Thanks, But I Don’t Need Your Card

This video is hosted on the Networking for Success YouTube Channel, hosted by

Imagine you’re at a networking event.

I know, it’s a stretch. But work with me here.

So you’re mixing and mingling and start passing out your business cards like candy. Suddenly, someone hands it back you and says, “No, thanks.” This actually happened to a BNI Member. He wrote to me, astonished, and asked what I would do in his situation. Well, here’s my answer.




If I’m Not Approachable…am I Alienating?

Truth? You might be.

In the first part of this two-part blog, I talked about how to know if you are approachable when it comes to mingling at networking events–because you may not know that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships.

If you read the first blog (found here: ) and discovered that the behaviors listed weren’t those you exhibited when networking, you might begin to wonder if you are, in fact, alienating.

Here are some examples of alienating behaviors:

1. A Negative Attitude: Rambling about your rough personal or professional life is off-putting for your future referral partner. Leave your problems at the door of any networking event you attend. If you’re down, don’t bring others down with you, because they might avoid you at future events and others might follow their lead.

2. Closed-Off Body Language: If you have a scowl on your face and your arms crossed over your chest, others will most likely move on to someone more welcoming. Your stance means a lot in your approachability and allows others to walk past you or join in the conversation easily.

3. Incongruence: Inconsistency in what you say and what you do makes a huge difference in people’s perception of whether or not you are approachable or alienating. If you’re reiterating how much you value kindness in others, but speak poorly to a server or hostess at the event, your potential referral partner is going to dismiss you as insincere.

But how can you really tell if you are approachable or alienating? Bring a trusted friend or referral partner with you to your next networking event and observe each other’s body language, tone of voice and words. Afterwards, exchange constructive feedback with the intent of helping each other become better referral partners.


Premature Solicitor

Why Successful Networking is All About You…Kind Of

This is the first in a two part series.

Do you find yourself a networking event, standing alone awkwardly and wondering why you can’t hold a conversation? Do you wonder why others don’t seem interested in talking to you, while those around you are conversing easily and often? You wore the right thing, you have a drink in your hand and clearly you have no one to talk to–so why aren’t people lined around the corner to speak to you?

I hate to be the one to say it, but it has to be said–it might be you. Not the inherent you, not your personality or your reputation; but your body language and behavior can turn a stranger into a referral partner or into just another body in the room. If you want to make this networking thing happen, you have to know–

Are you approachable or alienating?

Here’s how to know if you are APPROACHABLE:

1. Positive Attitude: You smile, laugh and look like you are a pleasant person to talk to. Although this seems ridiculously simple, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize their frowning or looking bored in conversation. Go look in the mirror and watch how your face changes when you frown and when you smile–you’ll see what a difference it makes!

2. Open Body Language: In the book Networking Like a Pro, I talk about positioning when a person is conversing with others. Instead of talking to someone in a one-on-one conversation, standing closely together with your shoulders facing squarely at one another, make sure your stance allows the room for someone else to approach and join in.

3.Congruence: Conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of the event, going above and beyond to make them feel good. Don’t over compliment or lay on the schmooze, but do make a point to encourage others in conversation and seem genuinely interested in them and their business.


Next week: Are you alienating?




Resist Coin-Operated Networking

When networking, do you only talk to those who can give you the most in return? Do you only give your business card to someone who you will bring you a ton of referrals? Do you only give referrals if you know you’ll get them in return?

If this sounds like you, you are doing it all wrong. Networking is not a vending machine. You don’t put in coins into the machine and get a candy bar every time–sometimes, you have to wait for your candy.

This mentality is called “transactional networking,” which is going to get you nowhere quickly in the world of referral networking. The “I will give you this, now you have to give me that,” point of view is only going to leave you sorely disappointed.

Instead, the proper mindset is, “Let me help you. I’ve got some ideas. I have a referral for you.” Over time, they’ll give it back you when the opportunity arises. This mentality is called “relational.” Keeping score or holding a referral back because you haven’t received one in return won’t always work, but thinking about giving before getting and making it the foundation of your business reputation, will.

