I have been invited by friends to attend BNI meetings at a handful of chapters in Singapore. So far, most of them meet at (what is to a blogger) ‘unearthly’ hours, basically 7.30am. I have only been to one that meets in the evening, but I didn’t quite like the vibes I was getting from members there, hence I won’t be returning. But after a few hits and misses here and there, I’ve been learning how to make the most out of each meeting I attend, bearing in mind that I have sacrificed sleep and done what most bloggers do not usually do, if at all.
For the uninitiated, BNI stands for Business Network International. In a nutshell, each “chapter” or group has members from different occupations (you cannot join a particular chapter if someone from the same occupation is already a member there). They meet on on a regular basis and refer business to each other. As a visitor, you get the opportunity to share about your business and you just might get some new clients if you are lucky. Most of the time, you have to pay a ‘networking fee’ which will cover your meal there (around the range of S$10 to S$20). To join a BNI chapter, annual membership is over S$600 and there’s a registration fee too. And you’ll also have to pay for meals.
As a visitor, you pay for the opportunity to network, and you’ll also have to wake up early and make your way to the venue, therefore you should grab the opportunity to make the most out of your time there.
So here are my 5 tips for anyone who visits a BNI meeting and wants it to be a fruitful session. If you have any tips to share, please drop me an email and I’ll credit you in my next post. 🙂
#1: Prepare what you want to say and do before you attend any meeting
As the saying goes, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. I have attended meetings without thinking about how I will introduce myself in the 30 or 60 seconds given to each visitor at each meeting. It is valuable airtime that can either give people a great lasting impression of you, or make you un-memorable like the rest in the room.
I had my pitch ready today, and it turned out pretty well as I’d timed myself to perfection at home.
If the bell goes after your 30 or 60 seconds is up, and you are still trying to get some final words in, you simply sound desperate (for business). So make sure you keep it short and sweet, and though I’m saying this again, timed to perfection.
And since you are speaking about YOUR own business, and not anyone else’s, you should be able to share WITHOUT referring to notes, your iPad or your phone. It’s just a 60 second introduction at most so MEMORIZE it by heart and have eye contact with your audience instead of reading off a screen.
#2: Get to the venue early & make yourself comfortable
There is nothing more scary than having to speak before a group of strangers. And it is worse if you are feeling cold and hungry, having not had breakfast.
Breakfast is usually served after the meeting ends, so head to the venue early, and grab a cup of coffee or milo, and give yourself time to settle in.
Make a few new friends among the early birds too! Then you’ll feel like you are speaking to friends when giving that introduction, instead of a scary bunch of strangers.
#3: The space where you are seated at is prime advertising space
This is what I did today: I brought a book stand (S$2 from Daiso) and a browsing copy of my book ‘Blogging For A Living’. Also, I had a box of namecards ready for anyone to just grab a card, even if I am not at my seat:
When I was away from the table, and actually in the pantry getting my milo fix, someone came over to look for the lady whose face is on the cover of the book, ME! 😀
It is near impossible to miss seeing my book when you walk into the meeting room, so people know an author is in the room. And they will be more likely to pay attention to my introduction. 🙂
#4: Have a namecard they just cannot throw away
I collect namecards but I also throw many of them away every year. Most people have plain-looking, even cheap, namecards. I make sure mine stand out from the rest.
It has my face on it. It has my contact details behind, including the title of my book and my blog URL.
And as about 99% of recipients have told me, my namecard is “SO CUTE!” How can you throw away a card that looks so adorable? You just can’t, unless you are heartless. Haha! 😛 And yes, people at BNI have kept my card and called me months after I first met them. Cool or cool?
#5: Make them an offer they cannot resist
So today I offered people who bought my book an advertising slot on my blog for FREE. Not everyone bought a copy, but I knew not everyone will anyway.
My book is an awesome read (as I have been told) and it is also the most amazing ‘business card’ for me. Read it and you will know why I do what I do and even how I do it.
I gave book buyers an advertising slot for free – usually advertisers pay hundreds of dollars for one. But it gives me an opportunity to follow up with these people.
And if they like what they read in the book, and what the ad brings them, I might get more future business.
And to me, there is no loss at all from giving out free ad space. Plus, I earn a good sum from the sales of the book. I get an “author’s discount” from my publisher. So it’s a win-win situation for me.
I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost. I’ve shared tips from my own experience attending quite a number of BNI chapter meetings, so you can make your next visit pretty awesome. Feel free to share the link to this post with your friends (social media sharing buttons below).
Let me know if you have any tips to add on to this post. I’ll be most happy to hear from you. 😀