How to Host a Walking Meeting
Walking meetings are just what they seem, a meeting you host while walking or moving. Similar to the traditional meeting, a walking meeting serves as a time and space to inform, collaborate, discuss, and plan along with a few added benefits. This alternative approach incorporates movement into the work place, promotes heathy lifestyles, connects people, and enhances productivity.
Walking improves productivity, boosts energy levels, and enhances general well-being by incorporating regular movement and fresh air. Additionally, the space of the outdoors increases brain function which can help stimulate creativity, innovation, and memory. These meetings can be used to educate, inform, problem solve, socialize, make decisions and resolve conflict. These are a few of the many things that can be accomplished during a walking meeting!
Walking meetings are a great way to hold a meeting and boost creativity and energy of your participants. However, keep in mind walking meetings may not be an appropriate alternative for all meetings. If individuals have factors that prevent their participation in this activity do not hold walking meetings go with the regular meeting. If you are able to hold a walking meeting, below are a few tips to consider:
- Ask permission and give notice when possible – not everyone will be prepared the day of the meeting! Ask them ahead of time so they can prepare, bring proper shoes, and/or so they can say “maybe next time”.
- Host the meeting at the same time you have originally scheduled and and keep it the same length of time.
Come to the meeting prepared – a walking meeting should be productive just like a sit down meeting.
- Bring a small notebook and pen to take notes or utilize your technology.
- Make sure you have a way to track time. Keep meeting on track and on time.
- Prepare an agenda and think through items that will work well with walking, ie brainstorming, problem solving, etc.
- Make accommodations for those who want to join but might be hesitant to walk for various reasons. Adjustments could include frequent stops, shorter walks, the use of benches, or adjustments in speed!
- Plan your route – this can include stops along the way to jot down notes, a destination, and length! You can find walking routes by clicking here.
- Be conscious of weather – if the weather is not cooperative (as typical of Iowa weather) bring the meeting back to its original format, consider an indoor walk, and/or anticipate outdoor gear – boots, sunscreen, umbrella, jacket, etc.
Be conscious of time of day – peak times on campus will make walking areas more crowded.
- Mornings are usually cooler and more comfortable for walking.
- Walking after classes start and finishing the meeting 5 -10 minutes before they end works well.
- Morning classes start on the hour and end 10 minutes before the end of the hour most days. (8:00 – 8:50 am)
- Afternoon classes start 10 minutes after the hour and end on the hour most days. (1:10 – 2:00)
- There are very few classes from 11:50 – 12:10 to accommodate the lunch time.
- Be aware of special events or university-wide events such as Homecoming, College visits, or Student Orientation as sidewalks may be more crowded.
- Consider the location – busy and noisy places (construction zones, free speech by Parks Library, Lincoln Way traffic, etc.) may not be ideal for productive conversation!
- Finally, make a back-up plan in the case that a walk is not possible. This includes scheduling rooms for the meeting, notifying participants, providing meeting agenda, etc.
Other walking meeting considerations
In planning for your walking meeting you should always consider the size of group. While meeting size will vary, typical meetings range in size from 2 to 20 or more. Below are some guidelines for structuring walking meetings for different sized groups.
One on one meetings (2 people): Meeting this way is probably the easiest walking meeting format. This is an excellent way to communicate more equally and with more open dialogue. Use this to build connection, foster creativity, and address several topics.
Small group meeting (3-5 people): Meetings with three or more can be affected more by locations such as width of sidewalk, noisy areas, and physical barriers. You may want to consider the following:
- Designate stops along the way to take notes or check in with everyone. (This also allows for slower walkers to feel included.)
- Avoid noisy areas to assure all can be heard.
- Plan walking routes with larger sidewalk width or create walking buddies.
- Consider rotating walk leaders so participants talk with every member.
Medium size groups (6-15 people): Meetings of this size tend to create more than one conversation. Remind participants this is not a race, but an opportunity for activity and creative thinking. Plan more stops along the route to debrief, discuss, and collaborate in addition the steps noted above.
Large groups (16 or more people): This type of meeting takes more planning and often needs more than one facilitator. In addition to the steps provided above, consider the following suggestions for a more effective way to utilize this larger group:
- Incorporate regular stops for presentations.
- Save time at the end for to wrap up, debrief, and address questions.
- Capture highlights of the conversations to share after the meeting.
- Be sure to include next steps and action items for those who may have missed parts of the conversation.
It is important to consider your participant's unique needs in setting up a walking meeting. The route you choose should consider who is walking and accommodate any special needs through large sidewalks, wheelchair accessibility, terrain, and various other factors.
- When asking colleagues to participate make sure to include an inclusivity statement in your walking meeting invitation. This is to ensure coworkers feel comfortable requesting accommodations so they can participate fully.
If physical conditions create concern or prevent someone from walking, consider the following suggestions:
- Utilize breaks with seating options.
- Take shorter walks, walk slower, and/or pause the walk to ask questions and hear responses.
- Provide assurance – talk with your participants about their concerns and suggestions on ways to make the walk more enjoyable.
- Be flexible – consider the needs of your participants. It’s more important to hold the meeting and include everyone, than to walk!
Keep in mind that some individuals may have factors that impact or prevent their participation in this activity. For example, environmental barriers such as the sun, allergies, or discomfort with walking around campus may impede some people's ability to participate. In these circumstances, a walking meeting may not be an appropriate alternative; consider a regular meeting.
Seasons they are a changin’ – especially here at Iowa State! Walking meetings work best when held outside during spring, summer, and fall. However, do not let the Iowa weather hold you back, if it is not nice enough to venture outside consider doing an indoor route or incorporating movement in another way. Again, be considerate of your fellow coworkers – you may think walking in the rain is an option but someone else might not!
For additional information and safety tips, click here. These meetings should be treated the same as any meeting you attend. Be attentive, turn the phone off, and have fun!