How to have walking meetings

We’ve all heard the values extolled on walking meetings. You’ll get some much-needed fresh air! You’ll enjoy a change of scenery! You’ll take one small step toward combating your sedentary lifestyle (“sitting is the new smoking,” after all)!

But workplace fads aside, walking meetings are a great way to shake things up during your next one-on-one meeting. And there are many reasons why.

For one thing, research has shown that long walks get the creative juices flowing (and thinkers like Steve Jobs and Sigmund Freud swore by them). The change in environment is a great way to think differently about problems and come up with solutions that might never have occurred to you otherwise.

Also – and this is the obvious one – walking meetings are healthy 💪. They also add up. If you start asking your direct reports to do a few turns around the block in your weekly one-on-one meetings, you’ll quickly see those steps piling up in your Fitbit.

In her TED Talk on walking meetings, Nilofer Merchant explains it this way: “Instead of going to coffee meetings or fluorescent-lit conference room meetings, I ask people to go on a walking meeting, to the tune of 20 to 30 miles a week. It’s changed my life.

 

And if you need a more pragmatic reason to give walking meetings a try, they are a fantastic solution for startups with limited meeting space. If everything’s all booked up, don’t just pull a chair up to your employee’s desk, or – worse! – cancel the one-on-one altogether. Just take it on the road! 

Have we convinced you? Here are six tips to get you started.

Here’s how to have walking meetings with your team:

Talk to your employees first

The last thing you want to do is alienate a team member by switching up your meeting style 😳. If someone has limited mobility or any other reason why walking meetings aren’t a viable option for them, be sure to listen to their concerns and adjust your plan accordingly. For example, maybe instead of walking the whole time, you stroll over to a nearby park or cafe for some fresh air.

Be thoughtful of any concerns your employees may bring up about walking meetings to ensure you’re not alienating them in the process.

Make sure your meeting goal is ideal for a walking meeting

As we mentioned above, there’s no shortage of studies that show how walking meetings are beneficial. But there has also been a lot of research done on what types of meetings are best suited for strolls.

For example, this study found that exercise helped improve divergent thinking (so brainstorming, big-picture thinking and broad discussions), but had a negative impact on convergent thinking (like multiple-choice questions, or finding a single answer to a clearly laid-out problem).

That’s why walking meetings are so well-suited to one-on-one meetings, where the focus is on big-picture discussions on “topics of substance” rather than solving individual problems.

Remove distractions

This is a tough one. There will be plenty of distractions all around you when you take a walking meeting – especially if your office is located in a busy downtown core. But the trick is to try to avoid getting sidetracked at all costs.

First, that means keeping phone use to a minimum. It’s easy to feel like the walking meeting is a casual coffee run where you can fire off a couple quick texts, but it’s important to stay focused. Pull up your meeting agenda on one of your phones (more on that later!), and then pocket all other devices.

Second, avoid running errands. Grabbing a coffee or water at the start of the walking meeting is fine, but that’s it: no stops at the grocery store to grab a few things, or a quick pop into the dollar store to get envelopes. It sends the message that this time isn’t sacred.

Take your agenda on the go

Just because you’re taking your meeting on the go doesn’t mean you don’t still need an agenda to help guide your conversation. And, you’ll want a way to take notes. Don’t assume that you’ll remember those decisions well enough to write them down when you’re back in the office!

Your best bet is a shared online agenda – like SoapBox! With our new mobile app, you can follow along your agenda and even take notes, right from your phone! 📲 

Mix up your walking route

Once you start making walking meetings a habit, you’ll want to make sure you don’t get too set into a fixed route. One study found that people that “free walk” enjoy more original, creative thinking than people that walk in a set path.

So, try to make your route as twisty and windy as possible. Make unexpected turns, and unplanned directions – just be sure you know how to get back to the office! You’ll encourage creative thinking, and you might also see some new parts of your city along the way!

Consider adding a pit stop

Here’s a secret: a walking meeting doesn’t have to include walking the whole time. You might want to add a stop at a park bench, or a little break at a coffee shop along the way. It will allow you both to take a quick breather, and also gives you a chance to update your one-on-one meeting agenda with any meeting notes you’ve discussed along your walk.

After all, with all those creative juices flowing, you don’t want to miss a thing!

 

Take your meetings on the go. Get SoapBox for iOS today!

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