I think that all networking groups, as well as other types of professional business organizations, can benefit from regular networking education moments at their meetings.
I personally think one of the greatest volunteer positions in a BNI® chapter is the Education Coordinator role because you have an opportunity to pour into people about the things that you’ve learned. Especially for those who have served on the chapter’s Leadership Team and had some advanced training, or if you listen to the BNI Podcasts, and if you read books on business networking (I’ve written several), you can share helpful information to help all members of the group.
I designed the BNI Podcast episodes to be easily utilized as networking education moments for business professionals. They can be presented as a short summary, highlighting two–three tips or best practices. The transcripts, or portions of them, can be copied and pasted to a digital or paper document to hand out to all members and guests at the meeting. You can also play a short clip to emphasize the topic.
Immerse in a Culture of Learning
I once had an BNI Chapter Education Coordinator say to me, “I am in a chapter where the members just aren’t listening to the podcasts. And we, the leadership team, recognize that for a chapter to be successful, everybody’s got to be working off the same playbook, we’ve got to be together as a team.”
He told me his solution. The very first week in his role as the Education Coordinator he stood up and said to the group, “I basically have two choices as Education Coordinator, and I’d like your opinion on what you’d like me to do. One, you can let me know the topics that you’d like me to talk about, and each week I’ll do a short lecture on that topic. I’ll pull material from BNI podcasts, Ivan’s books, his blog, and I’ll talk about that content for you directly. Or two, we can have a dialogue. We can share ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. Which one of those two would you prefer?” He said he knew what the answer would be, and they all said, “Dialogue, please. We want to talk.”
He then told them, “Great, I was hoping you would say you wanted a dialogue. So in order for us to have an informed dialogue, we have to do the reading. We’ll take topics that you would like to talk about, I will assign a podcast, or a blog, or some material, for you to read or listen to on that topic for the next week. And if you have listened to the podcast, or read the material, you can talk.
If you haven’t listened to the material or read it, you can’t join the discussion. And we’ll know that you listened to it or read it because you’re going to have to quote something from it. For example – Dr. Misner said this and that on the podcast, or his guest, so-and-so, made this point. But if you haven’t listened to it, you can’t talk.” And they all agreed to do it.
How did it work? Well, because the members knew that they couldn’t be part of the dialogue unless they read or listened to the material, they went from a chapter where almost no one listened to the podcast on a weekly basis, to having almost 100% participation!
This is a great way to get engagement while sharing information that will help the membership in the group and out in the business world. It is a fantastic way to help the chapter immerse in a culture of learning.
The truth is, if everyone listens to or reads the material, and then you spend a few minutes talking about it, it’s so much more real. It is much more engaging than simply sitting there listening to a lecture. And actively participating in a discussion helps people retain the information better, making it more likely that they will use it in their everyday business networking activities.