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You need to get out more… no, really, meet your clients outside

Another day of back to back virtual meetings ahead? Do you wonder when you are going to squeeze in lunch, or if you'll ever get to take the dog for a walk in the daylight? Today's article will share how you can get out of the office to have your meetings and change your perspective and mood.

Yes, we know the way we work has been flipped on its head, many of us are still working from home, and many companies have shut-up their offices for virtual only/co-working spaces and left us with no options. We've pushed through the uncertainty of "nothing will ever be the same again" to "OK, we've got this, it just looks different", and in all honestly, it takes some getting used to.

And we are productive, boy, are we productive. We are working longer and harder, dare say, than before. But with all the zooming, we are certainly missing the connection, those in-real-life nods, smiles and body language queues that you don't get when on the other side of a 12-inch screen.

I miss that.

And I'm tired. Too many back to back calls, and I can be left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and a bit of a space cadet like my eight-year-old after way too much screen time.

Last Friday morning was one of those mornings, it was 6 am, and I woke after a busy week feeling tired and exhausted about the day ahead. Another big day of virtual meetings awaited. My calendar was full with client project calls, customer workshop preparation, and coaching calls.

After a chat/vent to a colleague about how tired and flat I was, he suggested, "Surely you can do some of these coaching calls outside while you are both going for a walk?" Yes, I could..! Why had I not thought of that?

Just the idea of breaking up my day to do a walking meeting made me feel energised already. Better still, I knew one of my coaching clients lived not too far from me, so we could have our meeting in real life, both walking and talking together.

We met at our local park close to the Merri Creek in Melbourne (it's beautiful and full of autumn leaves this time of year), and we walked. There's something extraordinary about walking in nature, the fresh, brisk air, the sunshine, the bin-chickens (!!), all the senses of nature coming together. We shared some candid and open conversation and discussed possible ideas and solutions to his challenges.

While walking meetings are not new, I was interested in researching why I felt so good afterwards. Harvard did some research in 2017, and from a neurochemical perspective, Dr Ted Eytan MD emphasises that our brains are more relaxed during walks due to the release of certain chemicals.  

This aids executive function, which governs how we focus on tasks and deal with unforeseen events, among other things. Over 150 surveyed referred to moments of creativity sparked by walking meetings, over sitting in a boardroom or looking at a screen. Often in our workshops, if the post-lunch energy is slumping, we'll get the room up and do a lap of the office to wake up the mind and nervous system.

So while walking meetings are not suitable for all sessions, where you need a whiteboard or to collaborate, they have their time and place. Even if you can incorporate a walking meeting into your week 2 – 3 times, I'm sure you'll feel good about it.

A couple of handy tips:

  • Don't surprise your colleagues/meeting guests with a walking meeting. Check they are up for it and OK with it.
  • Meet in person if possible, or you both walk the same time frame and you can share your locations.
  • Check you have enough batterie life in phone and/or headphones. And please don’t be on speakerphone.
  • Check your audio, don't be that person in the park with wireless earphones shouting as your volume is up to high (not pleasant for anyone)
  • If walking with someone, semi-plan your route calling out any points of interest along the way. (I took my walking client to the top of a hill with a fantastic view over all of Melbourne, it was a nice reward for our walking)
  • Keep it small. Walking meetings are best for up to 3 people. No more, or its a social group. (which also has its time and place!)
  • Enjoy yourself: Have fun, soak up the fresh air and feel good about yourself for doing it. Studies showed the mental health and physical benefits are extraordinary.

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