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Meet me in the parking lot: Walking meetings hit their stride

Ann Bednarz | Jan. 20, 2017
Walk-and-talk meetings can energise employees and boost creativity.

Lan, too, finds the benefits of a walking meeting outweigh any note-taking or app-access limitations.

“Because we're a machine learning company, our technology is meant to mimic human behavior, and being outdoors/getting a break is very human,” Lan says. A walking meeting can be a reminder that there’s more to building a product than just the code, she says.

Let’s meet outside

A lack of meeting space was the inspiration for some tech people to head outside for meetings.

“We originally started doing walking meetings because our growing company lacks enough conference rooms. But being able to go for a walk on a nice San Francisco day is hard to beat,” says Robert Armstrong, CEO of mobile design and development firm Appstem in San Francisco.

“The major downside is the ability to take notes,” Armstrong says. “We usually end up making notes on our mobile devices and sending follow up items when we get back in the office. You’re unable to reference any documents or anything on a computer, but that doesn’t cause too many issues. Overall it’s a great way to get out of the office, get some privacy, and some exercise while still being productive.”

Evan Huston also was motivated by a lack of conference room space.

"Being downtown, with limited real estate, it's difficult to find available conference rooms. Many of our one-on-ones are walking meetings around the downtown area,” says Huston, director of engineering at Austin-based SpareFoot, an online marketplace for storage space. “It's nice to get out of the work environment and tends to open people up a bit.”

Advocates of walking meetings suggest a few fundamental guidelines to avoid wasting time.

For starters, set an agenda before the walk. Carve out time to decide upon 1-3 discussion items, says Lior Koriat, CEO of cloud automation and orchestration company Quali in Santa Clara, Calif. “It’s a better time to talk strategy than tactics.”

Notify invitees in advance: No one wants to be surprised by a walking meeting when they’re expecting a seated meeting with the usual tech amenities.

Don’t over-invite participants; there’s a limit to how many people can comfortably participate in a walking meeting. “It’s challenging to meet with more than four people because of the simple logistics of how many people fit on a sidewalk and can be within earshot of one another,” Aktary says.

But before any of that – make sure the meeting is really necessary. Most aren’t, says Wes Higbee, president of consulting firm Full City Tech Co.

“Most meetings would be best canceled, and then if people are worried about their health they can take a walk on their own,” Higbee says. “Think about how many meetings don't have a material impact on your work. Those are the ones that can be cut, and then there's no need to multitask pointless busy work with fitness.”

 

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