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Effective Meeting Participation and Conduct at BNI Meetings

Contacts+ Team | May 8, 2024

What you give is what you get. This wisdom especially applies to Business Networking International (BNI), where the effort you put into building relationships directly correlates with your business success.

If relationships are the heart of BNI, then the meetings are the lifeblood that keeps these connections growing. As a structured, supportive, and professional environment, BNI allows business owners and professionals to come together and grow their ventures by building solid referrals. One member, eLearning entrepreneur Omar Cisneros, built connections with a thousand meaningful contacts over the course of two years — resulting in his business growing from two clients to over 40 and counting. “BNI got me out of my comfort zone. It pushed me ahead with resources that helped my business to grow,” he says.

How can you leverage BNI meetings to make similar strides in your business? Here’s some practical advice to help you get the most out of each BNI meeting from beginning to end (and beyond).

Preparation Before Meetings

Preparation is key to making a lasting impression. Before you walk into any BNI meeting, take the time to craft an engaging and concise elevator pitch. This shouldn’t just summarize what you do; it should also highlight what makes you unique and how you add value. This isn’t a monologue; it’s the beginning of a conversation. Practice it to ensure it’s natural and confident but adaptable to the audience.

Here are some imaginary examples of effective elevator pitches:

  • “At Green Adventure Co., we believe in pioneering sustainable outdoor experiences that conserve our planet for future generations.”
  • “At Luxe Property Management, we raise the standard of living by providing unparalleled white-glove service.”
  • “At Purely Vital Foods, we’re passionate about empowering individuals to lead healthier lives without compromising on taste.”

Preparation for your BNI meetings goes far beyond your business, however. Take ample time to research fellow members so you can strike up meaningful conversations. Try using BNI Connect and the BNI mobile app to facilitate this process. Make a list of members in your chapter and identify their areas of expertise, potential collaboration opportunities, and questions you’d like to ask them at your next meeting.

This pre-meeting prep might seem time-consuming, but it’s tremendously helpful in setting the stage for collaborations that can evolve into valuable referrals.

Active Participation During Meetings

Active participation during BNI meetings is not just about attendance; it’s about engagement. Showing up is essential, but here are some tips to help you make the most of this valuable face time:

  • Deliver your elevator pitch with enthusiasm and clarity, but avoid dominating the conversation with talk about your business.
  • Show genuine interest in others by asking insightful questions that demonstrate your understanding of their business and concerns.
  • Practice active listening. If you aren’t familiar with the term, here’s a helpful article from Asana on how to become a better listener.
  • Find commonalities. Add value to the discussion by sharing experiences or advice that may help others overcome obstacles similar to what you’ve faced.
  • Ask for feedback or to brainstorm solutions when appropriate. People love to share information in their realm of expertise, and this is a great way to foster reciprocal relationships rooted in trust and professionalism.

Finally, take notes immediately at the end of each BNI meeting. While you may assume you’ll never forget that promising conversation you had, it’s very easy to let key details slip. This is where a contact management tool can help you keep organized and quickly store notes, tags, and contact info alongside the appropriate contacts.

Following Up on Leads and Connections

The power of a BNI meeting often lies in the aftermath. Prompt follow-up on connections and leads underscores professionalism and sincerity. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget the details of real-time conversations or to limit follow-ups to generic “it was great to meet you!” messages that may not lead anywhere.

Instead, personalize. If you kept good notes from the most recent meeting, you’ll be able to mention key details from your conversations that help you stand out. For example:

  • Good morning! I wanted to let you know I tried that bakery you recommended…
  • Hey, fellow Chicago Prep School grad! It was so funny finding out we were in the same class…
  • Hi Amber, thank you for the accountant referral. I met with her yesterday…

Consider using a tool like Contacts+ to keep track of all of these personalized follow-up messages, along with notes about when to connect next. Our contact management tool can help you sort contacts into different categories and will help you consolidate your contacts from multiple accounts. 

Finally, schedule one-on-one meetings for in-depth discussions after your BNI meetings. This demonstrates your commitment to exploring mutually beneficial opportunities and helps deepen your relationships with members. Use BNI’s platforms for continuous engagement, too, especially with those contacts who are geographically farther away or less available for face time.


Preparation before, during, and after BNI meetings puts you on a path to success in this global professional network. With the resources and camaraderie that BNI offers, you’re well-equipped to open doors to exponential growth, but it requires a proactive and thoughtful approach. Your networking strategy, combined with the resources at hand, can pave the way for a thriving business landscape teeming with colorful collaborations. Consider each meeting a stepping stone toward your next big business breakthrough!

Remember, your dedication to BNI meeting etiquette not only advances your prospects but strengthens the entire network.

3 Tips to Remember

  1. Tailor your preparation to the specifics of the upcoming BNI meeting — custom-fit your approach for maximum effect.
  2. Your participation is your business’s voice; make it count with meaningful engagement.
  3. Diligent follow-up turns prospects into partnerships that will fuel your business’s growth for years to come.