How to Keep The Referrals Flowing – Keep it Busy in the Silly Season Holidays


It’s been a long and eventful year for many businesses, and we are all looking forward to a well-deserved Christmas and New Year’s break.  Festive parties, holiday events in our businesses or with our clients fill our social calendar.  We’re busier than ever socially – and it’s fun!  But… could your chapter suffer?

Silly Season: Keep The Energy Up!

Does your chapter lose momentum as we inch (then suddenly bound!) towards the Holiday Season and Christmas?  Are you worried that your BNI “sales team” might lose focus amidst the festive frivolities, or that you will experience a dwindling number of referrals leading up to (and during) the holiday break?

Fear not!

We have assembled some great tips on how to conquer a possible holiday slump in your chapter, and to keep you and your chapter focussed – while having fun, and a good break.

So, What’s The Problem?

From early December to the Christmas break, and through the (long) period to Australia Day, it can be a tricky time for chapters.

After a year of building a great group, we become pre-occupied with the festivities.  Family and social engagements, plus the need for a break, can create high member absences in December and January, as businesses close and people take annual leave.  Australia slows down, and often even comes to a complete halt until Australia Day.

The potential problem for your BNI chapter is that absences can become a starting point for declining referrals and people dropping out.  So you need to get people back in the weekly habit as quickly as possible after the break.

But even during the holiday break you can keep the momentum going.

Keep It Strong – Keep The Break (and Absences) Short

One of the key elements that differentiates BNI from other networking groups, is its structure – combined with the weekly protocol.  Not unlike a business that has sales meetings each week, the strength of the BNI system lies in the frequency and the accountability it provides.

It’s like going to the gym: once you get out of the habit, it’s hard to get back on track.  It’s human nature.

BNI attendance is no different.

Breaks that run from three, to up to five or even six weeks are a concern.  That is a long time not to see your sales team – and your team not to refresh their memory of your business.

So what to do? The shorter the break your chapter takes – the easier it will be to get back on track.  And the more you continue to engage before and during the break, the better 2013 will be for you, your business, and your chapter.

10 Tips – Before the Break

It is important for the ongoing success of your chapter to close the year on a good, uplifting note.  After a busy and perhaps demanding year, you want to go into the holiday season on a light note that will make all members look forward to returning to the group soon.

Here are some tips on what you can do leading up to and at the last meeting of the year:

  1. Get creative – fun is healthy, and contagious!
  2. Make the last meeting of the year a “thank you!” meeting to acknowledge members’ input – and encourage continuance in the New Year.
  3. Create a secular advent calendar (or two if your group is big) with some treats.  Everybody likes a little surprise to sweeten their day.
  4. Have a champagne breakfast – bubbles go perfectly with those brekkie strawberries!
  5. Decorate your meeting venue. Create some ambience, surprise your chapter.
  6. Have a themed Sales Manager Minute – and have a prize for the best one – or make the last meeting a Holiday Season fancy dress event.
  7. Psst… Organise a Secret Santa.
  8. Do something festive for the 10-minute presentation, like having different members explain their Christmas, Hanukkah, Saint Nicholas Day, etc. traditions, and how they celebrate.
  9. Organise a December social event – a harbour cruise, a lawn bowls afternoon, a BBQ, attending a carols picnic together – the options are endless!  Involve partners and families to create more personal ties.
  10. Remember to be aware of the different religious and cultural backgrounds of your members, and be sensitive to them.

Keep in mind that most members tend to be small businesses, and the majority are owners or sole traders who might not have any other work related festivities planned.  Give them something to look forward to!

Include BNI in Your Holiday Plans – Have Fun!

To keep it humming, you ideally don’t want to close your chapter at all over the holiday period.  But the need for rest and family time might make that too ambitious a goal.

Consider creating opportunities to connect during the holidays in a relaxed atmosphere, especially in your powergroups.

Here are some thoughts and ideas for you and your chapter:

  • Not all companies close at Christmas other than for statutory holidays – so referral opportunities do not stop for long.
  • Continue to meet on your allotted day – but focus on, for example, internal training or projects.
  • Like any business, give your chapter the best start to the New Year – take the opportunity to plan ahead during the break. Together.
  • Encourage powerteams to meet during the ‘closed’ period in lieu of a standard meeting.
  • Be less formal with the meeting – extend the open networking section, have a themed Sales Manager Minute, and use the 10-minute for fun networking tips.
  • Have themed Sales Manager Minute like: “my ideal referral for 2013 is…”
  • Make the first meeting after the break a casual dress day if most people are still on holidays from their work or business.

So, even if you cannot achieve a no-break meeting schedule, try to keep BNI activity up during the break: your referral levels will stay up!

Got Any Tips?… Let us know at how your chapter is having fun while creating ongoing business during the holiday period.

We like to thank David Cole, BNI Ambassador, 9-year member and current President at BNI Sky Scrapers for his contribution to this article.  David currently serves on the BNI International Board of Advisors, which ensures open communication between our international members and BNI Headquarters.  David is also the founder of management and business consultancy firm Focused Management Business Coaching.

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