If you aren’t familiar with the Business Networking International (BNI), you won’t understand how important one-to-one’s (or 121s) are for generating network opportunities. These meetings are designed for two BNI members to get to know each other and to learn how to refer business to each other.
Group 121s apply this same convenience to small groups of professionals, so you can make several contacts in one sitting and perhaps garner professional friendships you can use to get future business. The key to successful group 121s is to understand that they aren’t solely for sales.
Remember: you’re looking for referrals. The idea is to give your contacts the information they need to pass your name along with confidence.
So, how do you become a go-to referral partner?
Be a resource. Your goal should be providing value. Adopt this giving mindset and other businesses will be eager to meet you at group 121s. Unless something happens during your meeting that raises red flags, be ready to offer that person referrals or even connections that could become strategic partners.
Become a storyteller. One of the biggest complaints BNI members have of group 121s are that too many people show up, ready to dump information down other guests’ throats. It’s a boring and ineffective way to network that ensures every minute and penny invested goes to waste. Our brains aren’t built to remember an endless stream of facts. Instead, focus on the main ways your company helps people, and choose one to highlight. Then, instead of giving a presentation on that product or service, share stories that show how you used your business to solve someone’s problems. People remember stories, so they will remember you when it’s time to refer a business in your industry.
Have fun. Networking get-togethers can be awkward. Sharing a meal, for instance, doesn’t always result in bonding; it doesn’t even mean guests will enjoy themselves. Even weekly BNI member meetings come under fire if they are run inefficiently. Avoid these mistakes by finding a way that helps people relax and enjoy themselves.
Painting With A Twist parties: generating referrals and friendships
Painting With A Twist’s paint parties are a great way to spice up otherwise boring BNI group 121s. They give attendees a chance to make their mark with multiple people at once. The genius of BNI is found in restricting membership to only one representative of an industry at a time. When you show up to a paint party to meet other members, you’re guaranteed to be the only travel agent, accountant or lawyer at the event.
Paint and sip parties provide the perfect laid-back atmosphere to tell stories about your business without dumping info in someone’s lap or making a sales pitch. Business professionals are constantly being sold to, and they’re less likely to commit to group 121s if they think it will be a giant sales pitch. They simply want to get to know more about you and your abilities.
What if you’re terrible at painting?
There is a saying at Painting With a Twist, “It’s fun art, not fine art.”
Painting is a skill that takes decades to perfect, so most attendees have low expectations for final results. Being bad is something you can actually bond over. It’s a great way to break the ice and introduce discussions on challenges.
A dedicated Painting With A Twist instructor provides step-by-step instruction in a way that entertains. Paint parties typically include lots of laughter, some group games and even a little dancing.
Many group 121s are held at noisy bars, where inevitably there are a couple of BNI members who imbibe a little too much. Unfortunately, it’s common for organizers to set up group 121s at a local bar and encourage people to drink as a way of showing thanks to the property manager. However, drinking that leads to embarrassing behavior can raise legitimate concerns about a professional's ability to perform. Worse, a potential referral might wind up too embarrassed to contact you again to make those referrals.
One of the reasons Painting With a Twist stands out from the competition is their coffee and canvas parties, where guests trade java for wine and often have their meetings earlier in the day. Or consider booking a Group 121 Painting With a Purpose — a paint party that raises money for a worthy non-profit.
Promotional paint party dos and donts
Alcohol isn’t the only way you can get yourself in trouble during a paint party. Follow our list of dos and donts to make the most of your night.
DO listen carefully and follow the instructions. We know, it’s a networking opportunity, but if you’re chattering while the host is giving directions, you might interfere with someone else’s good time. Paint can get messy too, so it’s important to follow the rules in order for everyone’s clothing to stay safe and tidy. There will be plenty of time to chat with your neighbors and others in the group. So, don’t worry about missing out on networking.
DON’T work a sales pitch into your art. One of the biggest complaints about BNI 121s are people who don’t understand how to share their business without a blatant sales pitch. Talk to people about your flower business, but if you’re supposed to paint an apple, please don’t replace it with a bouquet. You’ll only make yourself look pushy. DO ask people about their businesses. If you’re looking to hire someone for a job, it’s perfectly okay to ask in-depth questions. Otherwise, keep conversations somewhat superficial. DON’T use this as a chance to get professional advice. What do you think the second biggest complaint is in regard to 121 meetings? You’re supposed to be forming relationships, not getting professional consultation for free.
DO follow up with attendees by providing them with referrals. After your painting session is over, your group usually stops to get a photo that winds up on social media. That isn’t where your networking should end. Follow up with a phone call or e-mail to touch base with your new paint buddies. Remember, your attitude heading into a paint party should focus on giving. Who can you provide with contacts? Successful business owners focus on helping first and receive the benefits later. Painting With a Twist provides business owners with a fun, relaxing opportunity to get to know one another while minimizing the risks that come with a traditional get-together.