BNI-ce to the Newcomers…

So I’m not exactly a networking rookie – I ran a women’s business startup group for several years – but I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about coming as a guest to BNI. I’m used to the cosy all-girls-together approach of organisations like Mumpreneurs, Bizee Women and Athena, and BNI was my first toe into wider waters. Chilly waters, I feared.
To tell the truth, I was expecting a roomful of hard-nosed business-types in power-suits, banging on the table and trading tales of six-figure quotes like seafarers trade their yarns. It also didn’t help that on the day I visited, one of my teenagers had decided to celebrate half-term by being ill all night, which made me arrive really, really late.
Well: I’ve never been backward in coming forward (I’ve strutted my stuff on a fair number of stages in my time, including swinging off a gantry at the Newcastle Playhouse, with a cigar in my mouth and wearing voluminous bloomers, in front of half of Tyneside) but walking into a roomful of no-nonsense strangers, who are in mid-elevator-pitch, before 7.30am: intimidating?
Absolutely not. No frosty faces, frowns or tutting at all – I was welcomed into the fold and even if I’d missed some of the open networking, I was caught up in the general swing of the meeting, listening to everyone’s one-minute presentation, introducing myself and acknowledging the client who had invited me, and noting down possible people to do business with or refer to friends.
After the meeting, I was able to talk in a little more detail with some of the members, which was great as they were all very friendly and encouraging.
Obviously any networking organisation is going to be looking for new blood – but this chapter of BNI at least was energetic, professional without being intimidating, and very welcoming without insisting that visitors joined immediately. The general impression I came away with was a favourable one: on leaving the venue, I filed my copy for a blog post right away and contacted a few members who had stood out.
Even if I don’t join BNI right away, I’m more than happy to act as sub for my client and go along to find out more about the chapter and meet more of its members. And next time, I’m going to be there in time for the legendary breakfast as well.