Sam Seely

Walk and talk

No blog post last week as I was on vacation with my family. We spent the week trekking through the Dolomites, a mountain range near the Austrian alps that evokes a certain Do-Re-Mi. On our last night, my dad mentioned how great it had been to take a trip where all there was to do was “walk and talk.” He had a point, for the last seven days, we’d done nothing else (excluding meals, sleep, and cards.)

On the trail we talked about a lot of things: Brexit, domestic politics, The Sound of Music, what we’d been reading, favorite albums, dream cities to live abroad in, work, how to solve a problem like Maria, Hamilton revenue splits, the definition of “alpine valley”, the lyrics to Edelweiss, the Austrian-Italian war, gum, card games, and the set locations used in The Sound of Music.

Among other things (including learning to unplug from the grid and breathe in the outdoors,) the trip was a great reminder of the “walk and talk” meeting, which I'll extol below.

A few years ago, I started turning “let’s grab coffee” meetings into “let’s grab coffee and take a walk” meetings. Here’s why:

  • It gives you something to do while you talk. A walk provides background activity that diverts the nervous energy some people (myself included) can get when talking to someone face-to-face. (For this same reason, cars, too, are a great place to talk.)
  • You don’t have to maintain eye contact. This isn’t to say eye contact is bad, it’s that maintaining eye contact can often take a conscious effort on behalf of one of the talkers. That’s free cognitive load that isn’t being used in conversation.
  • You can comment on your surroundings. Fun if you’re in a new place or a new part of town. It also provides an opportunity for small talk (sometimes nice before getting to the purpose of your meeting) that isn’t about the weather.
  • No multitasking. A walk outside guarantees that laptops will be left back at the office. This can only be a good thing.
  • It feels good to stretch out your legs and get some fresh air.

These are a few of my favorite things* about the walk and talk meeting. Next time you’re about to sit down for coffee or an informational interview, give the walk and talk a try.

Happy walking.

*Do not visit the Dolomite region unless mentally prepared to revisit the entire Sound of Music catalog, guaranteed to loop in your head constantly upon seeing the local scenery.