Organisations invest large amounts of money in creative spaces when the outdoors offers fantastic stimulus. Its also healthier and typically more constructive than sitting indoors.
Get off your backside and get out of a meeting room. Fresh air drives fresh thinking. Go on. Try it.
When do walking meetings work?
Brainstorms or discussions for up to 10 people are much more fun and productive as walking meetings than being shackled to an office. As groups shift and reorganise there’s the opportunity to talk to new people.
They also work well for line management meetings for the same reason that they work with teenage children or partners.
There’s a natural rhythm that comes from moving through physical space navigating obstacles or pausing to take in a view. The lack of direct face to face contact makes it easier to deal with sensitive issues.
I’ve participated and led walking meetings in Central Park in Manhattan, New York; through the streets of Barcelona, Spain; and in the hills near where I live in Northumberland, UK.
How do you use walking meetings in your role and what are the benefits?
It’s an opportunity to get outside. Walking and talking is almost always a better experience than whatever you’d planned to discuss, sat on your backside, in a meeting room.
I’ve an international role at Ketchum and spend around half my time travelling. Like running to exercise, rather than hitting the hotel gym, it’s a great way to explore a new location especially with a local guide.
Can you describe you most successful walking meeting?
I discussed a frustrating, political issue that I was facing professionally with a mentor. She challenged me directly to see different perspectives and points of view. It would have been a much more difficult conversation face-to-face and I doubt I would have listened.
How do you plan meeting?
You need to define a single well-defined purpose. Walking meetings don’t work for ten point agendas.
You also need to dress for the occasion. You’ll overheat walking in London or Madrid in mid-Summer. Likewise Chicago or New York in January isn’t fun.
What are the benefits of a walking meeting?
There’s the physical benefit of being outside and connected with nature. Inevitably it is more inspiring than being sat in an office.
It’s always surprising when you ask an individual or a group if you can head outside for a walk instead of sitting in a conference rooms, and it’s also memorable, partly because it’s unusual, but mainly because you’ll always remember where you had a breakthrough idea.
I record meetings with my mobile camera and make notes on Evernote and I always send an email follow-up to people with whom I’ve walked.
Any misconceptions or downsides?
There’s always the productivity question. It may be 2015 but there’s still an expectation that you need to be in an office to work but walking meetings are almost certainly always more productive than being sat in an office.
Finally, ten people is the limit for a group meeting. If you go much bigger people trail behind and cliques form.