Let’s take a closer look. If you’re keeping score and have given two referrals, but only received one in return, you might be a little disappointed. But consider the value of those referrals. You can’t simply go by the numbers. Two referrals to a florist are vastly different than two referrals to a real estate agent. By the same token, we don’t think it’s realistic to expect $1,000 worth of referrals from someone just because you passed them referrals of that amount.

By applying the Givers Gain philosophy, you will make your referral relationships relational rather than transactional and find success in this relationship. Let’s say there’s somebody you don’t know well, but you want to know that person better and build a referral relationship. You think this person may be able to help you and you know you can help them. You don’t start a referral relationship by asking them to sign a contract that for every referral you give him, he has to give you one in return! The way to start the process is to give.

I understand the hesitation to give referrals to someone you don’t know well–but giving doesn’t have to start with a referral. It can start with a conversation. If you’re having a conversation with a possible referral partner and they express a problem they may be having, you might say, “You know, I just read a great article on that. I’ll email it to you.” You hand them your business card with your email address on it, they do the same and –voila! A connection is made through giving.

Remember, networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.

GAINing a Trusted Relationship

I’ve been thinking about the concept of trust lately. Given all that’s happening around the world, with the constant influx of distressing news, it’s hard to know what information to trust, or who to trust, or even where to place our trust.

In networking, trust is a major factoring in giving and receiving referrals– remember, it’s not what you know or who you know, but how well you know each other that counts. In this fast-paced, digital, 140-character age we live in, having an actual conversation with an actual person can feel daunting (and sometimes, we notice that we’ve forgotten how to do it.)

On that note, I wanted to take a moment a reflect on a fundamental of networking, and a fantastic way to start to earn trust–the GAINS exchange. When you have a 1-2-1 with someone you’ve networked with, it’s important to begin to build the foundation of the relationship in an effective, time efficient way. GAINS is the perfect way to do that.

The ice breaker goes as follows: Goals, Achievements, Interests, Networks and Skills. Whether these are professional or personal answers (or possibly both) it’ll help the conversation flow easily and begin to build that foundation of trust.

The first time you introduce the ice breaker, it can feel a little awkward; but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it. Begin practicing the exchange with someone you’re comfortable with–you might be surprised at their answers!

Take some time to write down your answers, and really reflect on it. You might even learn something new about yourself.


Which Networking Style Are You?

This is the fifth and final video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by In this series, I expand on common phrases I’ve used throughout my 31 years of referral-based networking.

When you’re at a networking event, do you eagerly bounce around the room, chatting with various people and passing out business cards? Do you tend to seek deep connections by only talking to a few people for longer periods? Everyone has their own way of making connections and networking, and it helps to understand just where you fall in the lineup.

Knowing your networking behavioral style will help you capitalize on your skills–and maybe even identify some flaws to improve upon. Take a look at the video below to find out YOUR style and maybe the next time you’re at an event, you’ll be able to better position yourself for greater success.


State Side Once Again

Passion. Energy. Gratitude.

Those tokens are what I remember from those who attended the BNI Conferences of Italy and England.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife Beth and I were in Europe the past three weeks traveling to Italy and England for their BNI National Conferences. This was our first trip to Italy, and  I hadn’t visited England in several years, so this was a big deal for all those involved.

One of the reasons I enjoy traveling to the international conferences, is because I love meeting the people who drive BNI: our Members. Business owners who are working hard to make it in the world, who are dedicated to our core values, who are passionate about learning ways to make their business better. Seeing their energy and their commitment is what drives me to keep producing content and find new ways to give real people real advice on networking and small business performance.

In Italy, what impressed me the most was the hospitality of the people. The warmth and kindness was palpable and I had no problem opening up–even with the language barrier. Like I always say, networking is the same in any language, and culture can’t stop people from interacting from one another. (In fact, I challenge you to network with someone who practices a different culture than you do– you might be surprised at just how similar you are.) Everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to use the tools given to them in the right way–which is something I felt deeply from Italian Members. At every turn there was someone shaking my hand, thanking me for helping them push through some of the hardest times of their professional lives–for that, I am grateful.

