In 2007 I helped BNI® launch an initiative called International Networking Week® which is held during the first week of February every year.
International Networking Week began as a way to help business leaders around the world connect with each other and build their networking skills together. The goal is to recognize the power of networking and celebrate its key role in the development and success of businesses across the world.
It is about creating an awareness relating to 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, and mutually beneficial relationships with people through the networking process.
For the past 38 years, BNI has provided a weekly networking platform for members. The process is effective because people focus on helping others, and they educate fellow members on their own target market each week. There is mutual accountability in chapters, and we use technology to help members track their referrals and the results of their networking efforts. The meeting agenda is consistent in all 10,900+ chapters around the world.
My First BNI Meeting in a Different Language
I will always remember the first time I saw a BNI meeting room where everything was printed in a different language. It was in Sweden. Keep in mind, my native language is English. Swedish is not a language like French, where many people know a little bit of French. It’s not like Spanish, either. I grew up in Southern California, and you can’t grow up there without knowing a little Spanish. The fact is that Swedish is Swedish. You probably don’t understand a single word unless you know the language.
I was listening to the entire BNI chapter meeting in Swedish and one of the members leaned over to me and said in English, “You have no idea what he’s talking about, do you?” I replied, “Yeah. He is introducing the referral part of the meeting and he’s explaining how the referral works and if you don’t have a referral, you give a testimonial.” The man looked surprised and said, “Wow, you know Swedish!” I said, “No, I wrote the agenda.”
That’s the great thing about BNI. You can go to BNI meetings anywhere in the world, without knowing the local language, and still know exactly what is happening and what’s going on, because the BNI meetings operate very much the same all over the world. I think one of the beautiful things about the organization is that it’s all based on trust and building relationships, and that transcends many cultural differences.
How to Be Part of International Networking Week
Everyone is invited to take part in local and global events happening this week. You can participate in Speed Networking with business people from around the world.
I also invite you to be part of the Referrals for Life® webinar that is open to everyone. I’ll be one of the speakers, talking about the relevance of networking in today’s business landscape. Learn more and register at www.internationalnetworkingweek.com.
If you are a BNI member or part of a networking group, introduce new people to your group. When you bring a visitor to your regular networking meeting or a special event, make sure you introduce them to the rest of the group to help them feel welcome and to meet other attendees.
If you are new to networking and want to visit a BNI chapter, you can do so in-person or online. Go to www.bni.com and click on the Find a Chapter button to locate a meeting in your area.
I believe that networking is not only a great way to get business, it is a great way to DO business. International Networking Week celebrates relationship networking which is about creating long-term relationships to build your business.
I’d love to hear about your networking activities this week. Share your experiences in the comment section.