Archive for December, 2011

From 11- 14 November 2011, sunny Long Beach, California, attracted BNI Directors from all corners of the globe for the BNI International Director’s Conference 2011.

For three days, nearly 600 BNI Directors gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (joined by another 250 Member’s Day-only attendees) for what they do best:

Networking.  

Should you think this crowd was getting all California-style laid-back for a few days – think again!  Your very own BNI Director likely slogged away almost non-stop to bring you back the best new tactics, education and tools to take your chapter to new heights.

From the Horses’ Mouth(s)

We spoke to Louise Greenup (BNI Sydney CBD South), Brent Edwards (BNI Melbourne South), Sue Anthoney (BNI Sydney North West), and Daniel Garlick (BNI Tasmania) to find out what they took away from this year’s conference.

They told us that they worked hard, made great new connections, and had fun doing so.  Perhaps that’s not all that surprising, because the BNI International Conference works like a giant chapter meeting!

“Attending the BNI International Conference should come with a warning,” Louise Greenup says, tongue-in-cheek.

“Attendees were on their ‘A game’ and ready for action,” she continues.  “Shaking the hands of true givers from around the world was a rich experience.  An abundance of information and educational material was freely passed between attendees.  Now that was special,” Louise enthuses.

“Just awesome!”

What Impressed You Most At The International Conference?

Louise was impressed with how truly global BNI is, and how easily everyone and anyone from all corners of the world shared – in true Givers Gain® fashion.

For Brent and Dan, the access to the most-successful BNI people in the world, and the time they offered, was a highlight.  Dan especially appreciated the opportunity to interview several BNI ‘masters’, including Lee Abraham and Mike Macedonio.

Everyone mentioned the high quality of the content and speakers, as well as the chance to reconnect, as some true highlights of attending this year’s BNI International Director’s Conference 2011.

Creative Sue Anthoney even put her health on the line for the cause and cornered the smokers: “I met so many National Director’s, Executive Director’s, Assistant Director’s and members from all over the world in the smoking area and hotel entrance – it led to several great 1-on-1′s,” she reveals.

Which One Tip Can You Pass On To Members?

“We need to share our success stories more,” Brent argues.  “Member success stories really help us build the BNI brand.  They also help us recruit – and maintain – members.”

Dan adds that BNI Directors who constantly refine tools and strategies will succeed in making BNI memberships more valuable, by teaching members better strategies to make money.

“The value of holding each other accountable is so important,” Louise points out.  “It limits time wasted, because members and chapters know what is expected, and when.”

Why Should Directors & Members Attend?

Valuable, lasting learning happens easiest in a positive environment – when you are enjoying yourself.  And for Louise the conference amply provided both: fun, and a very positive place to learn.  “Truly a unique experience,” she sums it up.

The outstanding content certainly makes it worthwhile for any member passing through or living close by to attend the Member’s Day, according to Brent.

“Director content is equally excellent, and the other attendees really respect that you have travelled so far, as most have,” Brent explains.  “They are happy to give you their time in return.”  For him, this is the place to tap into the knowledge of the many BNI ‘masters’, all in the one go.  “For personal development, as a BNI Director, this conference is unrivalled in the BNI calendar.”

Dan believes that every BNI Director should attend – to meet their peers and to exchange ideas.  He says “the contacts you make at these conferences last a lifetime!”

On Being a Director…

All our Directors seem to have left the BNI International Director’s Conference 2011 newly invigorated, armed with new tools, and bursting with new knowledge, motivation, and inspiration.  Not to mention the excitement at having connected with old and new contacts from across the globe.

Being a BNI Director can be hard work.

But as our interviewees’ responses show: it also has its rich rewards.

Categories : Events
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The advent of online networking has meant a huge shift in how we connect with people.  While it has not overtaken more traditional forms of networking, such as referral groups (like BNI) and casual contact networking (as Dr Ivan Misner discovered while conducting research for his new book, “Business Networking And Sex”), online networking is certainly great for building relationships.

In light of this, we have put together five top tips to help you get the most out of your online networking.

Remember VCP

In order to be successful in any networking environment you need to remember the basic principles of visibility, credibility, and profitability (VCP).

We do business with people we know, like and trust.  Think of online networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn as ways to build these relationships, which, just like in the ‘real’ world, you must do before trying to make a sale.  Imagine you were at a networking event and a stranger gave you their business card and said “Buy from me!”  It would make you not want to buy from them.  The same is true online; don’t send someone a message promoting yourself before you have built a relationship with them.

Complete Your Online Profiles

Your online profiles are great credibility builders … provided you take the time to complete them.  Most people will read them before deciding whether to connect with you.

Some of the elements you should include in your profile are your:

  • Location – people may want to meet you.
  • Work history – including company names, positions, and job descriptions.
  • Hobbies and interests – to create the ‘I’m like you’ factor.

