How to Make Walking Meetings Work

What’s worse for your health: smoking cigarettes or sitting all day? Strange question, perhaps. But according to business innovator Nilofer Merchant, “Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.”

Smoking, of course, is linked to diseases including lung cancer and emphysema. Sitting is linked to serious conditions too, such as breast and colon cancer. In her groundbreaking TED talk, Merchant came right out and said it, “What you are doing right now is killing you.”

Walking meetings are a great way to break that pattern, and there are many benefits. “Instead of going to coffee meetings,” Merchant said, “now I ask people to go to walking meetings, to the tune of 20-30 miles a week. It changed my life.”

Want to do the same? Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you structure your workplace walking meetings for success.

How to make a walking meeting work

  1. Get input. Walking meetings are not doable for everyone, and you won’t know until you ask. Ask employees individually, listen to their input, and make accommodations.
  2. Don’t bring everyone. Walking meetings are most effective in groups of two to four, so don’t pack the walk.
  3. Plan ahead. People need to know about walking meetings well beforehand, so they know to bring appropriate shoes, a water bottle, and so on. Send relevant information ahead of time so everyone can review in advance.
  4. Make the route interesting. Especially if the goal of your meeting is creative, a change of scene will stimulate fresh thinking. Any cool local landmarks around? See if you can work one in.
  5. Focus on expansive thinking. Brainstorming and conceptual discussion are good activities for a walking meeting. Analysis, precision problem-solving, and confidential decisions do not work well in this format.
  6. Stay focused. Even though you’re hoofing it, be organized. Whether on your phone or a note card, bring a meeting agenda. Whether you type notes or record them via audio, make sure you have a reference for later. It’s okay to pause at points along the way to record voice notes or look up what’s next.
  7. Share notes as soon as possible. It’s important to keep the results of a walking meeting grounded and actionable, so the value of the discussion doesn’t dissolve into thin air.