The Importance of Leadership in Networkingstring(42) "The Importance of Leadership in Networking"

At a recent networking event, a woman approached me and told me that she had heard of BNI and was interested in joining a chapter but explained that she was hesitant based on an experience she had recently when she attended a meeting of another local networking group.  She had been very put off by the attitude and the comments of the meeting’s apparent leader.  Being new to networking, the meeting was the first of its kind that this woman, an esthetician, had ever attended and she said that she had expected something very different.

She had been told the networking group she was going to meet with was filled with positive, welcoming people who would be as interested in learning to help her promote her business as she was in learning to help them promote theirs.  What she found upon arrival, however, was that very few people took any interest in her at all because most were busy socializing in clusters reminiscent of high school cliques.  Then, to start the meeting, the group’s leader stood up and announced that he was in a crabby mood and urged everyone to find their seats quickly.  As soon as she sat down, a member of the group informed her that she needed to move because she was sitting in “his seat.”  Needless to say, she got up and, instead of finding another seat, headed out the door.

I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve heard of an occurrence like this but, unfortunately, it’s not.  When a networking group doesn’t have strong, positive leadership to set a good example and enforce structure, the group runs the risk of turning into nothing more than a coffee klatch.  I encouraged the esthetician to seek out her local BNI chapter despite her bad experience with the other networking group and ensured that she would have a much better experience simply based on the difference in leadership.  Groups follow the example of their leaders and in the situation of the networking group this woman visited, the leadership set a very bad example and the group members followed suit.

The fact holds true that whether you’re talking about networking, business or life, people will follow the example of those in leadership roles, which means it’s imperative for leaders to be wise, positive and solutions-focused.  One of the most important aspects of a good networking group is the leadership team that runs the meeting.  These individuals should be chosen based on their ability to size up any situation, point in the direction that’s best for the group and lead the group toward the most positive path–they recognize the importance of leadership and the domino effect that both bad and good leadership can have.

Leaders, in any aspect of life, set the tone for how other people following their example will act. I encourage every one of you reading this, whether you’re in a networking group or not, to remember that whether or not you’re in a recognized leadership role, people are always observing you.  If the leaders in your life aren’t setting a good example, why not step up and act as a leader yourself?  If one or two members of the “high school clique” networking group mentioned above had done this, other members of the group might’ve followed their lead and the esthetician might not have walked out with such a negative view of all of them.

If you have any stories about how you stepped up and became a leader when those in leadership positions were lacking, I’d love to hear them.  Please leave a comment.

Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in a Networking Group!string(53) "Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in a Networking Group!"

Membership in a good networking group can be worth a considerable amount of money. Especially if you calculate the time you spend each month and the business value of your time. Make your time and efforts worthwhile. Don’t squander your opportunity by doing the wrong things in those meetings!

Success in a networking group comes when the rest of the group members trust you enough to open up their best referrals to you. Until they’ve seen your work, you have to earn that trust by demonstrating your professionalism to them. Since I founded BNI almost 25 years ago, I’ve seen how people have truly succeeded in networks–and I’ve seen how people have totally wasted their time in them.

Here are the top 10 ways to waste your time in a networking group (avoid all of them):

No. 10. Go ahead, air your grievances among your fellow networkers and guests; after all, they really want to hear about your complaints.

No. 9. Wing it in your 60-second presentations; you’ve got plenty more chances anyway.

No. 8. Use one-to-one meetings to talk about your networking group’s issues instead of learning a lot more about each other.

No. 7. Focus your efforts on selling your services primarily to the members of the group.

No. 6. Don’t rush following up on a member’s referral. They know where you are.

No. 5. Use others’ 60-second presentation time to think about what referrals you can give that week.

No. 4. Why invite your own guests? Just focus on those who show up.

No. 3. Don’t worry if you get to the meeting late. No one will notice.

No. 2. Be absent; it’s no big deal. You can just call in your referrals . . . right?

And the No. 1 way to waste your time in networking groups . . .

No. 1. It’s OK, take that phone call or text message during a meeting. It won’t bother anyone, and it’s a real sign of professionalism that everyone admires.

So there it is–The Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in a Networking Group! Print this out. Memorize it. Share it with your fellow networking members. Above all–avoid these mistakes! You’ll get a lot more out of your group and so will your fellow members.

I’d love to hear some more ways that are big time wasters in a networking group. Please leave your comments below. Let’s add to this list.

Oh, and to visit a good networking group in your area, feel free to Click here.

Ponder Pearls: Thought for the Daystring(34) "Ponder Pearls: Thought for the Day"

[NOTE: The link for this website is no longer valid.]

