The Art of the Walking Meeting



Update 1 – October, 2008: Here is a post about some scientific evidence that may lend credibility to the idea that a walking meeting may stimulate feelings of trust and personal warmth.

Update 2 – November, 2011: Featured in FranklinCovey’s “5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity”!

Update 3 – May, 2012: Walking Meetings Featured on ABC 7 News!

Update 4 – December, 2012: More science: Walking, good for your brain, too (Infographic)

I was perusing through the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention’s excellent December, 2007 issue of Health Power! Prevention News, and happened on a review of this systematic analysis of the impacts of using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health (Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, Sundaram V, et al. Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health: A Systematic Review. Jama 2007;298:2296-304.)

More on that later, though. It stimulated me to write a post about how I use the pedometer in my work life, and my journey to develop “The Walking Meeting,” the coolest part of getting things done that I have added to my repertoire.

So what is this? About 3 years ago now, I was offered a pedometer as part of a test of a walking challenge. I have since upgraded to a non-freebie variety, as recommended to me by Mark Graban, publisher of the well regarded LEAN Blog. In the LEAN world, pedometers are great for time-motion studies.

They have been great for bringing fitness into the work environment, too, and changing conversations. My other nickname for this is “WWW” or “work while walking” (or maybe “walk while working), and here’s the recipe:

 

  1. When you are scheduled to meet with someone, ask permission to try doing it on foot.
  2. Assuming the answer is, “Sure!” meet the person at the appointed time and just start walking.
  3. You can have a destination in mind, like the nearest coffee place, or not. I typically know the neighborhoods and a few paths in mind, so I ask “East, West, North, or South?” or “Water view or urban view?” We had a special attraction in our back yard, the Space Needle, which I had a yearly pass to (look at family annual pass), expressly for this, so there was always the option of “Up.”

Now, here are the considerations to be aware of:

  • If you don’t set this up in advance, pay attention to safety/mobility issues. I have been trained to ask about a person’s shoes, and I have learned the hard truth about different expectations for women and men in the workplace with regard to comfortable mobility (and this is a call to action to change the expectation).
  • You can manage mobility issues for different people by shortening the walk, such as a walk around the block, or simply doing it the next time. Even a little bit of walking makes the difference. Carry the other person’s bag if it’s appropriate. There are very few purses that don’t look good on me.
  • If it’s felt that there’s a need to “sit in front of a computer,” ask yourself if this is needed for 100 % of the meeting time. Usually (92.5% of my experience) it is not. What I’ve actually found is that 30 minutes of time organizing, asking “why?” (A LEAN tool), and setting the stage, makes for a very efficient next 30 minutes.
  • Usually, this can be done with a maximum of 3 people walking together. Four is kind of a crowd.
  • Regarding destinations: coffee places are okay, but they can drain your budget and negate the caloric advantage that you’ll get. If I ask for the walk, I usually buy the coffee. I pay far more for a gym membership.

If the answer to the question about doing this isn’t “Sure!” ask again for the next time. Sometimes a little advance prep makes the difference – allowing someone to bring comfortable shoes to work or to arrange their day just right (physically and emotionally) is worth it.

And here are the advantages:

  • Privacy. It’s less likely that you’ll be interrupted by someone walking past your office
  • You’ll enjoy a different kind of relationship building, both with people you know well, and with ones you don’t know well. There is something about sharing an experience with someone that creates an imprint
  • You will organize your thinking on the topic at hand – this is a great way for people to go at the same pace for a little bit
  • You will be visible in the community that you serve, as will your colleagues, which will make you think about new ways to serve better.

Most importantly, you’ll feel as good as you ever have about using a meeting as a business tool. And this is a business tool – a lot of work gets done this way.

There are less and less people in my world that expect me to sit down for a 1:1 discussion. I think at one point my colleagues were saying, “It it your turn now to take him for a walk?” I’ve had great meetings this way where I am sometimes the leader and sometimes the laggard. There are people who I work with that I can barely keep up with on foot! I never knew….

In terms of the study referenced above, the conclusion points to the use of pedometers as a useful adjunct in maintaining your health.

The walking meeting helps you have fun, stay fit, and enjoy your community while you provide service to it. Try it, once, twice, or for a lifetime. One day I would like to practice medicine by going for a walk with patients….

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27 thoughts on “The Art of the Walking Meeting

  1. Matt Handley

    Ted

    One other thing I learned from you about walking meetings that continues to be demonstrated on most walks – the level of disclosure in a walking meeting is usually higher than at regular sit down meetings, especially early in relationships. People are often more able to focus on the work and their customers' needs than they are in a meeting at an office, where demonstrations of hierarchy and organizational issues are so much more present.

