Money & Business

Walk Your Way To a More Productive Meeting

By / Apr 16, 2015 "The West Wing," a show famous for its walk-and-talks. (NBCUniversal)

If your usual meetings are feeling stale, try a different approach with a walking meeting. Research and experience have shown that these types of meetings may help increase creative thinking and camaraderie among coworkers.

If you’ve seen almost any episode of the The West Wing, you’re no doubt familiar with the show’s “walk-and-talk” scenes.

Busy White House staffers whisk their way between offices and meetings while engaging in witty repartee with equally busy coworkers.

Walking meetings, while fun to watch and, no doubt, choreograph for TV, are becoming more common in the real-life business world.

At LinkedIn, walk-and-talks are “kind of a big deal,” according to a recent article in The Huffington Post. The company’s California headquarters features a bike path that takes about 20 to 25 minutes to walk the full length, or just enough time for a brief walking meeting.

In addition to the health benefits—sitting is the new smoking, after all—LinkedIn employees also said walking meetings allow for fewer distractions (e.g., phone calls, email, interruptions from coworkers) and better camaraderie among colleagues.

“You feel like you’re at the principal’s office,” Igor Perisic, LinkedIn’s vice president of engineering said of seated, face-to-face meetings. “That’s not what you want.”

Walking, on the other hand, can be a less intimidating way to communicate. There’s less direct eye contact, and a more casual atmosphere may help participants feel more relaxed.

Walking meetings may also prove more productive. Because walking has been shown to help stimulate creativity, heading outside for a walk around the block or along a bike path might be a great way to solve a problem you’ve gotten stuck on or to help brainstorm new ideas.

“We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo,” Marily Oppezzo, a professor and researcher who has studied the effects of walking on creativity, told Stanford Report. “But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.”

If you’ve never taken a walking meeting before, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Plan ahead. Consider the route you will take, as well as the best time of day given the temperature outside, and don’t forget to tell participants in advance so they have appropriate footwear.
  • Keep it small. Migrating with a large group of people along a crowded street or narrow path may make it difficult for everyone to hear and contribute to the discussion.
  • Throw in an incentive. In an article for The Guardian, Damien Clarkson suggests using a small amount of bribery if your coworkers are unsure about the idea of walking and talking. Offer to buy them coffee during the walk, for example.
  • Set an agenda. “A walking meeting is not just a walk on the beach; you are doing work,” wrote Beth Kanter in a blog post detailing tips for effective walking meetings. “So it is important to lay out the topics for discussion and tasks.” Kanter also suggested taking time after the meeting to jot down notes about what was discussed.

Have you ever tried a walking meeting? Let us know how it went in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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