Get Attendees on Their Feet With Walking Sessions

Author: Casey Gale       

walking sessions

Creating a walking session at an event can reinvigorate attendees — and make the program more creative, inspiring, and energetic.

There’s one thing attendees do a lot of at events: sitting. A good way to get them to stretch their legs and inject some energy into the program? Try a walking session.

In Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture That Can Adapt to Change, authors Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan highlight the benefits of a walking meeting in the workplace, an idea that also can be used in the events space.

Rituals for WorkThe walking meeting is ideal for leaders who “want to reorient meetings to be more creative, inspiring, and energetic,” according to Ozenc, a strategic design consultant at SAP Labs, and Hagan, director of Legal Design Lab at Stanford University Law School. “The walking meeting is particularly powerful if a group has been in a long conference or work session.”

A walk is particularly useful when the session’s subject revolves around exploration and creative thinking, as opposed to focused, deep work. Clusters of two or three participants can walk together, engaging in different conversations “where they can explore and develop new ideas,” Ozenc and Hagan write. Then, the facilitator can call these smaller groups together at stops along the path “to share what they’ve been talking about and rearrange as needed.”

The authors say there are a few considerations to keep in mind for walking meetings — primarily that the facilitator should be intentional about the walking route and adhere to a schedule to ensure there is basic structure to the session. “It’s good to include a point of interest stop along the way,” the authors write, “to give a sense of purpose to the group that motivates the journey.”

How It Can Work at an Event

Last year, Convene spoke with the director of the Vienna Convention Bureau, Christian Mutschlechner, about plans to incorporate walks as part of the upcoming 4,000-attendee World Council for Psychotherapy’s World Congress, scheduled to meet in Vienna in 2023. Mutschlechner, who retired from the bureau this past February, said the walks were his “crazy idea” for leveraging the host city’s role in the field — it’s where the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was born in 1865, and where the World Council for Psychotherapy was launched in 1995.

“The famous doctor,” Mutschlechner told Convene, “used to walk with his patients in the area around the university, as it helped them think clearly and open up. This practice was later named and known as Freudian Walks.”

So Mutschlechner thought, why not organize a Freudian Walk as part of the program? “It would be a fresh and completely different element,” he said, “to the traditional congress program.”

The activity is planned for small groups of people to walk together while discussing a specific theme. “We think,” Mutschlechner said, “it will be quite an experience.”