    Reply
  2. Ted Eytan Post author

    …and I forgot to mention that I wouldn't have been able to do any of this stuff without having a (great) boss that is willing to go for a walk, too. :)

    Reply
  3. Pingback: What U. of Chicago Law School Blocking Internet Access has to do with Improving Health Care | Ted Eytan, MD

    [...] was asked to walk with a patient for an hour, to learn about how they manage their health (I have always dreamed of a medical visit that involved a walk with a patient, maybe this the next best [...]

  4. Pingback: Scott Moore

    @avantgame I like this article on walking meetings http://www.tedeytan.com/2008/01/10/148

  5. Pingback: Juan G Cendales

    Here's evidence that a walking meeting may stimulate feelings of trust and personal warmth. http://tinyurl.com/cbyxzj (via @carlosrizo)

  6. Heather K Dennis

    We did the walking meeting for the first time today w/one of our teams and LOVED it! I found your site via a post on IdeaBook and mentioned it to my Manager and she said let's go for it.

    We all enjoyed it, so hopefully this will be the first of many!

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Heather

    Reply
  7. Heather K Dennis

    Forgot to mention, I have the livescribe pulse pen, so that helped us in taking short notes and recording the call for recalling what was discussed later!

    Reply
  8. Ted Eytan Post author

    Heather,

    Made my day to hear about your adoption of this innovation plus discovering one of your own!

    As you develop more best practices feel free to share them here,

    Ted

    Reply
  9. Pingback: AmanB

    Read this, fantastic idea: @tedeytan The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  10. Pingback: David K Ahern

    RT @tedeytan: The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  11. Pingback: Tina Avanzato Chiodo

    RT @tedeytan: The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  12. Pingback: Alicia Aebersold

    Reminds me of "West Wing" – looked productive on TV! RT “@tedeytan: Art of the Walking Mtg – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D”

  13. Pingback: Erin Macartney

    RT @ghideas: Read this, fantastic idea: @tedeytan The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  14. Pingback: Susan Birk

    Love this!! RT @emacartney @ghideas: Fantastic idea: @tedeytan The Art of the #Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  15. Pingback: Susan Birk

    Re #walking meeting: There's something magical abt 2 people walking & talking. The communication flows. @tedeytan http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  16. Pingback: David Williams

    RT @tedeytan: The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  17. Pingback: Art Baron

    Awesome idea! RT @HealthBizBlog RT @tedeytan: The Art of the Walking Meeting – My Guide (do one!) http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  18. Pingback: AmanB

    Thx 4 RTs: @CGreaves @pamfinnovation @EmekaOkoye @jeanninelemaire @susanbirk @emacartney re: GIS http://bit.ly/cHzGSu & http://bit.ly/d64w9D

  19. Pingback: Lygeia Ricciardi

    An old but great post–worth reading (and trying) if u haven't RT @tedeytan: The Art of the Walking Meeting http://teyt.in/d64w9D

  20. Pingback: Ted Eytan, MD

    @americawalks -use and hack at will: The Art of the Walking Meeting http://t.co/Tbvxabv

  21. Pingback: SusannahFox

    The Art of the Walking Meeting by @tedeytan http://t.co/IQeHpqHE

  22. Pingback: SusannahFox

    The Art of the Walking Meeting by @tedeytan http://t.co/IQeHpqHE

  23. Pingback: Melissa Sweet

    Been on one of these famous walking meetings with Ted myself! “@SusannahFox:the Art of the Walking Meeting by @tedeytan http://t.co/9gbB5Y5y

  24. Pingback: Alexandra Bornkessel

    Team just did a "walking meeting" inspired by @tedeytan: http://t.co/Sj6Dpff0 It was productive and came w/ a big serotonin lift!

  25. Pingback: Leonard Kish

    Team just did a "walking meeting" inspired by @tedeytan: http://t.co/Sj6Dpff0 It was productive and came w/ a big serotonin lift!

  26. Pingback: 13 Easy and (Mostly) Low-Cost Employee Wellness Changes for 2013

    [...] or bouncy seats, but you can reduce the risk of sitting disease with tools and at-work breaks, walking meetings, and other ways to encourage [...]

  27. Pingback: Walking a boost to health & creativity | WalkingVillage

    […] Walking Meeting. What a great way to avoid yet another Power Point presentation! We can credit  Dr. Ted Eytan, with giving a name and some tips to this idea, but numerous others have endorsed it as a terrific […]

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