There are many reasons to love walking meetings. Walking more -- and especially sitting less -- can help you avoid a wide variety of health issues, including Alzheimer's disease. Research shows that walking meetings increase both creativity and engagement. And Steve Jobs, who knew a thing or two about how to run a meeting, swore by them.
If all this is enough to convince you that walking meetings are worth a try, but you've never done one before, here's how to get started.
1. Pick the right type of meeting.
Walking meetings are great, but only in the right circumstances. A status meeting where you gather your team together so they can report on what they're doing won't work as a walking meeting -- but might work great as a standing meeting. A detailed planning session won't work well either. On the other hand, a brainstorming session or a getting-to-know-you with a new employee or partner is perfect for a walking meeting. You may also be tempted to take someone for a walk if you have a difficult issue to discuss. That can be a good idea, but make sure that nothing in the conversation is confidential, since there's no way to guarantee privacy if you're out for a walk.
The fewer the participants, the easier it will be to handle a walking meeting, so limit yourself to meetings with one or at most two other people, at least until you get comfortable with the practice. And before you decide to have a walking meeting, consider the other participant or participants. Will he or she be comfortable walking for half an hour, or whatever meeting length you have planned? If you're in the slightest doubt about this, offer a choice of a walking or sitting meeting. In fact, it's probably a good idea to let participants choose between walking and sitting meetings, and to have a fallback location available in case the weather is uncooperative.
2. Send out advance notice -- and an agenda.
Like every meeting, a walking meeting should have an agenda, even if that agenda has only one item on it. Once you've decided exactly what you want to cover in your meeting, send that information to whomever you're meeting with, and make it clear that you would like to have a meeting while walking. Do this at least a day in advance so the other participant can bring the appropriate outerwear and footwear.
You should also plan in advance just where you are going to walk, and how long the walk will take. Keep in mind that since you'll be in an active discussion, you probably will cover less distance than you would if you were walking by yourself. Plan to set a pace that will be comfortable for all.
3. Leave yourself a little free time afterward.
If you can help it, don't come back from a walking meeting and head immediately into another meeting. Although you may take voice notes or speech-to-text notes while walking, you won't be able to write down as much information as you could if you were seated at a table. Ideally, you should have a few free minutes after the walking meeting to write down some notes about any information or ideas that came up during the meeting, and your impressions of the other participant, if appropriate.
You should also consider writing down any thoughts you had about meeting while walking, and anything you'd like to do differently next time. Because once you get started with walking meetings, you'll probably want to keep doing them.