Sometimes, telling someone to take a hike is the kindest thing you can do for them. We know we spend way too much time sitting—at our desks, at our dining room tables, in front of the TV, and in meetings. All this sitting around makes us more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and of course does our waistlines no good whatsoever.
Nilofer Merchant, in this interestingly-titled post on the Harvard Business Review blog network, makes a pretty persuasive argument for getting out of the conference room and onto a walking path, naming benefits such as the shift in perspective that comes when you're walking side-by-side with someone instead of across the table from them, and how walking makes it easier to resist the siren call of our smartphones and tablets (though there are those who will text and walk anyway, no matter how embarrassing the results). My favorite of her reasons, though is this: "I've learned that if you want to get out of the box thinking, you need to literally get out of the box."
I've been lucky to work with people who get this completely, and who like to take walk-and-talk meetings to figure out work issues and challenges, brainstorm ideas, and overall catch up while walking down the rail trail near my home office. The conversations tend to flow better, and you even feel better about each other somehow for having shared the open air and sunshine while crickets chirp and birds cheep in the background. Because I live in New England, walk-and-talks are not necessarily great to do year-round, but weather permitting, they turn something you may have been dreading into something that's actually quite pleasant.
I've also long thought that it would be interesting to find a way to take a conference session for a spin and see how different an experience it might be. It wouldn't be practical to take people outside for most conferences, but what could you do to move people around while staying within your meeting facility, or even just in the meeting room as Jeff Hurt did recently during his "Brain Candy" session at PCMA? And I don't mean just getting them to roam the aisles of the floor, though that could be a part of it.
I usually walk five to 10 miles a day (weather, workload, and will permitting), and I have to tell you that all that sitting during conferences makes me a little stir crazy, even if I do get out pre- and post-sessions. What can we do to get people moving during sessions? And how do you accommodate those who can't perambulate freely due to a physical disability of some sort? We know our brains work better, and for longer, when the machine that powers them gets out of idle, and yet we so seldom incorporate movement into our conference planning.
Sure, it'd be more complicated than a two-, three-, or four-person walk and talk down a nature trail, but I'm betting it can be—probably is being—done. Is movement a conscious part of your conference design strategy? Should it be?