Think Before You Post

Remember VCP.  Before you post photos of drunken nights, think about how they might affect your business relationships.  Keep these things for your personal profiles and check your privacy settings.  Remember, the internet is permanent: once you put something out there, it is there for good.

Get Active and Contribute

When you go to a networking function in the ‘real’ world do you sit alone in the corner?  Of course not.  So when you are online, make sure you join groups and be part of the conversation.  You get the greatest value from online networking when you contribute.  Just as Givers Gain® works offline, givers do gain online, too.

Connect Online and Offline

If distance allows, you might like to meet up with people you have met online.  Similarly, when you meet someone new in person, stay in contact online as well.  Both keep the connection going, which is just what networking is all about.

Try some of these tips – and let us know how you go at social.media@bni.com.au

Natalie Alaimo is the National Social Media Director for BNI Australia.  She also runs social media training business, Natalie Alaimo International, teaching entrepreneurs how to leverage the power of social media to generate an avalanche of clients.  Visit her online to download a FREE copy of “The 9 Essential Tips to Social Media Success”.

Categories : Education, Networking
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Have you ever been to a networking event where the goal of everyone around you seems to be to collect as many business cards as quickly as possible?  Wouldn’t it be better to connect with people rather than just collect their contact details?

Yes!  In October, we started our new series on networking, following the huge number of requests to cover this topic.  This month we’re looking at working the room.

But what does ‘working the room’ actually mean?  Here are a few points to keep in mind for doing just that.

Working The Room

As small business owners and members of BNI, we know that referrals drive business.  In fact, for small business owners like us there is no greater endorsement than a personal referral.  And what is the best way to help people make personal referrals to you?  Meet them!

So working the room is simply meeting people and connecting with them.

Look For An Opening

But there are often more people than we can actually meet at networking events.  How do we know who is open to meeting us?

Have a look at the picture below.  Which people would you walk up to?

Open Groups

Some of the people in the picture are standing in open groups, often called ‘Open Vs’ because of their shape.  Just like the letter itself, V-shaped groups allow people to talk while leaving an opening for others to join in.  And as we know, the more people who join the group, the more opportunities we have to connect with them.

Sorry We’re Closed

Some of the people in the picture are standing in closed groups.  They have their backs facing outwards and there is no space for people to join.  Closed groups repel others, which means no opportunities for connecting.

Are You Lost?  Can I Help?

There are a few ‘lost’ people in the picture, standing alone.  When you see a ‘lost’ person, remember the fundamental BNI maxim: Givers Gain®!  The person may be feeling nervous or alone.  Give them your time and attention.  Join them and start a conversation: you never know where it might lead.

Connecting With The Connectors

Standing in open groups and approaching people who look lost, are two good ways to become better networkers.  Another strategy is to connect with the connectors.

What does this mean?  Connectors are people who know hundreds (even thousands) of people.  They are the ones people mention first, and whose names come up time and time again.  Connectors are people who have built huge networks, through meeting and helping people.  They can provide you with a link to a great range of people, ideas, and information.

Keep an ear out for people saying, “You know who could help?  So-and-so, they know everyone!”

But don’t stop at meeting connectors, become a connector.  The easiest way to do this is to help people, to recommend an IT specialist to someone who needs help with their computer, or a great architect to someone renovating their house.  Over time, people will come to you for suggestions, which means you will also be front-of-mind when they need the services you provide.

So, when you are heading to your next chapter meeting or business-networking event, make sure you arrive early and leave late so you have time to work the room.

We all need holidays.  What we don’t need is the hassle of trying to figure out the planes, trains and automobiles to get us there!

Luckily there are travel agents who can do these things for us so our holidays really are holidays.  The benefits of having a travel agent in our BNI chapter extend beyond our own travel needs.  It can really help our businesses too.

So let’s look at why every chapter needs a travel agent, and why every travel agent needs a chapter.

Travel Agents, We Want You! 

So why does every chapter need a travel agent?  Because:

  • Travel agents meet loads of people every day.  There is a high chance they will meet someone who needs what you are offering – and can recommend you.
  • Travel agents know many people – not just in your city, but across Australia, and around the world too.  They have incredible networks which can directly benefit your business.
  • Givers Gain®:  When you refer your friends and colleagues to a good travel agent, they will remember you for making such a good recommendation.
  • Travel agents can assist with your own travel arrangements, whether for business or pleasure.

Every Travel Agent Needs a Chapter 

So every chapter needs a travel agent: fact.  But why does every travel agent need a chapter?

The mutually beneficial relationship between BNI Australia and Travel Counsellors, a travel agency franchise, is a perfect example why every travel agent needs a chapter.

