Tag Archives: BNI

Finding the “net” in “networking”: reflections on the first BNI Expo

Has it been a week already?

The inaugural BNI Expo took place one week ago, on 9 March, and the response to this new local networking event and exhibition was tremendous.

But first a bit of background. Thirty-four local businesses make up BNI Highland, which is the Inverness-area chapter of BNI. The organisation is a worldwide networking and business referral organisation, and members of BNI Highland meet weekly.

The BNI Expo at Eden Court was an opportunity to showcase our businesses to the wider community, and we each invited our contacts to come along, meet the other BNI members, and find out more about our businesses. I spoke to more than 100 people that day, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We also used the day to launch our new “Online Profile Builder” and are delighted at the response!

Each week at our Thursday morning breakfast meetings, BNI members each have a 60-second slot to share a bit of information about our business and request a specific referral from the other members. More often than not, someone around the table will be in a position to help make an introduction on our behalf.

I was a founder member of the BNI Highland chapter, and have been the Education Coordinator since we launch all those months ago. In my role, I introduce the weekly education slot, where a member shares a 4-minute presentation on a topic to help others in the room do business better. Sometimes, like today, the assigned member isn’t able to present their slot, so it has been a great boon to my impromptu speaking skills! Recent education topics have included how to make the most of your 60-second slot, what makes a good referral, and how to make the most of your 1-to-1 meetings with other members.

“One-to-ones” [121s] are the core of BNI; these one-hour meetings with another member enable each of us to learn more about our colleague’s business, and the types of referrals they are looking for. We learn to recognise opportunities where a referral would be suitable. And best of all, we get to know each other better.

Beyond the business passed, BNI has been the source of many new friendships for me and for my colleagues in the room.

Today, we got heartfelt thanks from one of our members, who credited the support he received from all of us, for helping him get through a difficult time personally and professionally.

Which was a helpful reminder: the ‘net’ impact of networking isn’t always just evident in the bottom line.

If you’d like more information about BNI, or how Bruce PR can help you to raise the profile of your business, ring me on 01462 216 226 or drop me a line. I’d be happy to chat.

The PR you do every day (but may not be aware of!)

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

It’s a mouthful of a title, but bear with me: as a businessperson, every time you open your mouth, you are doing PR for your business. If this has come as a shock, don’t be discouraged.

What I am getting at, is that your business’s “PR” is not just what you formally do with your PR agency or marketing team. PR is far more than just the sum total of media releases you issue, the social media messaging you send, or the media coverage you generate.

As my late mentor Lou Cahill APR famously said, “You’ve got PR whether you like it or not.”

In essence, what Lou was saying is, you and your business have a reputation. The variable he highlighted, is the degree to which you manage it.

And like it or not, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to the sum total of that reputation. I was struck by this at the BNI meeting in Inverness last week. I am a founder member of BNI Highland; BNI is a worldwide business networking organisation founded by Dr Ivan Misner. Something that I immediately realised is that the group’s format of a 60-second presentation by each member — at every meeting, every week — is something that strikes fear into a number of would-be members.

What I am noticing however, is that after even two or three meetings, some member’s presentation skills are improving. They are becoming more at ease with speaking to the group about their business. Some [read: Hamish Malcolm, Grant] are even making the most of these “mini-pitches” by incorporating humour and using inventive props. Well done to them!

They may not realise it, but each member’s incremental improvements in their weekly pitch, results in an improvement in their business’s PR, because we all go away with an improved image of their firm. Woefully, the converse is equally true: people who mumble their way through a pitch, speak too quietly or never get to the point are not doing their own, or their business’s, reputation any favours.

If the thought of making a 60-second pitch about your business fills you with dread, then Toastmasters is the place to replace your fear with confidence, and get the skills to make sure you communicate effectively. You’ll have the unexpected benefit of making some new friends as well.

But remember, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to your business’s reputation. You owe it to yourself to do the best you can. If you haven’t got the skills to do the job well, the onus is on you to get them. Your business deserves it. Don’t let it down.

Toastmasters Inverness is hosting a social evening Wednesday 17th June at 7pm at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness. If you are interested in learning more about the group, go along for dinner and to get a feel for what the group offers. Membership in Toastmasters may be the best, most cost-effective investment you can make in your business! Click here to find out more about the dinner Wednesday evening.