Walking Conference Calls: Optimal Performance Hack

Aaron McHugh

147.11 Miles While on Conf Calls
147.11 Miles While on Conf Calls (Vivofit)

Get Paid to Walk & Talk on Conference Calls

Why sit at your desk for every hour of daily conference calls? Why not walk while you talk? Nobody said you had to sit and stare at your monitor.I walked 147.11 miles last month while on work conference calls. I guess you could call this a Life Hack.  After I told a few friends about this newly discovered Stick It to The Man technique their response was

“You have to write a blog about that”.

Before I divulge my secrets to getting paid to walk and talk on conference calls, let me offer you some comedic relief.  If you spend hours each day on conference calls then you need to read this article but first you need to watch this video from Tripp & Tyler.


Motivated to move

Now that you are motivated to find a better way to participate or even lead conference calls, let me help you.  Back in January while sitting in a meeting in frigid New Jersey, I caught a glimpse of a guy outside walking the parking lot.  I asked my co-workers if they knew what he was doing.

Over the course of the last year they watched him faithfully get outside and walk up and down every row of the parking lot.  As a result he lost over 100 lbs.  While they sat back and ate their fried chicken and stuffed risotto pasta, he walked and walked and walked himself to better health.

Removing the perceived obstacles

Walking a parking lot might sound awful to you.  You wish you could walk on a nice sunny trail in the woods.  Maybe you are a treadmill person who would rather walk and watch TV on the monitor?

I get it.

The idea of going out and walking a parking lot at lunchtime means you have to:

  • Have a pair of running shoes to change into
  • Put on deodorant after and before
  • Bundle up because the weather isn’t ideal today
  • (Insert other excuses here)

You could look at it this way or you could simply stand up from your desk, walk outside in your work clothes, with your work shoes, with your work dress coat and get your butt walking.  If you must have those items above, then leave them at your office with a spare set in your car.

If you know what your excuses will be, then you can eliminate them in advance of the resistance.

Unspoken rules are a myth

We often live under a set of rules that no one actually ever spoke or wrote down.  We sit during every conference call because we work in an office. We sit in the conference room or our office because that is what the social norm is.

Everyone else is sitting.
I guess I am supposed to be sitting.

Employee handbook

Try and find the section in your employee handbook titled Conference Call Requirements.  What you can’t find that section?  It’s because there isn’t one.

For the first eighteen years of my working career, I was convinced that my employee handbook mandated the following:

  1. You must be sitting while on a conference call.  You must sit at your desk, in the conference room, at the airport, or in your car.
  2. If you are not sitting, then you must be distracted and not providing value to the discussion.
  3. Every employee will take notes while attending the conference call and therefore each employee needs to be sitting.

Conclusion: There is not a rule that says you have to sit


stickit to the man

Professionalism remains important

If you are going to attempt to break the rules of the herd, then there is a way to do this well.  There are also a few ways to really screw this up.

1) Is it ok with you if I walk while we talk?

Start with asking this question and ask for the other people’s support before you begin walking during the call. By gaining their agreement, then you are honoring the importance of the conference call and their time.  You do not want your co-workers to feel that you are not paying attention or are out goofing off picking up your dry cleaning while talking with them.

Key phrases: If you don’t mind or is it ok with you

2) You may hear some background noise while we are talking

It is critical that you communicate to the other people on the call that they may hear background noise and inform them exactly what they may hear during the call.  I live in a neighborhood that is constantly building new homes.  In the background there are dogs barking, dump trucks passing by and other sounds that can be distracting at times.

I have found that if you communicate what these sounds are in advance, people are much more comfortable knowing than guessing.

I’ve found this to be helpful when in an airport as well.

“Sam I am in an airport, you may hear some background noise as I am boarding a flight to xxx.
I hope this won’t be too distracting for you? “

3) Use an earpiece or wired earbuds

It is much more difficult to talk while holding your phone against your ear.  Secondly the outdoor environment reduces the noise quality significantly.  I have found that if I plug in my earbuds or an earpiece then I can maximize my listening and talking volume and therefore not reduce my level of participation.

My new friend Matthew Kruchko recommends the ERA by Jawbone.  He too is a home office, business traveling family guy who is on the move a lot and swears by this Bluetooth earpiece.

4) Use the Mute button

You must learn to use the mute button.  Most people would improve the conference call experience for others if they would learn to use the mute function.  Even if you are sitting at your desk or in a conference room you should be using the mute feature a lot anyway.

I have been on hundred’s of conference calls (like the video portrays) where people’s dogs are barking, kids are asking for a snack and they hammer on their keyboard.

5) Not every call is a Walk & Talk candidate

Here is a list of call types that I do not apply this Life Hack to:

  • My boss for our weekly call
  • Prospective clients
  • First time interviews
  • All company meetings
  • Any call that I am leading that requires me to share my screen or present information

Consequences of doing this wrong

If you use your best professional judgment then you can make this work for you every single week for the rest of your career.  Misjudge the time, place and approach to this and immediately people will think you are not paying attention, not working hard, not professional, disinterested and not committed to your work.

Do this well and you can Stick-It to the Man with every mile.

Garmin Vivofit

I measured every mile and steps walked with my new fitness band from Garmin-Vivofit.  As they say, you can only improve what you measure.

The Vivofit measures every step you take each day, monitors your sleep, and scolds you with a flashing red bar when you’ve sat too long.  I would highly recommend investigating a few of these fitness bands to both help motivate as well as measure your miles.

Still not convinced?

Here are a few more resources to help convince you that sitting is killing us one conference call at a time.

Nilofer Merchant’s TedTalk 2013 –Got a meeting? Take a walk

Podcast interview with Nilofer Merchant-Sitting is killing us

Harvard Business Review: Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation

How Sitting All Day is Damaging Your Body-LifeHacker

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