Networking While Walking: Pros and Cons
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?
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.
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© 2015 Heidi Thorne