Walking meetings: business on the trot, but through what?

Walking meetings: business on the trot, but through what?Think it’s still cool to meet for coffee? Forget it. Now if we’re really  cool, we meet for a walk.

A good idea? Maybe if you’re in California. But in soggy northwest Europe? Meh.

So what’s a walking meeting?

Simple: you get your meeting delegates together, suggest they bring some sensible shoes to change into rather than use their $1,000 Italian winkle-pickers or 6-inch Louboutin open-toed platforms, change into loose, sporty clothing rather than the designer stuff, memorize the details of your meeting agenda and set off.

And there’s no cheating. You might try to stick a smartphone in your hip pocket but given that you’re wearing skin-tight lycra leggings, think hard about where you can put it, realistically, without causing embarrassment or utter horror at the rectangular tumor sticking out of your rear waistband. Notebooks, laptops, tablets, IPods, IPads or in fact any kind of pads (with perhaps the exception of ….let’s not go there) are verboten.

You then conduct your meeting while on the trot, or rather walk.

According to Ben Casnocha, a devout Californian with an impeccable (including LinkedIn and Harvard) pedigree …  Walking meetings are awesome for obvious reasons. Exposure to sun and fresh air lifts your mood. Walking counts as exercise, which is important for health and cognitive function.

A physical atmosphere that’s different from the normal white walls of an office — trees, sun, a beautiful landscape — can spark creative trains of thoughts. My favorite reason for walking meetings? They enable a different kind of social bonding. People open up more outside the office. You can cover personal topics more easily.”

Out of the office and into the wild blue yonder

Walking meetings:business on the trot, but through what?In an ideal world, you call a meeting in a reasonably accessible beauty spot, park, desert, canyon, etc. – just get out of your cars and trundle off into the wilderness to discover your innermost fitness secrets along with the latest sales figures and projections for the next quarter.

Healthy, it certainly is. But there are potential drawbacks, even in perpetually sunny California.

Our Ben continues …  (mainly) distractions while you walk. Namely, having to put one foot after the other and undergo the physical act…of walking. You have to watch where you’re going, even if it’s a familiar path. You have to control your speed and match it with your meeting partner’s pace: not too fast, not too slow. These distractions are cognitively taxing — they draw away your attention and deplete your well of self-control.”

Can walking meetings work in rain-swept northwest Europe?

Walking meetings in anything but a Utopian climate are more of a challenge. However because of our need to standardize global business practices, here are some suggestions for how north-west Europeans can engage with this jolly trend despite less than favourable local weather conditions.

1.In summer, warn participants to bring and be prepared to use SPF50 sun creams as well as shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, umbrellas, raincoats, rubber boots, small inflatable rowboats, warm clothing and a camping stove. North-western Europe is where you’re likely to experience all four seasons in one day which can interfere with the smooth running of the business agenda.

2.In winter, warn participants to bring all of the above, too. North-western Europe is like that. Blame the Jetstream.

Walking meetings: business on the trot, but through what?3.In the UK, be sure to choose a walking meeting route that does not coincide with Public Houses, especially if bad weather is anticipated. Public Houses, serving alcohol as they do, are likely to provide an inappropriate temptation for meeting delegates who should remain focused on the business in hand, rather than how to keep their balance once standing up.

4.In most of the rest of north-western continental Europe, be sure to avoid routes that incorporate Michelin Guide cafés and restaurants. Especially in adverse weather conditions these temptations, if succumbed to, are likely to disrupt business concentration and invoke a powerful element of s’en foutisme,  post-prandial RedBulls or not.

5.At the conclusion of your walking meeting – wherever it is in north-western Europe – be sure to provide facilities for hot showers, changes into dry clothing, warming refreshments and other comforts to enable your meeting delegates to a) dry out, b) thaw out – or both, before they return to their delightfully warm, dry and hospitable offices.

Do you do walking meetings?

Please share … it would be great to know what you think!

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. Good question – and my answer is no! I wouldn’t want to ruin a good walk with thinking about business or to even share with associates. I do agree that fresh air, even inclement weather is good for the soul and brain regeneration but for professional meetings, it is a resounding “non” from me.
    Now, if the walk had a challenge attached, eg: some fund-raising – that might be a different issue.

