How to Have an Effective Walking Meeting

How to Have an Effective Walking Meeting
Walking Meeting
Walking Meeting

Are you exhausted from back-to-back video calls? While I value video conferencing, sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day on video calls is draining me. Not all calls need to be on video. And, not all calls need to be made from my home office either. I’ve just discovered the value of a walking meeting. Today, two of my meetings were walking meetings and it was so refreshing and energizing.

This may be obvious to some people, but I just stumbled upon this idea.  First, I had a call with a colleague this morning at 9:00 and he wanted to brainstorm some ideas. I wanted to squeeze in a walk this morning and still needed to shower and primp for a video call at 11:00. So, combining the call with my walk seemed like a great way to kill two birds with one stone.  Later that morning, another colleague texted me and suggested we swap our 4:00 pm Zoom call for a walking meeting. I told her I was in! Two walks in one day got me excited because I exceeded my exercise goal on my new Apple Watch.  😊 

Since that experience, I try to have at least one walking meeting a day. I even encouraged someone I was coaching last week to walk during our call because she was so exhausted from working in her home office. On that call, I did not walk with her because I wanted to give her 100% of my focus, but she benefited from the sun and exercise during her coaching call.

What is a walking meeting?

A meeting that takes place by phone while you are walking outside (or inside on a rainy day). All you need is a headset, a phone and a good set of sneakers. A walking meeting is not a full-on power walk, because you cannot be breathless and still manage a conversation, instead, it is closer to a stroll. 

What are the ideal situations for walking meetings?

There are four criteria needed for a walking meeting to be ideal:

First, I believe you need to have a certain level of comfort with the person on the other end of the line to walk and talk because the quality of the call may not be as clean as it would in a controlled office environment. This is not a good idea if you do not know someone well or if they are a client. You need to be comfortable enough to say, “Would you mind if I walk while we talk?”  If that feels awkward, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Second, the meeting topic needs to be informal. If you need to take a lot of notes, this is not going to work well. If you need to look at documents, it will be next to impossible. Walking meetings are great for checking in with team members or brainstorming ideas, not for project planning or performance reviews.

Third, the environment in which you walk needs to be conducive for a walking meeting. If it is windy it may affect the sound for the person you are speaking with. If there are lots of kids playing outside, people using yard equipment, or dogs barking it will be distracting for you and your listener. So, try to choose a path where it will be quiet, and your neighbors will not wave you down in attempts to draw you into a conversation. 

Fourth, be sure you have a good cell phone connection where you are walking. If your connection is spotty it will just be frustrating for both of you. 

What is the proper etiquette during a walking meeting?

Ask permission to “walk and talk” and be sure the other person does not feel like you aren’t fully focused. If you start breathing heavy, slow things down.  You can get your powerwalk in later. Be sensitive to others hearing any parts of your conversation if it is private. Use a headset and check to be sure you can both hear each other well.  If not, stop the walk or move to a better location.

Summary

Holding walking meetings can be energizing. Look for opportunities to have a walking meeting each day. Select the right people and meeting to try this approach.  Finally, always ensure your walk is not creating a negative experience for the person you are speaking with. 

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

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