choosing a networking group

Networking groups. I know. Sometimes even just hearing the phrase can be a downer. Networking groups don’t always have the best reputation. Many of them feel disingenuous and insincere. You attend an event and the people around you care more about giving their 5-minute spiel rather than getting to know you. It can be awkward and a little frustrating. More often than not, after one bad networking experience, many are turned off from the idea completely. And that’s a shame because if a networking group is set up correctly, it truly can help you grow your business. Networking groups need to establish core values and offer support such as continuing education tools. So let’s jump in and break down the topic of choosing a networking group.

Core Values and POV

Just like your business, you want to be involved in a group that really stands by it’s core values, mission statement, and point of view. These items should in some way, shape, or form, reflect your own views. It doesn’t make much sense to be involved in a group you find no connection with. We are all in business to make a profit, but business should serve a greater need. Business can be profitable as well as honorable and noble. As business people we can make a difference in communities and individual lives.

The true foundation for success rests in an organization’s culture. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. BNI’s core values help to establish its culture. They include: Givers Gain, building relationships, lifelong learning, traditions and innovation, a positive and supportive attitude, recognition, and accountability.

It’s never too late to be thinking about your core values.

Structure and Organization

Most networking groups tend to feel unorganized and lacking in structure. Which is why you may have felt a bit awkward at the last networking event you went to. Or perhaps why you haven’t found much success in other networking groups.

BNI uses structure and organization to help members find as much success as possible. Each chapter meets once a week to discuss goals, referrals, and even troubleshoot frustrations. These meetings follow a specific structure to ensure every topic gets enough talking time. It is also during meetings that members can learn about different educational tools and are exposed to keynote presentations given by other members. It is here that members truly begin to form long lasting and personal relationships with one another.

Continuing Education Tools

As stated above, lifelong learning is a core value of BNI. And in true reflection of that, BNI gives every single chapter member a plethora of continuing education tools.

BNI University (MSP): The greatest tool in the BNI toolkit is BNI University. BNI University is an online learning center in which members have free access to lessons and courses in anything and everything related to small business. It is also home to the Member Success Program (MSP). It is here that chapter members are taught the best ways to succeed in BNI. BNI University is a perfect example of structure within the BNI organization.

Webinars/Podcasts: Technology is making it easier than ever to continually learn – even with super busy schedules. BNI works with you and your small business, giving you the ultimate flexibility. Tune into webinars that work with your schedule. And try giving the BNI Podcast a listen to as you drive to your next meeting!

Social Media Shares/Blogs: We live in an age where Social Media is king. And BNI is following suit! Most BNI chapters have their own Facebook page where they share articles and keynote presentations aimed to help current chapter members. BNI Area websites also share a number of blogs (such as this one) and other related articles to help small business members achieve their small business goals.

And if watching videos is more your style click here for a number of BNI videos!

So What Are You Waiting For? Try a Free Trial!

Potential members are free to visit a BNI group twice and participate in the meeting. Just like a regular member, potential members will get to participate in:

  1. An open network with the group members – to get the most return we recommend to members and guests to show up 15 minutes before the start of the meeting, giving you thirty minutes to meet and greet members and other visitors
  2. An opportunity to present a picture of your ideal client and what you offer to them as a way of growing your business
  3. A free ten-minute educational presentation from one of the members

To get started we suggest that you go to find an opening in a chapter that you can visit where you will not find your competition in the room – one of BNI’s key advantages.

Current BNI members can check out the BNI University program here! And for those of you curious about all BNI has to offer, we invite you to attend a meeting at any BNI chapter in our region. For more information about BNI and to find a chapter to visit, simply click here.

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