Travel Counsellors has over 1,100 travel agents across six countries.  It has some of the best travel agents in the world, many of whom are also members of their local BNI chapters.

We asked some of these Travel Counsellors why they joined BNI.  Here are their top four reasons:

  1. Because being part of BNI means you have a sales team promoting your business for you.

    “BNI has been one of the principal reasons my business is so successful today.  When I first joined BNI, I discovered a sales team who were as excited about building my business as much as their own.”
    Suzanne McGregor, Travel Counsellors,
    BNI Central, Brisbane QLD.

  2. Because only one travel agent can be a member in each chapter so competition is locked out.
  3. Because being a member of BNI can mean a great increase in referrals.

    “In such a short time BNI has led to over 40% of all my business referrals.”
    Jamie Cooper, Travel Counsellors,
    BNI Accelerate, Ipswich, Brisbane QLD.

  4. Because with increased referrals comes the opportunity for greatly increased income.

    “BNI has truly worked for me and my business.  I have received over $300,000 worth of business in referrals.”
    Ian Silk, Travel Counsellors,
    BNI Advantage, Glen Waverley, VIC.

So as you can see, travel agents and BNI work very well together.

If your chapter has a vacancy in the travel sector, start thinking as a group about how you can find a great travel agent.

Have you ever walked into a party where you didn’t know anyone and found yourself greeted with a friendly smile and some helpful introductions?  Then you have met someone who would make a great BNI Visitor Host!

Visitor Hosts are a fundamental part of your Leadership Team and vitally important to the growth of your chapter.  This month we take a closer look at who they are and what they do.

BNI Visitor Hosting: It’s a Team Effort

As your BNI chapter can expect to welcome more than one visitor each week, your team of Visitor Hosts needs to be large enough to properly look after each guest.  The expected number of visitors depends on the size of your chapter, of course, and how active members are in bringing guests to your weekly meetings.

Your chapter’s Visitor Hosts also need to organize the team to look after different aspects of Visitor Hosting: greeting, orientation, and follow up.

The larger the chapter, the more Visitor Hosts you need to appoint.  Both – ensuring individual attention is given to each visitor, and distributing the workload – mean that chapters should have at least three Visitor Hosts to share the tasks, and to be able to concentrate on high quality hosting.

Because it’s professional, it’s polite – and because happy visitors are great referrers!

Meeting And Greeting

Your chapter’s Visitor Hosts are the first people a guest (and potential new member) meets when they visit your chapter.

They greet new arrivals and help them feel welcome.  Visitor Hosts make sure guests have a cup of tea or coffee, and explain how the meeting will run.  And because Visitor Hosts are expert networkers, they introduce guests to key people to get the networking ball rolling.

Making Introductions: Everybody Wins

A good Visitor Host finds out which businesses a guest is looking to connect with – but they also establish which members might benefit from meeting the guest.  Then the Visitor Host brings them together, introducing guest and relevant members.

Even with only little information available, clued-in Visitor Hosts know to introduce a visitor to representatives of the power team the guest’s business would most likely complement.

Either way, introductions made by the Visitor Hosts enable members and guests to network before the actual meeting begins.  Everyone will get the most out of pre-meeting networking – visitor, member, and your chapter.

Visitor Hosts ensure the President has the visitors’ details so they can be individually introduced to the chapter.

Perhaps most importantly for these potential new members, Visitor Hosts explain the Sales Manager Minute (a.k.a. 60 Seconds Infomercial), and the opportunity each guest has to share their business and ideal referral request with the group.

After The Meeting: Orientation & Follow Up

Visitor Hosts not only play a fundamental role in greeting visitors at the start of each chapter meeting, they also help visitors after meetings, both immediately and in the days following.

At the end of each meeting, Visitor Hosts join up with guests for a brief Visitor Orientation.  This orientation is the perfect opportunity for guests to ask questions and for Visitor Hosts to talk them through the application process.

During the orientation, Visitors Hosts should:

  • Thank the visitors for coming
  • Explain the commitments of membership
  • Handout the BNI Visitor Packs
  • Explain the application process and help visitors complete the application form
  • Collect application forms
  • Ask visitors to fill out the confidential meeting evaluation form

And because Visitor Hosts are such welcoming people, they phone new visitors a day or two after the meeting to check if they have any questions or need help with the application form.

So The Best Visitor Hosts Are…

A whole range of people!  From members who love to greet new people to those who can’t stop themselves talking about how BNI has boosted their business.

While it is important for the group of Visitor Hosts serving on the Leadership Team at any one time to have different talents, they do all share one important understanding: that by growing their chapter they are growing their own business. One inevitably flows from the other.

So Are You Ready To Be A Host With The Most?

Like the sound of being one of the welcoming faces of your chapter and increasing to your visibility and creditability?  Great!  Talk to your Leadership Team about becoming a Visitor Host.

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