Last year I started writing for a great company called Ponders & Principles, which publishes a “Thought-A-Day” software program called Ponder Pearls, and I’d like to offer all of my blog readers a free Ponder Pearls subscription.  ivan-giftcard.jpg

Ponder Pearls can be installed on any personal computer, and each day positive, entertaining and inspiring thoughts are delivered to you via a small window that pops up on the bottom right corner of your computer monitor.  The program contains a remarkable array of categorized thought series ranging from content by bestselling authors such as Brian Tracy and yours truly to sacred world texts, and you can also choose from a variety of themes such as “innovators and entrepreneurs,” sports coaches and athletes,” “Founding Fathers of the U.S.” and many, many more.

Hundreds of excerpted thoughts from my books and seminars are included in the Ponder Pearls software, and I’m in the process of sending in even more of my content to be distributed daily.  When I started using Ponder Pearls last year, I was so impressed by it that I invited Alex von Allmen of Ponders & Principles to come present the software at the 2008 BNI National Conference in Orlando.  The BNI directors and members who attended the conference loved the Ponder Pearls concept; I’ve had many of them contact me since then and say that they love getting my networking content and the other daily thought series they selected delivered to them daily.

So I invite you to take advantage of the free subscription to Ponder Pearls that I’m offering.  Once you’ve used the software for a few days, I’d love to hear what you think of it. So feel free to come back and leave a comment.

Getting your free subscription is easy:

1. Click on the gift card graphic above.
2. Enter “bni” in the “Gift Code” field (under the blue Ponder Pearls logo banner).
3. Create your free Ponder Pearls account by following the prompts.

Enjoy this FREE service. If you have any questions, simply e-mail Erin@bni.com.  

Let me know what you think.

Presenting at Networking Meetings is Nothing to Fearstring(52) "Presenting at Networking Meetings is Nothing to Fear"

I had an interesting experience with a BNI member some time ago that has really stuck with me. She was scared stiff of having to give presentations each week at her networking meeting; in fact, she found it so stressful that it was seriously affecting her networking activity. She was losing great opportunities to tell her fellow members about what she did, and it was keeping them from giving her referrals.

I suggested to her that rather than approach her next 10-minute presentation as a speech, she should approach it as if she were giving a test.

She liked my advice, and when it came time for her to give her presentation, she started by asking the audience 10 true or false questions about her area of specialty, tax law. The questions provided more of a discussion forum where people were engaged in communication with her, and she was able to talk more comfortably because all eyes weren’t solely on her. The presentation was a great success and, best of all, by the end of it she felt completely at ease.

By finding a way to approach your presentation that you are comfortable with and that is creative enough to make the session engaging for your audience, you will take much–if not all–of the fear out of presenting.

You’ll hear me tell the story of how this BNI member overcame her fear of presenting on my latest business TV show on yourBusinessChannel.com and you’ll also get a detailed explanation of how to give powerful, creative presentations with these five practical tips:

1. Prepare well

2. Focus on what is important

3. Make use of visual aids

4. Remember that you are the expert

5. Be creative

The story above illustrates each of these points very well. Watch the show to hear me outline exactly why.

A Great Tip for Networking Eventsstring(33) "A Great Tip for Networking Events"

At networking meetings and events around the world, I often meet people who are uncomfortable with introducing themselves to new contacts. For some people, the barrier is a feeling of inadequacy (“Why would anyone want to meet me?”), but mostly the problem is the sheer awkwardness of approaching a stranger and saying “Hi.”

One of the best ways to put yourself at ease and overcome this awkwardness is to act like the host of the event. This approach is recommended in Dr. Adele Scheele’s book, Skills for Success, and I cover it in a new (free) show hosted by yourBusinessChannel.

The idea is that by acting as if you are the host of an event, you learn to behave in an active way, not a passive way. All of a sudden, it seems natural not only to introduce yourself to people, but also to introduce people to each other, to watch for lulls in conversation and prompt further conversation, and so on. In other words, you are acting just as you do when you are the host of your own party or event.

This is a great trick for improving your networking abilities, and you can even take it a step further by not just acting like the host but by actually being the host. What I mean by this is that most networking organizations, BNI included, have a position available in their networking meetings for a person to be the host for a given meeting and welcome new people.

I believe  it’s often the lack of context that makes it awkward to introduce yourself to new people at a networking event and, by being the host, you provide yourself with proper context.

OMG, I’m an Introvert!?string(29) "OMG, I’m an Introvert!?"

