August 2014
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TD Magazine

The Walking Meeting

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ask your employees to take a walk with you.

"Let's walk and talk!" It's a common phrase casually thrown around by busy professionals who rarely have the time to sit still. The phrase defines the impromptu walking meetings professionals have on a weekly, if not daily, basis. However, these encounters could hardly be defined as formal meetings. For one, they're usually very brief—maybe five to seven minutes—occurring on the way to an official "sitting meeting."

Now there is a growing trend of holding more purposeful walking meetings, especially in light of research that indicates how damaging sedentary lifestyles are to our health. In her TED Talk on the subject, author and popular speaker Nilofer Merchant advocates exercising while tending to your work obligations—"one doesn't have to come at the cost of the other." She not only attests that walking meetings improve health, but also that "fresh air drives fresh thinking."

So how does one have a successful walking meeting? After all, the kind of walking meeting that Merchant advocates is very different from the quick powwows that usually occur indoors. Here are three simple ideas for holding effective walking meetings:

  • The meetings ideally should include two to three people—four at most—to ensure everyone's ideas are heard while moving through a potentially distracting environment.
  • You should plan to walk outdoors because there's no better way to stimulate creativity than a change of scenery. Quiet parks and other green spaces are ideal; busy sidewalks along noisy streets are not.
  • The purpose of a walking meeting should be clearly defined so that everyone stays on topic.

Walking meetings are especially good opportunities to have a brainstorming session. As Merchant would remind us, it's "getting out of the box that leads to out-of-the-box thinking."

About the Author

Serena Holloman is associate editor for ATD Press.

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