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The visitor’s experience is crucial at BNI business networking meetings

by Richard Foulkes

We need new VISITORS every week, now more than ever.

We will discuss the usual reasons why we need visitors in a moment but right now, if, after a long period of disruption to life and BNI, your chapter is feeling deflated or stagnant, having a sustained period of visitors attending the weekly meeting is CRUCIAL to helping lift the chapter back to an energetic stateIf your chapter is rocking and rolling through this period, that’s great, but visitors are CRITICAL to keep it going that way. 

Why are visitors so good for our BNI Chapter?

  1. They lift the chapter with new energy, new stories, and different personalities.
  2. They are potential new clients, Stories abound of the business visitors bring to members, even if they don’t join.
  3. They help chapters not to become “inward-looking” – for instance, members saying. “As you know”. If there are visitors, the visitor doesn’t “know”
  4. Visitors are potential new members, and all chapters need these, if not grow the chapter, to stop the chapter from shrinking through natural attrition

We have a Visitor – Now What?

• Our chapter should work to have at least 1 or 2 new visitors a week for all the reasons we just covered. But what should we do when they turn up?
• Someone has gone to the effort to invite them, they have accepted the invitation to be here, the visitor hosts have made contact with them, and they have found their way here and we have welcomed them to the meeting.
• A lot of things have had to go right to get the visitor here.
• There is an perception that it’s not easy to find visitors in the first place so they are prized and important, just like the first fish we caught as a kid.

Thinking back, as kids, did we know what to do with that fish?

• Probably not, Dad or Mum dealt with it for us!
• Maybe the fish was released to live another day, maybe it went well with fries, or the cat got lucky while our backs were turned.  
• A member has been fishing for us and their efforts have brought a visitor to the chapter, as individual members what should we do?

Ever been in a shop and had this happen? 

• If you think about it, we have a shopping mall here in the chapter meeting.
• Your weekly presentation and demeanor during the chapter meeting is your shop window to Visitors as well as members.  

The mall (our chapter) has delivered us some shoppers (visitors) and it’s quite likely a visitor will be interested in one or two of our shops. After all, we are amazing!

• But, have you ever been in a shop and the shop assistants are on the phone or talking to each other and ignoring you?
• Although our chapter is welcoming, as members we can sometimes accidentally ignore visitors to the point where they walk out of our mall without buying anything because we expect the shop assistant to start the conversation.

What should we do? 

•We each need to start a personal conversation with the visitor.
•This is especially critical if you think the visitor might be a potential client or have potential clients for you.
•Don’t wait for them to reach out to you, they generally won’t because they can feel intimidated or don’t know how to start a conversation.
•Just like in a shop. You can talk to them online through the chat function or in open networking in the face-to-face meeting.

What should you say?
• That you are interested in them, and their business and you’d love to catch up with them.
• This interest should be genuine and if you do catch up with them it’s not the time and place to “sell” to them. If there is a genuine opportunity it will come out during the conversation. And the opportunity will probably be mutual.

What if all of us reach out at once.. will it be too much?

• In reality, there won’t be an opportunity for all members to do business with every visitor but if a visitor receives a good outreach from members, then they are more likely to think networking is a great idea.
• If they receive no engagement, what will they think?

The Visitor’s Experience

Think back to when you first visited BNI. Was it a good experience and were there one or two or more members that made a difference by engaging with you in the meeting or after the meeting? Every visitor should experience that and it is our responsibility, not just the visitor’s hosts to make that happen.

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