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Networking While Walking: Pros and Cons

Updated on January 18, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a business author with 25 years experience in marketing and sales including a decade in the hotel and trade show industries.

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What is Networking While Walking?

Lately, I have been invited to multiple networking meetings where we would be "taking it outside," meaning that instead of having a meeting over coffee, we'd have a meeting over a walk. While this goes by a number of different terms, it is essentially networking while walking.

Meetings of this type can be held either outdoors or indoors. Other than that it includes walking, specifics in terms of place, time, what is to be discussed and who is involved are determined by the individuals participating in the meeting.

But, as with all business practices, there are pros and cons to consider before you step into it.

The Pros to Networking Walks

The case for networking walks is clear from a health perspective as discussed in a Harvard Business Review article, Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation.

The pros for this type of activity include:

  • Enjoying Company and Climate. When the weather is nice, networking while walking is a welcome excuse to get out of the workplace and still accomplish something work related.
  • Double Duty. Face it, working out takes a chunk out of the day, leaving less time for fun and family. By combining networking with a bit of a workout, it can add some precious time back into one's day. Plus, it's a good way to satisfy those demanding wearable health tracking devices that always want more steps!
  • Comfort Zone Crusher. In addition to pushing oneself to better fitness physically, it can push people out of their comfort zones to gain greater clarity and connections.

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The Cons of Networking Walks

  • Not Everyone is Exercise Eager. I have two large dogs that require a significant amount of exercise daily (measured in hours). Plus, I workout at the health club or do yoga multiple times during the week. The last thing I want to add to my workday is more exercise and exercise time! Other people may have physical limitations which may not make the networking/walking combination a welcome invitation and they may feel uncomfortable either accepting or declining.
  • Distractions. Nature can provide a wealth of interesting plants and animals to observe. Urban environments can be rich with intriguing architecture, people, aromas and objects. All can be great discussion starters. However, it may be difficult to focus on networking which can be frustrating to those who may be expecting in-depth conversation about business.
  • Brain Dump. It's difficult to take notes while walking... or enter or search for information on a mobile device. Using myself as an example, by the time I've finished walking the dogs, I can barely remember what I was thinking during that time. Similarly, it may be difficult to reconstruct major points discussed during a lengthy walk.
  • May Presume a More Personal Relationship. Walking together can be a very personal and enriching experience between friends and family. Some folks may feel that walking together is only appropriate for more familiar relationships and not initial or business contacts.
  • Racing and Pacing. I walk fast... really fast. (Blame my dogs and my personality!) Widely varying walk paces between networking partners can be frustrating and awkward for those on either end of the pace spectrum.
  • Safety Issues. Uneven or cracked sidewalks, potholes, hills and environmental issues can present hazards to those who are deep in conversation while walking. As well, those who feel that their personal safety or health is at risk in certain areas will be uncomfortable and disengaged.
  • Weather. A sudden change in weather for the worse can preempt or disrupt the best outdoor networking walk, not to mention the time and hassle afterwards for cleaning up before returning to work.
  • Sweat-working. Summers, such as those here in Chicago, can be ridiculously humid. Walking around outdoors in the heat can make one a sweaty mess, necessitating a post-walk shower and change of clothing, as well as access to facilities to take care of this. This can balloon the time to be allotted for networking and reduce time for other important work-related activities. An indoor walking venue might be a better choice during certain times of the year.

Would you do networking while walking?

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Tips for Networking While Walking

  • Invite, But Understand. If someone declines an invitation to walk while networking, don't be offended. They may have a myriad of reasons for declining. Don't judge or badger! Luckily, when I have declined these invitations, my colleagues were extremely accommodating and gracious.
  • Set the Pace and the Place. Setting a mutually agreeable place to walk will help everyone feel more comfortable. Also set how far the walk will go and/or a time limit. This respects everyone's time and tolerance.
  • Safety First. While not all hazards can be anticipated, mutually decide on a place that has as safe a walking environment as possible for all participants involved.
  • Set Goals or Topics for the Session. While it may be a pleasant encounter and build camaraderie, a meandering walk with no particular topic or goal can squander precious time. Decide in advance what will be discussed or what is hoped to be accomplished. This is critical regardless of whether the meeting is done sitting down or walking.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never heard of the phrase but I'd do it. Sounds like the business execs who meet over a round of golf. Same theory, yes?

      But I don't play golf. Now what? :)

      Happy Monday my marketing guru!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi billybuc! Yep, golf would be a good substitute, um, excuse, to get out of the office. I'd accept networking/walking invites under certain circumstances, but not all. Especially if it's a hot and humid summer day here in Chicago. Bleck! Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Wow! I've never heard of networking while walking, but generally I like the idea! It sounds casual and fun, but you point out some important downsides. It would be impossible to take notes, and the casual atmosphere seems like a friendly discussion rather than an actual meeting. Thanks for introducing me to a new trend in networking and business. Voted up and pinned!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi purl3agony! Yep, the first I encountered it was earlier this year. And I thought I had seen it all when it came to networking. :) Agreed, it is a friendly alternative, but may be a bit too friendly for some. Thanks for stopping by this holiday evening! Have a wonderful week ahead!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Business meetings have been going over drinks and dinner so why not while walking, of course weather permitting.

      But. I believe, the cons far outweigh the pros, for me at least.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Got that right, rajan jolly! In theory, I really like the idea of "netwalking," but done so that everyone feels it's a positive experience. In many instances, the cons outweigh the pros for me, too. Thanks for chiming in! Have a great day!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I'm so glad you addressed this topic and gave pros and cons. I hate the idea for not only 1) its lack of focus (multitasking means you're doing multiple tasks poorly and often wasting time in the process) but also its insensitivity. There are SO many people with unseen disabilities and in the workplace one often takes special care not to accentuate or reveal a disability for the very real fear of discrimination or nosey questions at minimum.

      I once worked somewhere where they had a prominent take the stairs (rather than the elevator) campaign. Unfortunately, I worked on the third floor. Having MS and being on a medicine that gave me terrible flulike symptoms three times a week, I hated to run into those I knew for fear that a coworker would chide me for not taking the stairs. Others I knew who had back or knee problems, RA or other unseen medical conditions felt the same way.

      If I heard "let's take it outside" or "let's walk and talk," I'd be inclined to give them an earful. Unless it was you, of course. I adore you.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      FlourishAnyway, I'd be up for a walk-and-talk or sit-and-talk with you any day! :)

      You're right, it is sometimes difficult to ward off the judgments of others. With a serious back and shoulder injury year, I'm also exceptionally wary of the "multi-tasking" aspect of these types of outings. I cannot afford more physical therapy and recovery time because I tripped on a bump in the sidewalk while engrossed in conversation.

      Hope we'll be able to network one day IRL. Thank you for adding this important insight to the conversation! Take care and have a wonderful week ahead!

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