Our Members in England were unique in their energy, to be sure. The excitement and enthusiasm was something I wish I could bottle and take whenever I need a boost! Once I took the stage on Friday at their conference’s Members Day, the Tweets began multiplying like fireworks–hundreds within a mere few hours. It wasn’t ignorance on fire, but passion, which is even better. They took every word of my speech to heart, hung on every word, which made me feel completely humbled and appreciative. I look over those tweets and think, “Wow! They liked me–they really liked me!”

Take a look through this photo album and see if you can feel what I felt during that time. It was truly something I will never forget.





Ivan on fire











Ignorance Fire

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?

Ignorance on fire

The following video is part of my new “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by, where I expand on catch phrases I have used frequently over the years.


I know, it’s a strange concept: “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”

Most people read that statement and think, someone who’s excited but ignorant can do more harm than good.

I’m here to tell you that the opposite of your intuition is true. That’s right–and you’ll see why below.


MSNBC’s Your Business

On Thursday, I was swept off to a land far, far away.

OK, not that far away. But TV has to be dramatic, doesn’t it?

Even though I was close to home, I visited the homes of millions by appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Your Business, with host JJ Ramberg. I was featured as an expert on referral networking (imagine that!) and spoke about how it can positively affect small businesses. The entire experience was easier than I expected and JJ was well-prepared and professional–and I’m sure glad she was, because it really helped ease my nerves.

And of course, I couldn’t get out the door without using referral networking. The producer asked if I could refer her to other BNI experts to be featured guests! (Who knows–maybe it could be YOU!)

Check out the clip below and tell me what you think.

Premature Solicitor

Giving Your Network a Boost

A question from India came to me via Twitter, and I found it to be such a universal topic that I thought I’d share it with you all.

(And BONUS–it was shot in my new home studio!)


What happens when your networking group hits a plateau?


Counting Your Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

You are not entitled to referrals

That’s right-you read correctly.

Referrals come from cultivating real relationships. They come from putting the work into your networking by giving others referrals before expecting them in return. They don’t come from sitting idly in a meeting, watching others getting referrals and wondering where yours are.

Are you wondering just how to get that referral pipe flowing?

1. Become a farmer. Except you’re not cultivating seeds, but relationships. You’re not harvesting produce, but referrals. Networking is about farming for new contacts (and referrals,) not hunting them. Have One-to-Ones with your chapter members. Get to know them and their business well so you can begin to pass referrals to them. This is how you cultivate a relationship-show genuine interest and make an honest attempt at helping them succeed. You’ll build trust with one another, which makes the next step much easier.  referral

2. Find a referral partner. As I write in my book, Truth or Delusion, “There is a way to the flow of referrals predicable and adjustable.” After you’ve gotten to know your fellow chapter members, choose one to partner up with to pass referrals back and forth to one another. Pick someone who needs referrals you can provide (for example, if you have a toy shop owner in your Chapter but you have no kids and rarely interact with them, they might not be the best partner for you.) Determine what types of referrals you need and ask your partner to do the same; then, exchange specific referrals based on your own networks. Begin to set up meetings with your referrals and if it’s appropriate, bring your partner with you. Afterward, analyze the meetings with your partner and use as much detail as possible.

3. Get your PH.D. in Networking. Ok, not literally. But you can become a gatekeeper of networks as you begin to connect your network with another person’s, and then another person’s, and then continue to build upon it. Become the go-to person in your business community-the person others come to if they needed a referral for anything. “Know a trustworthy plumber? Yeah, ask Susan-she knows everybody!” But instead of becoming the human phone book, you are connecting people in your community with good, honest businesses. This will not only help you build your network referrals, but it will also force you to continue to build and deepen your relationships and provide you with an excellent reputation.

What process has worked for you when referral gathering?


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