Potential visitors often ask, “What should I expect when I attend a BNI meeting?”
As we like to say, the meetings are for the visitors. Members usually conduct the majority of their intra-member business outside of the meeting, either in Power Team groups or in 1-2-1s, when they have time to really sit down and work with one another. Chapter meetings are designed to introduce visitors to what BNI is all about, and to allow visitors to promote their own businesses to the chapter members.
One of the differences between BNI and other networking organizations is that we run our meetings via a planned agenda, so you know exactly when the meeting will begin, what will happen during, and when it will end. No guesswork needed! Here’s how a typical meeting will go:
- Open Networking – Both before and after a meeting, visitors are encouraged (and members are required) to walk around, introduce themselves, and get to know others at the meeting.
- Passing Business Cards – When a visitor is invited to a meeting, they are encouraged to bring 40 to 50 business cards. Why? Because they have the opportunity to have a card passed out to every member of the chapter, even those they may not actually get to meet in person.
- Sales Manager Moments – Each member gets an opportunity at every meeting to give a brief overview of their company, and discuss the businesses and individuals they are currently trying to establish contact with. Visitors have the same opportunity, following the members so they can gain an idea of how it is done.
- Weekly Reports – Members of the Leadership Team give reports to show how the chapter is doing overall — how many referrals are being passed, how much closed business is resulting from those referrals, and so on.
- Speaker Series – One member has the opportunity each meeting to give a 10-minute presentation about their business. This helps us train the other members to be part of our “sales team”, resulting in more qualified referrals, and also serves as another example to visitors of the benefits of joining BNI.
- Referrals and Testimonials – At the end of each meeting, members pass referrals to one another, and often give testimonials for other members. We call this “the most important part of the meeting”, and with good reason — this is a concrete example of how BNI will positively affect your bottom line. Visitors are asked during this portion to stand and give their overall impression of the meeting, or to highlight something they may have learned.
Even after reading this description, it would still be wise to actually attend a BNI chapter meeting, if you really want to get an idea of what it’s all about. It’s often said that truly describing a BNI meeting to someone who has never attended one is like “giving a haircut over the phone!”