    • I think you’re right, Lynn – there is too much in the way of attractive distractions out on a walk, whereas in a bland boardroom or training room the lack of external distractions makes you focus on the business in hand … if for no other reason than there’s nothing else to look at or think about!

  2. I tend to agree with Lynn – going out for a walk with a business agenda isn’t a good move. On the other hand Mrs. Bray and I have lots of family and business matters to coordinate and we amble round these as we go to collect milk from the farm, or even just walk the dog.

    I read somewhere that when businesses did away with dedicated smokers rooms communication across different parts of organizations, for a while, broke down because this informal way of meeting no longer existed. Similarly, I’m sure if we didn’t have our regular family walks we too would be in trouble.

    Perhaps, more on topic, what about business walk meetings? They can work. I tried them when working with a group at Barclays Bank many years back, but they were always supported by being able to sit and work with pen and paper at training venues.

    And no, a walk across the Brecon Beacons in a gale force wind with the rain flying sideways is rarely likely to upwardly nudge the bottom line 🙂

  3. That’s really what I was poking fun at, Stephen … the climate in the UK and north-western Europe is too unpredictable to make sense of a walking meeting. It’s all fine and dandy to enjoy the wind in your hair and the fine Scotch mist on your face, but it’s not an ideal backdrop for the boring PowerPoint slides… 😉

  4. Not sure what I think now that winter is fast approaching. Woke up this morning to below 0 C. Does NOT make me want to go for a walk at all.

  5. I think they are great for brainstorming with 2 to 3 tops. Anything over 3 people you quite often can’t hear each other because of the noises in the environment. The walk should be on a flat surface so watching your footing is not an issue. That’s how I like walking meetings. Oh yes — it can’t be too cold. Soft rain is okay — but then you have the issue of umbrellas bumping. 🙂

    • That’s a good point Rochelle – and if you’re walking along a trail you’re likely not to walk more than 2-3 abreast, meaning that others behind and in front of you can’t necessarily hear even if the noises of nature are quiet.

      I quite like the idea of fair weather business walks, although here in the UK and northwest Europe fair weather tends to come in fits and starts…

  6. No, no, and no. But I’m so glad to learn that “walking counts as exercise” per Ben the expert. This piece gave me a good laugh!

    • Glad you saw my wicked humor, Debbie! Some of my (British) colleagues have been giving me a hard time on Facebook about this, saying what a wonderful thing walking meetings are and I should be ashamed of myself for giggling about them.

      And to be fair to our Ben, walking can count as exercise, but to do so it needs to be pretty brisk which might make it hard to give a thumping business presentation at the same time… 😉

  7. many a meeting met on a golf course…? I think it is great and actually walking is a mindful activity which is of course good for business too…

    • Very true Sarupa … mind you, many people say that “playing golf is just a way to spoil an otherwise nice walk around the countryside…!” Ironically, a round of golf is probably a better environment for casual business discussion because a) there are never more than 4 of you and b) the activity is stop-start, rather than continuous motion, so allowing people to stand around and talk for short periods.

  8. I’ve been thinking about doing some German lessons while walking for quite a long time, but don’t know yet how to do it.
    There are so many people wondering whether to do keep fit classes or learn a language…. well, this way they could do both 🙂

    • I think a walking German lesson would be a great way for people to build up their vocabulary … walking in the countryside learning the names of different trees, plants, animals … then around a town learning words for parts of buildings, museums, galleries, shops, etc … could be fun!

  9. Give me a nice warm indoor venue any time. A pub, a coffee shop, an office, a restaurant. I’ll leave the walking to those more mobile than me!

    Just out of interest – who takes the minutes on “business walks”? And how?

    • Good point, Jane! I don’t think even the Californians expect to conduct formal business meetings while power walking up Big Sur … although in theory, I suppose, you could dictate the minutes into a recorder as you walk along. But realistically I think these walking meetings are more for the sort of informal, general discussion you might have in an office over coffee and sandwiches.

      And I’m with you on the nice warm indoor venue front, as it happens… 😉

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