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Walkshops and Walk & Talk - when are they suitable and what needs to be considered?

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

"Walk and Talk" is a format that everyone is talking about at the moment. We already know that exercise is good for us and often helps us to come up with great and innovative ideas, especially when walking in fresh air. But is it possible to move every meeting or workshop out into nature? Where are the limits and what is such a format particularly suitable for?

In this blog post, we will discuss what to consider when planning walkshops or walk and talks and for which tasks they are particularly well or rather poorly suited. Before we go into the individual aspects, it is important to note that walkshops or walk and talk formats are not only suitable for workshops, but also for meetings without workshop character. The most important potential of this format is to strengthen the team on the one hand and to promote creativity on the other. Walk and talk formats are excellent for brainstorming and collecting ideas that can later be processed into strategies or prototypes at a table, for example. At the same time, the format is very suitable for breaking down hierarchies within a team and generally for combining a workshop or meeting with teambuilding activities.

Of course, walkshops and walk and talks also have their limits. For instance, they are only suitable, for events where all participants can be physically present. A hybrid form is simply not possible. The objective and content of the workshop should also be considered when planning a walkshop. Not all expected results can be worked out while walking and often working materials are needed that do not allow working outdoors. In this case, it may be advisable to design one part of the workshop as a walkshop and to plan the work where tables, computers, projectors or other equipment are needed in a seminar room.

But what do you have to consider in order to plan a successful walkshop? Here is a list of what we consider to be the most important aspects for successful walkshops:

Preperation In any workshop or meeting, good preparation of the facilitator is the be-all and end-all. For walkshops perhaps even more. It is important to know exactly the terrain in which the group is to move. Which paths can or should be taken, where can I perhaps even lose sight of the group and are there rest areas that I can use to record results? Hence our tip:

Always walk all possible paths in advance and experience them yourself, so that it can be assessed whether the terrain is suitable for the group.“

And here we already come to the next very important sub-point of preparation: the participants. In our experience, it is always advisable to think carefully about who will be attending a meeting or workshop. For example, there may be people who have reservations about the format. It is important to think about these possible reservations and to address them at the beginning of the walkshop in order to overcome them. In addition to experiences, expectations or hierarchies within the group, it is also important to consider the physical requirements of the group. Paths and formats must be adapted to the group. There must be a plan B if one person cannot or does not want to walk. Our tip:

A precise analysis of the participants helps to get a picture of the group. Reservations can be addressed and routes can be chosen appropriately.“

This brings me to the next important aspect of preparation: Plan B for bad weather. A Plan B can be very versatile. On the one hand, I can choose an area where there are refreshment stops, so that I have the flexibility to go inside quickly in case of really bad weather. On the other hand, of course, it has to be considered that some planned methods have to be adapted. It is also important to prepare the group for how the walkshop will proceed. They must have suitable clothing with them and should not experience any unexpected surprises. Our tip:

Have retreat options, think methodically for each session how it could run in an indoor space and inform the participants well.

Harvesting results The next important point deals with harvesting the results. In our training, too, it became apparent that how best to record the results in a walkshop is often a point of uncertainty. For example, it often turns out to be difficult to document ideas and thoughts while walking. Therefore, the appropriate materials are needed, such as clipboards, clearly visible pens, like flip chart markers, or solid paper or even dictaphones. Moreover it needs sufficient places to rest and write down thoughts, so that participants can fully concentrate on the conversation during their walk and talk and know that they have the opportunity to record their ideas along the way; we always advise to consider goodplaces for rests. Retreats are great for sessions where groups can sit around tables and record the key ideas and points they have gathered. Also, of course, for breaks. Coffee and cake are always appreciated in workshops. Hence our tip:

Bring sufficient and suitable materials, it needs places for breaks and plan nice places to stop.“

Use the space

Outdoors offers many opportunities for visualisations and the design of workshops and meetings. If a meeting or workshop is moved outdoors, we recommend using the chosen area creatively as well. In nature we have trees, in parks benches, there are shady and also sunny places. Stations can be set up along the path, cards can be hung on strings between trees, or picnic stations can be set up, just to name a few options. Also, and probably most importantly, it is necessary to think about what tasks the participants will be given as they walk. Is the path uphill or downhill, or is there no set path at all (for example, in parks, when teams set off and meet again and again at the same meeting point)? Studies recommend using the tension of going uphill for thinking about challenges and the relaxation of going downhill for discussing solutions. We recommend that you simply try this out and gather your own experience. Our tip:

Use what nature has to offer for visualisations and stimulating group work. Also, think about how best to use the path to get the best results.

Courage to try things out Walkshops are a format that is unusual for many and has the potential to move the group out of their usual patterns of thinking. We are convinced that the facilitation team can use creative methods and that, as long as there is a precise goal and the facilitator is 100% behind the format, they will be wonderfully accepted. As a rule, our participants were very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience a walkshop. Our tip:

Think about a creative format as a team and have the courage to try new things

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