It is important that people feel welcome when they visit a networking group.
They have made a commitment and invested the time to be there.
They may become a new customer for people in the group.
They may know people who are potential clients for members of the group.
They will tell other professionals they know about their experience at the meeting.
They may be the connection to the BIGGEST referral you ever get.
They may be a future new member of the group.
AND – remember that you once visited the group for the first time, and someone welcomed you!
My First Visits to Networking Groups
In 1984 I was going around to a lot of different networking groups. I was a member of different types of networking organizations. Some of them were really mercenary. It was very transactional, all about the business. They were very direct, very sales-oriented, very promotional and there was no relationship.
Then I went to other groups that were so totally social. There was no business being done, lots of talking and socializing. It was basically just a coffee klatch.
Neither of these felt very welcoming and they were not what I was looking for in a networking organization. I felt there had to be something in between, something that was relational but also had procedures and rules – a system. That is how BNI® came to be. I believe it is important to have both the systems and the people-oriented approach to networking.
Why People May Not Feel Welcome
When a guest visits a networking meeting for the first time, they don’t know where to start. It is a new environment for them, and they may be unsure about what to do and who to talk to.
Perhaps they feel ignored. That may be because the members of a networking group or BNI chapter have such strong business relationships that they can appear to be clique-ish, even though they may not be. Rather than clique-ish, it is usually that the members have become friends and look forward to seeing each other each week at the meeting.
Make It a Good Experience
Visiting a networking event is more than simply going to a meeting. It is an experience. When visitors attend a meeting, they are either going to have a good experience or a bad experience. Small things can make a difference in a visitor’s perception of the networking organization.
It is the responsibility of every member of the group to welcome guests. New members and seasoned members – take it upon yourself to make visitors feel welcome when they are at your meeting.
Start with a friendly greeting and a smile.
Ask about them and their business or company.
Introduce them to other members of the chapter.
Always keep the conversation positive, even if you are having a challenging week.
Provide some information about the meeting agenda so they know what to expect.
Offer to answer any questions they have about the meeting and the group.
These simple, little things are a BIG part of making the visitor experience a welcoming and positive one. If they don’t feel welcome, they don’t want to come back.
Just remember this: you have to make people feel welcome so that they have a great experience when they visit your group.