Maximize the Time You Spend Networking: When should you show up to a Networking Event?

A goal without a plan is just a wish.  –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

BNI Membership Appreciation Luncheon

Business Networking International is a “Referral/Lead Organization” that was established in 1985 by Ivan Misner. The organization has 7500 local chapters across the United States. The focus of each chapter is to allow only one person in a particular business category as a member in hopes that as that person goes about their business they will bring referrals back to the group. In theory it is a good concept; however, if your chapter is filled with people that have no idea how to network it is a complete waste of time and money. I found this out first hand.

In 2007 I was the president of the largest local Fresno, CA chapter. At that time we wanted to increase our membership so we organized a Membership Appreciation Luncheon. At that time we had 18 members in our local chapter. Our goal was to double our membership over the next 6 months. In planning the luncheon we figured we could bring in about 20 guests which would lead to 10 new members for our local chapter taking our membership from 18 to 28. This would greatly increase the amount of referrals coming back to the group. We spent one of our regular lunchtime meetings planning the event and went to work on making it happen. The invites went out and a few RSVPs came rolling in. Speaking of RSVPs…well, I’ll save that for another post.

The Membership Appreciation Luncheon day arrived.

Let me remind you we had 18 members in our local chapter at the time. Why is that an important detail? Read on, my friend….

The luncheon was slated to begin at 11:30 AM at a local resturant that was open solely for our luncheon. When you are the lead of an event, of course you would show up early, right? Right! I was there at 10:30 AM and started setting things up for our program. I thought to myself, where are all the other members? I figured they would be showing up early as well. As time ticked by I was still the only member in the room. I have a question for you…When you are hosting a luncheon where should you be? In the room or in the line out the door? I can answer that…you should most definitely be IN THE ROOM, not in the line.

The time arrived. It was now 11:30 AM and the line was out the door. There were 50 people trying to check in, including the 17 other members of our group. Why were our members in line? The answer is simple…Lack of planning, lack of mindfulness, and lack of priority, lack of networking knowledge. I decided since people were going to be stuck in line, I would bring my networking opportunity to them. I went straight down the line and met each person as they were checking in, paying for their lunch, and waiting in line. What I found to be most interesting is the fact that I found the rest of our members at the end of the line because they had not planned ahead. To them, it was just another lunch and they were showing up as the event at the start time rather than taking advantage of the valuable networking time that was literally handed to them.

The networking time was lost for the members. Those that were first in line had more of a Networking opportunity than those in the middle or the end of the line. The members at the end of the line were prevented from meeting potential new members because they were talking with each other. This was a huge lost opportunity for our chapter and members. Anyway….

The meeting began. It was overwhelmingly successful. I was shocked at the amount of people that showed up for this event. It quickly made me realize that people were searching for networking opportunities and we were offering something different. It confirmed that people were searching, but they really didn’t know exactly what they were searching for nor what to do once they found it. That is when the EspressoBrain.Com blog was born. My partners and I quickly realized that business owners/entrepreneurs needed to be coached and held accountable to a solid networking plan.

EspressoBrain Tip: Show up 30 minutes early to events.

If you wish you can read my other helpful business networking tips at Happy Networking!

Twitter Handle: @GinaEstrada
EspressoBrain is committed to sharing information, ideas and resources that will maximize the time you spend networking and turn those chance encounters into profitable relationships.