When we first join BNI there’s a lot to take in. And it normally takes a new member a little while before they have their head around everything that’s involved.
With all that there is to absorb, a new member can sometimes make assumptions which aren’t quite accurate. A common assumption is that the weekly meetings are for the members. But those of us who’ve been in BNI for a while will know that the weekly meeting is all about the visitors.
THE WEEKLY MEETING IS REALLY FOR THE VISITORS.
It might seem like an odd concept at first. I mean, why would we meet on a weekly basis for the benefit of a visitor who may only come once? But that’s exactly the reason why!
We want all our visitors to have a valuable and professional experience, so that any eligible visitors will apply to join our Chapter. After they apply, the Membership Committee will check to see that they would be a valuable addition to the Chapter. And if they are approved, new members bring with them access to whole new networks.
HOW DO WE ENSURE THE MEETING IS APPEALING TO VISITORS THEN?
The main key is to keep things professional. This doesn’t mean stuffy or boring though. Humour is fine, but different people have different ideas of what kind of humour is acceptable at a professional event, so members should exercise caution.
The language we use is extremely important too. Again, it needs to be professional, but we also need to be wary of using “BNI Lingo”. Terminology such as “1-2-1”, although quite acceptable professionally, can confuse a visitor who has not been exposed to the concept.
Mentioning “other Chapters” especially during the “Referrals & Testimonials” section is also not advisable. You want visitors to be considering either joining your Chapter, or purchasing from your fellow Chapter members. Muddying the waters with mention of “other Chapters” is counter to this goal.
It might seem wise to mention “former members” during the “Referrals & Testimonials” section as a way of showing visitors that relationships formed through BNI continue to pass business, even after a member has left. The risk here though is that a visitor may straight away think to themselves “Why would anyone leave this business network? What didn’t work for them and why?”
Lastly, there’s the certainty in our language that can affect a visitor’s thinking. Saying something like “I’m going to organise an introduction for….”, or “I might know someone…”, leaves too much uncertainty to have the right impact on a visitor. It leaves it open to interpretations such as “it might happen”, or “it could happen”. In instances like this, it’s best to say nothing at all, until the introduction has been made. That way you can stand up and say with confidence “I have a referral for…”.