seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, he and his business partners opened only one night a week for 49 weeks. They rented a temporary space that was going to be demolished and rotated local chefs each night that the restaurant was open. They only needed the space one night a week. Seating was family-style and reservations were required. 100% of the profits were given to local charities too. The pop-up style restaurant was a huge success and the owners have since moved on to their next endeavor.

Flipping The Standard Conference Education Model

What if conference organizers and event professionals flipped the standard lecture presentation? What if the lecture was put online for people to view before the conference? People could then attend the session onsite and participate with the presenter and others in activities that helped them solidify concepts and ideas. They could engage in roundtable discussions with one another on what did and didn’t work.

The same model could be used with Webinars. Conference presenters could deliver their foundation content in a Webinar. Attendees could view it at their leisure, apply concepts in real time at work and then bring questions, best practices and concerns to the conference.

This could have great ROI for learning and retention from your conference or event. I think it has great promise.

How would your conference attendees adapt to flipping the conference education lecture presentation on YouTube and the onsite experience being interactive? What other conference processes, models or methods could be flipped today?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. Deirdre Reid says:

    I’d want to go to a flipped conference. It would require more discipline and time on the part of the attendee to watch the videos ahead of time, and that could be tough in an association job, but it would be a much better experience.

  2. Adrian Segar says:

    Jeff, I loved the original Fisch Flip when I first heard about it (in the original classroom learning context).

    And this post made me realize that what I do at Conferences That Work is the flipped classroom piece. Except that it’s not focused around pre-shared content but, instead, around participants’ existing experience and expertise.

    Makes me start to think about asking participants to share before the conference interesting things they’ve done or learned, for discussion at the event.

    Hmmm, interesting idea. Thanks for sparking it!

  3. Gina Sutherland, CMP says:

    We did something similar (modified flip?) with this year’s CalSAE Insights program for association executive directors. It wasn’t an advance lecture, but faciliator Cynthia D’Amour provided participants with five experiences (YouTube videos, blog entries)to view in preparation for the program. The experiences were woven into the programs’s discussion and activities.

    As Deirdre mentioned, time and discipline on the part of the participants was a challenge. Those who did their “homework” had a deeper, more meaningful experience. And some of those who didn’t do the homework in advance hopped online during breaks to see what they were missing.

    I love the concept of flip thinking…and your post is awesome brain food for our speakers and Professional Development Committee. Thank you!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for bringing to the light the challenge of the conference participant allocating time to watch the videos before arriving. It would definitely need some attention and thought about an implementation and engagement plan for sure. Great point.

      Great comment. I think your point about needing to have an established prior knowledge is important. It’s actually one of the ways the brain learns. If people don’t have experience, expertise or prior knowledge about what is being discussed or shared, they will be limited on their engagement in an activity. The brain is always connecting new information to past information, patterns and experiences. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      That’s a great example of a (modifed) flip! Cynthia is a pro and her presentation strategy for your event is right on target. Kudos to you, your team and Cynthia for being willing to step out of the box and try something new. And thaks for sharing that example with readers so more of them might try it. Love it.

  4. Loosely related to our AV world, but made me think about how we’re steadily increasing the idea of simply flipping our projection screens to force people to STOP using bullet-point PowerPoint templates.

    Let the true visuals begin!!

    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I love that idea. Flipping the projection screens from horizontal to vertical to force people to create a new type of visual for the audience. Great addition!

  5. Dale Shuter says:


    Love this idea. It really has me thinking – and early on a Monday morning that is saying a lot. We have been doing an Open Forum with our staff engineers at our annual and a pre-convention webinar would be perfect for this situation. Thanks!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Nothing like getting the juices flowing early in the week!;) Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. ‘@Gina – Thanks for mentioning the pre-work for the CalSAE Insights program I facilitated. @Jeff makes a great point in giving kudos to you (and Shelly Alcorn) for being willing to try something different.

    Planners who are willing to embrace a creative approach help create cool memories for their participants.

    When trying something new, it’s also important to step back and review the entire experience to see how it fits with the big picture – and how you can reinforce the celebration of doing something that’s not how you’ve always done it. Creating a safe space for new experiences goes far.

    @Jeff – thanks for the kind words.

  7. Lindy Dreyer says:

    You had me at Fisch. I feel a wave of experimentation coming on. Thank you, Jeff.

  8. Lewis Eisen says:

    I’ve always preferred “flipped” meetings. The reports are sent to attendees ahead of the meeting, so the time could be spent asking questions.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I’m with you! I like flipped meetings too. Use the face time for the important stuff. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. It’s a great approach that merits more experimentation. That said, it seems its maximum benefit comes when the two times/formats are completely flipped.

    We’ve done pre-work before conferences for years, so I’m not sure just using new technologies for that work is really a flip. I think going beyond those types of efforts may be where the real magic is.

  10. […] am not the first one to ponder this, here is the same question from a conference planning blog (published in September 2010)- or a dude offering consulting (buy the book! hire me to flip your […]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *