4 Ways BNI Is Like Speed Dating

4 Ways BNI Is Like Speed Dating

The big wide world of networking can be a lot like dating. There’s a lot out there, it’s a bit scary, and you’ll never be sure what you like until you try a few things out. But after a while you get to know what you like and what you don’t like, know the spots to avoid, and which places to hit up if you need a good night out. And sometimes when you come to a new networking event, it can feel a bit like you’re at a speed-dating evening. There are a lot of people all in one room, and you have a very short amount of time to work out who you think is worth a real conversation. There’s a lot of sifting through the options and deciding who you should speak to, and in the end you come out with some really valuable connections. And while it’s not a really big thing in this country, today we wanted to share with you 4 ways your average BNI meeting is a lot like the speed dating scene.

 

Enjoy The ‘Milling Around’

Before the meeting gets going and everyone takes their seats, there is  what we call the ‘open networking’ section. This is essentially the part where everyone arrives and mills around, getting drinks and making small talk before the first round begins. It’s a more relaxed, open atmosphere, where you can go up to anyone you like, introduce yourself and start a conversation. For many of our members this ‘milling around’ bit is actually the most valuable part of the meeting – they get to catch up with people they haven’t seen in a while, mention projects they’ve got coming up and generally get to know each other a bit more, forming the basis of really strong business relationships. So enjoy the pre-networking networking, it’s well worth the effort.

 

Everyone Is Nervous

When you walk into a room full of complete strangers, it’s understandable to be nervous. Trying to remember everyone’s names, remember what you’re supposed to be saying and even what your own name is can seem daunting. And when it comes to speaking in public, nervousness is more common than you think. Everyone in that room is either nervous as well, or has been at some point in the past. And so everyone will understand and be supportive of those nerves. Just as most people on the speed dating circuit are. It was everyone’s first time once, so just try to relax and enjoy the experience.

 

The Bell Dings After 60 Seconds

In speed dating you only get a finite amount of time to chat to each person before the bell dings and you have to move on. That’s not a lot of time to form a first impression, discover who they are and if you’re interested in getting to know more. This is the most obvious link between BNI and speed dating. You only get 60 seconds (or in our chapter’s case, 45) to tell the room who you and what you do. That’s not a lot of time, and it can seem impossible to cram in all the information you need to. But cram you must. Our advice to you? Sum up what you do quickly, and get onto the value of what you do, and why people work with you. This will give the room more information and help them decide if they could work with you.

 

If You Want More, You Need To Arrange A Longer Date

One of the underpinning values of BNI is in the 1-2-1. You see, the real value isn’t found in the room during those 60 second pitches. Those are great for letting people know exactly what you’re looking for that week, but not for building relationships. For those, you need to have a 1-2-1. This is the equivalent of deciding you liked someone at speed dating, and arranging to go on a real date. It’s just the two of you getting together for coffee and getting to know more about each other. 1-2-1’s are where the magic happens. By understanding more about the member, their life and their work, you build a strong relationship that makes you both more referable. 1-2-1’s have continuously proven to lead to more collaborations and referrals, so if you find someone’s 60 second pitch interesting, it’s always worth arranging that ‘networking date’ afterwards.

 

If you’d like to find out more about BNI, or see it in action for yourself, why not visit the leading chapter for Berkshire and Wiltshire – Reading Central? We meet every Friday morning at 6.30, and we would love to have you! Just click here to book your visit.