So that friend who has been bragging about all the new business he’s been getting from his fellow BNI members has convinced you to attend a meeting as a visitor to see if you and BNI are a good fit.
While BNI chapters are always looking to grow their membership, the leadership team has also been trained to be selective and to properly vet all new applicants. Your visit is an opportunity for you to explore the potential benefits of membership, but it is also an opportunity for the Membership Committee to evaluate your application, should you decide to apply.
You want to make sure you get all the information you need to make a membership decision, while at the same time putting your best foot forward. Your application could be competing against others in the same profession, so making a good impression is in your best interest.
Whether attending an in-person meeting or a virtual meeting on Zoom, be sure you look like you are ready to do business, not heading for the golf course.
Make sure you’ve filled out the visitor form for the chapter well ahead of the visit. The form identifies you as a visitor to other members, so they know who is sponsoring your visit and can reach out to you with welcoming messages that will make you feel more comfortable.
Check out the chapter website to get a feel for its size and the range of professions represented. Do some research on what it takes to become a successful BNI member using internet search. If you get emails from current members welcoming you to the upcoming meeting, be sure to respond.
The informal conversation that takes place before the formal start of the meeting and after it’s been adjourned offers some of the most lively, entertaining and rewarding networking opportunities. This is particularly important as a first-time visitor because people on the Membership or Leadership committees will want to talk with you outside the structured meeting.
Your facial expressions, body language and level of attention to the meeting will say a lot about your genuine interest in BNI and your potential to become a contributing member who understands the value of active listening.
You’ll want to follow the meeting closely and take notes, because when it’s over the chapter president is likely to ask you what you thought of the event. Mumbling generalities won’t garner much reaction, but specific reference to something that happened or was said, and why it was valuable to you, will show that you are attentive and thoughtful.
Times may vary depending on the size of the chapter, but most chapters allow around one minute at each meeting for members and then visitors to describe their businesses in the hope that other members will be better able to provide referrals.
After all the members have presented, you will be invited to make your pitch. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t go into a 60-second presentation unprepared – it really shows. You should approach this as you would any important business meeting with a prospective client.
Plug “Planning your 60-second BNI presentation” into Google and you’ll be amazed at the range of great advice. This is probably the most important thing you can do to properly prepare and make a good impression.
In virtual meetings, make sure you get your contact information and a pleasant greeting to the group in the Zoom chat box, since that’s the way members will keep in touch with you as your membership application moves forward.
During an in-person meeting, there will be an opportunity to pass out business cards, so make sure you have enough and that those cards reflect well on you and your business.
If the visit convinces you that BNI is worth pursuing, it’s important that you maintain some visibility. Don’t disappear. Visit a second time while your application is processing, send emails thanking those who facilitated your visit, and get ready to schedule your first one-to-one meetings, training programs and other great benefits that come with BNI membership.