5 Tips for Nonprofits To Host Effective Walking Meetings | Beth's Blog

5 Tips for Nonprofits To Host Effective Walking Meetings


Last week, I wrote a blog post called “Walking for Work” about the benefits of incorporating walking into your work day, not as a break, but to help you do your work. I ended the post with a question, “Does your nonprofit do walking meetings?” The conversation that ensued was great, so I thought I’d share a few practical tips.

One resource that I came across is “Everybody Walk,” is a campaign aimed at getting Americans up and moving sponsored by Kaiser Permanente.    While their messaging is focused solely on the fitness benefits , that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your overall health and prevent disease, there are some useful resources on the site.     I think there are additional benefits, especially for work.    When you walk solo,  you have the benefit of working through some problems or helping you generate a creative solution.  But walking with colleagues can boost relationship building and collaboration.  That means rethinking meetings.

What are some practical ways to integrate walking into work?

1.  Make a list of all the work meeting in your life

Organizational Meetings: A big part of work life, especially for those who are staff members of traditional nonprofits, are meetings.   Think about all the meetings that are schedule in a typical work week.   Many are face-to-face – these might include 1:1 meetings with colleagues or your boss; small team meeting, or large team meeting.

Professional Networking Meetings: Meetings with people for coffee or lunch or visiting their office (or vice a versa) for professional relationship building.

Conferences: Small or large sessions at conferences.

Virtual Meetings: Conference calls, online chats, and webinars.

All of these meetings can be reinvented as walking meetings.    Those that require technology and an internet connection can easily be transferred to a mobile phone while you walk.

2.    Think about your goals: Walking has the added benefit of getting your creative juices going.  So, if you are having a brainstorm meeting, making it a walking meeting will make it even more productive.   Or maybe you want to change up the dynamics of  small group meeting by changing your normal routine.    And, if you are doing a 1:1 and improve relationship building, moving is helpful.      Whatever you goals, it is important to frame why you think a walking meeting is a better fit for the job and frame the issue you want to address before.

The FeetFirst site suggests that these tasks are perfect for walking meetings:

  • Educate and inform; educate about things in the environment while experiencing and demonstrating them. Different experts can speak at different locations.

  • Problem solve; Problem solving can be enhanced by the physical activity of walking (“thinking on your feet”), as well as informal interactions among people.

  • Enhance creativity; creativity is enhanced when people are physically active, and stimulated by variety in events and visual, auditory, and other senses.

  • Socialize and build team spirit; relationships are developed while walking and team building occurs while involved in informal activities. The spontaneous mixing that occurs on a walk can enhance interactions.

  • Make decisions; walking meetings help prepare for decision making and can result in more options for consideration.

  • Resolve conflict; walks can help resolve conflicts for pairs and small groups. For larger groups the walk improves team interactions and helps generate solutions.

  • 3.  Let People Know in Advance: It is important to give enough warning for a walking meeting so people can dress accordingly — bring a coat or sweater or wear comfortable shoes.    Walking meetings in high heels are not much fun.

    4. Planning and Preparation: Like any other business meeting, there is agenda preparation but there are some other items you need to think about.     A walking meeting is not just a walk on the beach, you are doing work.  So it is important to layout the topics for discussion and tasks.    In addition, you need to allow time for stretching, and bio break.     Also, allow time to capture notes after the meeting.    I like to take a long a pen and small pad to jot down notes, but I find that if I am doing a walking meeting, I’m retaining information better and some quiet time right after the meeting ends is enough to capture the notes.

    5. The Actual Walk: Plan your route in advance, if possible, so you know how far you can walk in your allotted time and avoid noisy spots or too narrow walkways.   If you have more than one other person, you will have to do a little bit more planning.  According to the Feet First Walking Guide:

    • One on One Meetings: Meeting as a pair tends to be easy. Walking breaks down the barrier of a desk and chair, and lets people communicate more equally.
    • Small Group Meetings of 3-5: Meetings with three or more can be affected by the width of the sidewalk or path, variations in terrain, and possible physical barriers. This size group is flexible, as discussion can occur while walking, or if desired the group can stop along the walk.
    • Groups of 5-16: Meetings with larger groups tend to result in more than one conversation while walking. If the whole group is to be involved, make time to stop and gather as a whole.
    • Groups Larger than 16: These tend to require more planning, with a strong leader and potentially a few assistants if needed. There will be conversations while walking, then planned stops for presentations.

    Also be sure to establish the rules such as “stay with the group” or “no cell phones,”  before you head out.   If you have a larger group you might want to designate someone as the notetaker.   And, if you have more than one person, you might have to break the group up by pace of their walking.      Include stops in your meeting to summarize agenda points and shift into next topic.

    You can find additional resources on walking meetings here.

    Has your organization hosted a walking meeting?  What has been your experience?  What are your tips?

    5 Responses

    1. Jay Geneske says:

      I love this idea and (sort of) tried it out last night. Had a conference call with our Bangkok office at 9pm EST, and I used the occasion to simultaneously take a long walk.

    2. […] As a big fan of The West Wing and its “walk-n-talk” scenes, I loved this article from Beth Kanter on 5 Tips for Nonprofits to Host Effective Walking Meetings. […]

    3. […] I love this idea and (sort of) tried it out last night. Had a … by Jay Geneske […]

    4. This is a great idea for employees in Southern that are close enough to walk. It’s great for the environment as well.

    5. Beth says:

      Jay, I take most of my phones on my mobile phone and walk. I get exercise but also have a more productive conversation.