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How Productive Are Your Networking Lunches or Coffees?

July 21, 2010

When I started my law practice, I was encouraged to join BNI, a  networking organization.  I am a member of a local chapter called  Rainmakers on the South Side of Pittsburgh.  We meet every Tuesday at 7  a.m. at the Holiday Inn on 10th Street.

We have about 24 members who each are in different discipline/professions.  Our goal each weekprimarily is to pass referrals to one another.  We go around the room and give 30 second speeches about our business.  Then we go back around again and pass referrals to members, if we have any, and for the benefit of the group, we may give testimonials regarding other BNI members.  Members are always encouraged to invite visitors to the meetings too.

BNI is a national group with local chapters.

I have to say that I really enjoy the group and the program.  After a decade of working as a lawyer and consultant, I have a new perspective on business development as a result of BNI.  If anyone would like to be a visitor at one of my meetings (whether a business owner or not, unemployed or employed), please let me know.  I would welcome the opportunity to introduce you to our group.

BNI has a director who attends monthly to impart wisdom on the group.  BNI also has a new member training program.   I wanted to share with you some of what I have learned.

How Productive Are Your Business Lunches or Coffees? How often do you meet a new business acquaintance for coffee or lunch and you don’t feel as though the meeting really helped you out at all?  Or, you never follow up with that person afterwards anyway?   Also, even after an hour of listening and sipping your Starbucks skim, one-pump mocha latte, you still cannot remember what that person said that they really do.

Well.  At my BNI training, I received a BNI form handout that members are encouraged to complete about themselves (a one-pager).  On it is a short paragraph with a tagline/mission statement and basic explanation of what you do.  There is also a bullet point list with the following category  headings:

  • your specific goals in business;
  • your accomplishments (personal and professional);
  • interests (personal and professional);
  • your networks (in what organization do you actively participate); and
  • your special skills.

Do you cover this ground during your networking opportunities?  Do you expressly state, “How can I help you in your business?  Whom would you like to meet that I might know?”  Did you actually exchange names and contact information of people in your network?

BNI members are encouraged to hand this one-page flier to their lunch or coffee date so that person can take your information with them and also have a visual of the things that you say.

I have yet to hand out this flier but I do think that more business owners should be cognizant of how productive or unproductive their networking meetings are.

Hope this helps.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Deatrice James permalink
    August 11, 2010 2:26 am

    I have an IT background; great with machines, but new to networking, talking to people, making connections and business development. As a new business owner, I found the information here really helpful and would love the opportunity to attend a BNI meeting.

    • August 11, 2010 8:49 am

      Are you local to Pittsburgh? You can find a local chapter using the BNI website. It really is an eye opening marketing experience, whether someone is a business owner or employee interested in Rainmaking.

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