Photo via Flickr user Rhys_S.

(Thanks to Twitter user @TroyJMorris for the Aaron Sorkin “Walk and Talk” tip — hence the video above)

For those working every day, and especially in the startup world, it’s not easy to fit exercise into hectic schedules.

So here’s something to try next time you set up a one-on-one meeting: ditch the chairs and get some fresh air.

We’re talking about “walking meetings,” and it’s something that Seattle venture capitalist Greg Gottesman is encouraging others to do more of.

“For a lot of really busy people that have family and commitments, the exercise thing is important, but it’s hard,” Gottesman said.

Enter “walking meetings.”

It’s something that tech titans like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey have taken a liking to — and not just for burning calories.

“What I found is that when I started to do more walking meetings, I had better meetings overall,” Gottesman said. “For whatever reason, people opened up more and I had much more truthful conversations, regardless if it was about business or more personal.”

Greg Gottesman
Greg Gottesman

For years, Gottesman has gone on walks with his wife and found that their best conversations take place on walks. But he didn’t realize the real power of them until reading Jobs’ biography, in which it describes the late Apple founder’s preference for long walks.

“After reading Jobs’ book, I told myself that I’ve got to be more intentional about it,” he said.

Then, of course, there are the health benefits from walking — sitting all day might actually be hurting us more than you think.

A New York Times piece headlined “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?” describes scientific research that shows how staying on our butts for a majority of the day takes years off our lives.

For further proof, former tech exec Nilofer Merchant gave a TED Talk and spoke in detail about both the health and mental benefits of walking side-by-side with someone.

So yes, there are lots of good reasons to start walking and talking. But though you might be ready to start having every meeting while trekking up and down the local trails, it is important to remember that some may see a request to have “walking meeting,” as awkward.

After all, where are you going to put your pad and pen? Where are you going to rest your smartphone? Gottesman says to let your peers know ahead of time that you want to walk instead of sit.

“It’s good to actually be upfront and set it up as that kind of meeting out of the gate so you don’t just spring it upon the other person,” he said.

Your next meeting might be less like this if you get outside and go for a walk.
Your next meeting might be less like this if you get outside and go for a walk.

He also has some exceptions to “walking meetings”:

  1. If you are presenting a slide deck or showing a demo, that’s harder to do on the run. Let’s sit for that.
  2. If you are wearing high heels when you meet with me, I won’t ask you to walk. But if you are meeting with me and reading this, don’t wear heels. I have terrible fashion sense and always wanted to be taller, so heels are unnecessary.
  3. If it’s raining (or snowing), we’ll stay inside.
  4. It is hard to have a good walking meeting with more than one person.

Gottesman isn’t the only guy in town doing this. Chris DeVore, another well-respected local investor, is also a big fan of walking meetings.

“I have a hard time sitting still and my (standing) desk is in the middle of a big open workspace with lots of other folks,” Devore said. “Getting outside keeps my meetings from disturbing my colleagues, offers more privacy for sensitive conversations than the typical conference room and has the added benefit of letting me feel the sun (or rain) on my face during the workday.”

Bob Crimmins organized "Geeks on a Walk."
Bob Crimmins organized “Geeks on a Trail.”

And then there’s Bob Crimmins, founder and CEO of MoonTango, a personal care products experience exclusively for women. Crimmins started something called Geeks on a Trail (GOAT) a few years ago that is all about getting startup people together and going on two-hour walks.

The program is still going strong and is up to four walks a week — three in Seattle and one on the Eastside. Crimmins says he’s “addicted,” and tries to make at least two or three of the walks per week.

“In my role as a mentor and advisor in town, I get frequent requests from entrepreneurs to meet and talk about their startup,” he said. “I schedule almost all of those meetings now as walking meetings and generally try to arrange for them to meet me on a GOAT walk.”

And even when the geeks aren’t getting together to exercise and socialize, Crimmins tries to find opportunities to walk alone. “An ’email lap’ around Greenlake is my favorite,” he said, and the entrepreneur even bought a tablet so he could be more productive on his walks.

One more reason to get outside: Seattle is a fantastic walking city. Unlike other big metro areas, the Emerald City has tons of great places to go for a stroll. For example, Gottesman said he frequently walks around Pioneer Square with people and heads up to Sculpture Park, which is just a stone’s throw away from downtown.

I’m going to give this a try. While I don’t have nearly as many meetings on my calendar as a Greg Gottesman or Mark Zuckerberg, going out for a nice long walk with a friend can certainly replace hanging out in front of the TV or duking it out on the Xbox sticks.

Previously on GeekWire: Walk Score tool measures neighborhood access for restaurants, schools, coffee 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/choltby Carina Holtby Walters

    This is awesome! Get outside

  • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

    Thanks for writing this, Taylor! I’m a total convert to the walk-and-talk philosophy. Having done this pretty consistently for a couple of years now I can definitely say that connecting walking to my startup routine has made a material difference to my productivity and my mental health… and my waistline! I want to give a big shout out to John Sechrest for taking the Geeks on a Trail walks to the next level. Hope to see some of you on the trail some time soon!

  • http://cid-280a1538334a1cb9.profile.live.com/ Seika

    Not just meeting, walking helps making me less sleepy.
    Maybe I’m just a dinosaur

  • RunTheNumbers

    Hmmm, walking meetings for multiple people. Distributed, even.

    Sounds like a good use for Google Glasses.

  • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

    This is great. Question for people who have been doing this — what do you do when your natural pace is completely different from the other person’s pace?

    • Lovelletters

      Here’s a tip: I find that if you wear 3″ heels, John *will* actually slow down to walk with you. :)

      • johnhcook

        Ha!! I find myself slowing down for most folks I walk with. Must be a genetic thing, as I always remember my grandmother getting cranky at my grandfather for walking way ahead. I missed my calling as an Olympic speed walker!

    • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

      In the spirit of Do More Faster, I try to set a brisk pace. Three miles in an hour is the goal… which I think most folks find reasonably comfortable. But at 6’5″, I know I need to take few steps to make the lap so I try to adapt a bit for my normal sized colleagues.

      In cases where there are more than about 5 people, the peloton tends to stretch out into a couple of clumps. Also, if you want to have a private conversation, it’s totally acceptable to drop back from the pack to talk and then catch up when you finish. I do this sometimes when I have a meeting scheduled that my meeting partner may consider sensitive.

  • Jordan Schwartz

    I built a treadmill desk for myself, $100 of Ikea shelving and a $50 Craigslist treadmill. Love it. Walk miles every day during online meetings and phone calls. Highly recommend.

    • johnhcook

      I know a lot of folks who’ve done that, but I just can’t imagine writing stories that way.

      • http://twitter.com/OfficeFitness Office Fitness

        @johnhcook:disqus – James Levine, the guy who invented the treadmill desk, recommends walking at a non-exercise pace, about 1 MPH, so it might be less unimaginable then you think. You can also just walk in place at a standing desk (that’s what I do).

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