How to Best Present our Referrals and Testimonials at our BNI Networking Meetings?

Referrals and Testimonials Etiquette

Show of hands, who here feels that the Referrals and Testimonials part of the meeting sometimes can go too long, or occasionally members say a lot without saying anything?

That’s not a surprising response, there is a lot of misinformation about what should be said. So, let us go back to the core purpose of Referrals and Testimonials, review what should be said, and very briefly cover what should not be said during this very important part of the meeting.

Referrals and Testimonials & Givers Gain®

BNI’s core value is Givers Gain® and the Referrals and Testimonials part of the meeting is often called the business part of the meeting because it’s where we give to each other, and business is shown to be being done between members. The Weekly Presentation or Sales Pitch part of the meeting is where we ask, Referrals and Testimonials is where we give. And giving is more important than receiving.

A Bit of BNI History

When BNI began 30 years ago only referrals were announced. You talked only about referrals you had given to other members in the past week. If you did not have a referral, you did not participate in this part of the meeting. This was to keep a focus on giving to others. If everyone works to give, it is likely, on average, everyone will receive. But finding a referral for another member every week, especially for newer members is not always easy, so can exclude members from this part of the meeting. So, it was changed to allow members to announce referrals and/or give testimonials about other members’ recent work. This also helped members to gain credibility quicker, because we could hear first-hand accounts about their service from members of the chapter.

Feature Creep

Since then, more and more has crept into the Referrals and Testimonials part of the meeting, all with the right intentions but with unintended consequences. The unintended consequence is that members can believe if they say something, almost anything, it somehow makes up for not having a referral and that they are still giving back.

So, what should we announce?

If the Referrals and Testimonials part of the meeting is timed, which it should be, at say 20 seconds per member then we should plan to make the most of it to show what we have done for others in the past 7 days. A key is to be able to say Ï have” not that I’m going to” and to follow this order of priority. A good practice is to only announce activity you have already recorded in the BNI Connect APP.
1. Referrals. Referrals are Top Trumps. If you have more than one, announce how many and give brief details about the best one. Use “I have 3 referrals this week, the one I am most excited about is.”

2. A brief testimonial for a member who has done work for you or a referral in the last 7 days. Ï have a testimonial for.”

What is better left unsaid?

1. Thanking other members for referrals, that is receiving, not giving. They will announce the referral themselves.
2. Announcing one to ones we have had, missed, or intend to have unless it includes key learnings from the one-to-one that would help others to refer to them more easily.
3. Announcing TYFCB we have received, this is receiving not giving. Let the member know by email or update the referral in the APP.
4. Feedback to a member we got a referral from about the referral. This should be done outside the meeting.
5. Thanking the speaker, this is a given, unless you have a specific insight or testimonial to share.
6. Repeating what you do or talking about yourself and your business again (a second weekly presentation).
7. The visitors for coming, except if they were your visitor.


Referrals and Testimonials are a key part of the meeting. They show the value of BNI and that the meeting is not just a meet-up. It is where we practice Givers Gain®. We should plan what we are going to say as carefully as we do our weekly presentations and always have something to say that demonstrates how we are working for others in the chapter, a referral is the very best example of this.


  1. Candy K. Goins says:

    Thank you for the reminder on what we should/shouldn’t be doing during the referrals/testimonial times.

  2. Thank you for the input. I have a better understanding now. This was very helpful.

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