Walk and talk: The benefits of a walking meeting

Walking Meeting

Meetings. They are a necessary part of business life. Sometimes they are wonderful – productive and even enjoyable. But we’ve probably all sat through other types of meetings – the ones that are unproductive, tiresome and agonisingly long. Unfortunately, we all need meetings. We need them for updating people, brainstorming options, exploring and agreeing decisions. We need them with individuals to update each other, to mentor or coach, to chew over a problem, or to support people with their personal development.

Whilst it’s still the case that many meetings (especially group ones) are held indoors, there’s a strong case for trying ‘walk and talk’. It was recommended by Steve Jobs, who used the ‘walk and talk’ for some of the most serious meetings of his career, and with some of the most senior people in business. Perhaps a walking meeting is worth trying? There are many benefits to be had.

Detach yourself

It’s very difficult, when you’re busy, to detach yourself from a previous task and give any meeting your full attention. For most meetings it takes a few minutes to stop thinking about what you were doing and will carry on doing, and instead focus entirely on the current meeting.

One of the great things about going for a walk is that there is a physical detachment from your previous activity, followed almost immediately by a psychological detachment. A change of place brings new focus.

Focus only on the present

Similarly, by removing yourself from the indoors, you won’t have any of the usual distractions. Nobody will be able to bother you, your PC won’t be flashing up with emails and you’ll be away from any distractions that an office (even a home one) can bring. You’re left with the conversation between you and your colleague. It’s a great foundation for a productive meeting.

Fresh perspective

It’s tricky to see things differently when you look at the same four walls every day (even if they’re the ones in your local coffee shop). Happily, a change of scene can bring fresh ideas or a different perspective on old ideas.

Health benefits

The numerous problems caused by sitting down for extended periods of time are well-documented. A walking meeting can help prevent lower back problems, often associated with people who spend hours on a PC. What’s more, exercise is also known to reduce stress. The net result will be more productive people with fewer sick days. A walking meeting is a much healthier approach to a meeting.

Next time you’re planning a meeting, think about opting for a walking meeting.
They’re endorsed by the great and the good and could do wonderful things for you, too. As explained by writer Tom Hodgkinson, “meetings, clearly, can take place anywhere” and “when walking, you see things that you miss in a motor car or on a train. You give your mind space to ponder”. Who wouldn’t want that?

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About the author

Heather Foley is a consultant at http://etsplc.com. ETS has been a partner to some of the world’s most respected companies since 1989, delivering specialist consultancy and leading edge technology in the following areas: employee research and engagement, leadership development, 360° feedback, performance management, and talent and succession planning. ETS takes a bespoke approach to every project to ensure that all clients get their ideal survey solution. ETS doesn’t have templates and nothing is off-the-shelf. Every programme created is specific to the client, ensuring real value is delivered. More blog posts by Heather Foley ››
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