OK, if you don’t know what “OMG” means, ask a teenager (that’s how I learned what it meant).  Now let’s talk about the introvert thing.

My wife and I were having a relaxing dinner one night recently.  We were sitting around the kitchen table talking when I made some off-handed comment about being an extrovert (it fit into the context of the conversation).  She looked over at me and said, “Uhh, honey, I hate to break it to you, but you’re an introvert.”  I smiled and said, “Yeah, sure, I’m an introvert (insert laugh track here).”   She then looked at me quite earnestly and said, “No, really you’re an introvert.”  I protested strongly.  I said, “Come on, I’m a public speaker and founder of the world’s largest networking organization–I’m not an introvert!  I can’t be.  I mean, you’re joking, right?”  She absolutely insisted that I was an introvert and proceeded to share with me all the ways that I have introverted tendencies.  Well, I have to admit I was taken back by this.  All the examples she gave were true, but I still couldn’t believe I am an introvert.  On the other hand, we’ve been married for 20 years. I mean, there’s a chance she might actually know me pretty well.

So off I went the next day to do some research.  I did an internet search and found a test that tells you whether you are an introvert or extrovert.  Was I in for a shock.  The test said that I was a “situational extrovert!”  It explained that I was something of a loner who was reserved around strangers but very outgoing in the right context.  It was at that moment that I said, “OMG, I’m an introvert!?” 

In the haze of my surprise, some very important things came into clarity for me.  It struck me why I started the BNI networking organization more than two decades ago.  I was naturally uncomfortable meeting new people. This approach created a “system” that enabled me to meet people in an organized, structured, networking environment that did not require that I actually “talk to strangers.”  OMG, I’m an introvert!

When I visit regions of BNI, I ask my director to have someone walk me around and introduce me to visitors and members so that I can connect with as many people as possible.  But in reality, it’s because I’m uncomfortable walking around introducing myself alone.  OMG, I’m an introvert!

I realized that the whole notion of “acting like the host, not the guest” and volunteering to be the ambassador at a chamber event or the visitor host at a BNI group were all the ways I used to move around more comfortably at networking events, not just ways that I recommended for those poor introverts out there to network.  OMG, I am an introvert.

Who would have thought? Well, OK, besides my lovely wife.  Now more than ever, I truly believe that whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can be good at networking.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  If you can find ways to enhance your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, anyone can be a great networker.

How about you?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you use that in your networking?

Networking is a Verb Not a Nounstring(31) "Networking is a Verb Not a Noun"

Today, I have a guest blog written by my good friend Frank DeRaffele.  Frank is a BNI Director and radio talk show host for the Entrepreneurial Excellence Radio Show.

Networking is a Verb Not a Noun.  What does that mean?  A verb, as described, by our 4th grade teachers, is an action word. A noun is an object or thing. That means that in order to network you must take action … do stuff … not just show up at things and be seen. If you go to a chamber meeting and just “be there” then you are a noun … you are just an object. If you go and actually participate and make things happen … you are now taking action … you’re a verb.

You are not going to find any form of marketing more important and probably more effective than your networking efforts during the next 12 to 24 months. That means that no matter what type of marketing campaigns you are doing they will be 5 to 10 times more effective if you are supplementing them with relationship networking.

If you are in a strong contact network (such as BNI) you have an advantage over every other businesses out there, especially your competitors. You have a group of like-minded people who believe in the development of relationship marketing and they practice the Givers Gain® philosophy.

There is no recesssion for you … so go take action … go BE A VERB!

Welcome to International Networking Weekstring(40) "Welcome to International Networking Week"

Welcome to the third annual International Networking Week (Feb 2-6).

Now, more than ever, we need to ignore the doom-and-gloom headlines and focus on what we can do to promote our own business growth.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It’s about creating an awareness of the process of networking.  Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

Last year, International Networking Week was recognized by tens of thousands of people around the world, and it has garnered acknowledgements from several governmental agencies across the globe. It’s expected that the number of people participating in this year’s worldwide celebration of the week, through hundreds of large events and thousands of smaller events, will be double what it was in 2008.

If you belong to any networking groups, be sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week and let them know they can visit InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information.  Let’s join together in celebrating the things we can do do promote global prosperity, instead of worrying about the things we can’t control.

Watch this 10-minute video talking about International Networking Week 2009.  Share the video with anybody and everybody, and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week.

So what will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?  Share it with us here–we’d love to hear about it.

International Networking Week: Mark Your Calendarstring(49) "International Networking Week: Mark Your Calendar"

International Networking Week, Feb. 2-6, 2009, is quickly approaching and it’s a great way to start off the New Year.

