BNI, or Business Network International, is the largest business and professional organisation of its kind. This 30 year old organisation has over 178,000 members in 7,094 chapters across 58 countries.
It is almost a year since I actively joined BNI Signature. I believe it was the second or third Information Meeting in March 2014. In January that year, I attended the BNI Pioneer (Kuching) launch. Because my then category was filled, I moved to the next available one: BNI Signature.
But what kept me going on with this Chapter? What made me add another two years to my membership?
The BNI word-of-mouth marketing system has several structures:
- Regular Meetings – Regular meetings are conducted weekly. All chapter members must attend this meeting. Each week, all members will deliver a 60 seconds presentation, known as the Members’ Weekly Presentation. One member will get an additional Feature Presentation, lasting 10 minutes. Regular meetings are opened to non-members, who we call “visitors”. Each week, chapter members are encouraged to bring in visitors to experience the BNI system. They may refer to chapter members and vice versa. The regular meetings adhere to the 20-point agenda – an agenda used in every BNI chapter worldwide.
- Closed Door Meetings – Closed door meetings are held on the day of the regular meeting. Unlike regular meetings, the objective is to discuss internal chapter matters. Visitors are not allowed to attend.
- Visitors Day – Every now and then a chapter may organise a Visitors Day. BNI Signature held one on 18 March 2015 (Wednesday). The focus of the Visitors Day are: (1) to recruit new members into the chapter and (2) to showcase our members’ businesses to a wider group of visitors. Unlike a regular meeting, all members are expected to invite 20 to 40 people each. Not all invitation will be accepted, but those who come may surprise you!
- 1-2-1 Meetings – Meeting each week in a larger group is not as effective as meeting each other on a one-to-one basis. BNI encourages members to do this meetings outside the Regular Meeting. Typically a 1-2-1 lasts 60 minutes. The first member will educate the second member on her business. In the next 20 minutes, the second member will share with the first member his business. In the final 20 minutes, they discuss on where to go: the specific or ideal referral each member are looking for, the products or service they chose to highlight etc.
- Information meeting – Information meetings are conducted by a Chapter’s Director Consultant when it is starting out. The aim is to find the first 25+ members to form that chapter. Ideally these information meetings run from 5 to 10 weeks.
The meetings are designed to be productive and efficient. Except 1-2-1s, all BNI meetings last for 2 hours and must end on the dot. 1-2-1s are an hour long. But in our earlier days, we were – or I was – involved in 1-2-1s that spanned almost 8 hours! How can this be?
We want to develop the trust among our members. Some points may be mundane to one another. But when we find common ground, it becomes so exciting and insightful that time seems to gallop away!
Another part of the system that appeals to me is education. BNI educates its members on how to be better networkers and work their networks so we can sell through each other, not to each other. But that is a post for another day…