Make 2009 the year you see opportunity when others see problems, seek growth when others expect collapse and see success when others see failure.  Watch the short 2009 International Networking Week video and find out about how to join me and many other successful business people in recognizing and participating in this year’s International Networking Week. Focus on what you do best, and don’t let other people sidetrack you from building your business.

WATCH THE 2009 INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING WEEK VIDEO HERE!

The Culture of Entrepreneurismstring(30) "The Culture of Entrepreneurism"

I just attended the BNI International Conference in Southern California.  There were almost 1,000 people from 40 countries around the world at the event.  It looked like a meeting at the United Nations with people from different countries and different accents all meeting for several days.  It was amazing to watch business people from various cultures working together to network and build each other’s businesses despite their differences.

It was appropriate that Brian Tracy was a keynote speaker at this event because he and I spoke about the subject of cultural differences and doing business a few years ago.  We had lunch in San Diego and I asked him if he changed his material when he did seminars in other countries.  He said that he didn’t.  He said that entrepreneurs want to do things more efficiently or more effectively.  If you can show them how to achieve either of those, the cultural issues are not as big a factor as many might believe.

This made me start to think about why structured networking programs work so well and in so many countries.  It occurred to me that there is a “culture of entrepreneurism” that in many ways transcends other cultural issues.  The core of this process is the importance of trust.  When people get to know and trust each other, that factor supersedes many cultural factors. 

Different people, different places; different countries, different cultures; different races, different religions, we all want to do business with people we trust.  While there may be many other things to divide us and separate us, we all speak the language of referrals.

Seek Out a Referral Networking Groupstring(36) "Seek Out a Referral Networking Group"

How much would it benefit you to have several dozen salespeople working on your behalf to bring you new business?  That would be something, wouldn’t it?  Wait, it gets better.  What if you didn’t have to pay them a salary or commission?  What if you didn’t have to provide them office space or fund their retirement plans?  Well . . . that’s what referral networks can do!

You may already have caught on to this not-so-well-kept secret, especially if you’re familiar with any of the books I’ve written; but if you’re new to the world of networking, then the first thing you should do is seek out a referral networking group.  Make sure you find a referral networking organization that provides a structured system for generating business by referrals.  You want to join a group that demonstrates real purpose and is results-oriented.

When you join a good referral networking group, you are providing yourself a means to easily implement the new networking strategies you learn with people who have also become skilled at networking their businesses.  When you surround yourself with quality business professionals who have committed themselves to continually taking the time to focus on networking, you will develop the genuine, long-lasting relationships that will lead to years of future business.

So, if you haven’t already joined a networking group, start searching the internet for networking groups in your area and make an appointment to visit a local chapter.

Click Here to learn what to look for when choosing a networking group.

Get Value for Your Timestring(23) "Get Value for Your Time"

As the founder and chairman of an international organization, I am sometimes overwhelmed by commitments and obligations, so I know firsthand how important it is to make the most of your time.  Have you ever tried to get back an hour you spent on something that didn’t turn out well? It’s not possible. Since you know you can’t retrieve an hour, much less a day of precious time, you obviously want to spend it as wisely and effectively as you can.

So if you spent your time networking, you would want to get a high return on your networking investment, right? Here are some tips on how you can do just that:

1.  Be “on” 24/7
Be on the top of your networking game all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Networking opportunities present themselves in the most unsuspected places and times.  If you snooze, you just might lose.

2.  Learn to play golf or something
Challenge yourself to a game of golf or some other activity that aligns with your interests and skills.  A lot of business that happens on the golf course could just as easily happen on the badminton court, the soccer field or across a pool table.

3.  Have purposeful meal meetings
Get more value out of your meal meetings.  If you’re going to meet and eat, you may as well get more out of the experience than calories.  Make this activity pull its weight as an opportunity for business networking.

4.  Make first impressions count
Make sure you get off to a good start.  Learn to take a closer look at your appearance and your body language.  Are they helping you start good conversations–or ending them before you can even say a word?

5.  Seek out a referral networking group and join a chamber of commerce
If you’re going to venture out and attempt to build a network, the first steps should be to seek out a referral networking group and a chamber of commerce to help network your business.

6.  Sponsor select events and host a purposeful event
Focus on how you can leverage sponsorship opportunities and specific events to position your business in front of key people.  Of course, you need to take the initiative to make it happen.

Work on these strategies so you can strengthen your network, get more return on your networking investment, increase your visibility within the community and, most of all, get the most value from the time you spend networking.

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