Episode 115: “Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in BNI”

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This week Dr. Misner is beginning a 12-week course of BNI Fundamentals. If you’re a BNI Education Coordinator, you can download this information from the BNI website.

Here are the top ten ways to prevent other BNI members from giving you good referrals.

  1. Show up late or multi-task during the meeting.
  2. Be absent.
  3. Don’t invite your own guests.
  4. Use other people’s 60-second presentation time to think about what to say yourself.
  5. Focus your efforts on selling your services to the members.
  6. Don’t rush following up on a member referral.
  7. Use one-to-one’s to talk about the chapter.
  8. Wing it with your 60-second presentation.
  9. Use your 10-minute presentation to explain minute details of how your business works.
  10. Air your grievances among your table-mates and guests.

What are your suggestions for the top ways to waste time in BNI? Let us know here in the comments to the blog.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 115 –

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the Net for networking downloadables.

I’m Priscilla Rice, and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkley, California, and I am joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner.

Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?

Well, this week I am actually in Southern California at a executive council retreat up at my lake home in Big Bear. We’ve got all of the top countries of BNI, U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, the Scandinavian countries, a couple of others that are all meeting up here to talk about the growth of BNI for 2010 and to prepare the organization for our ongoing growth. So we’re meeting up here, and that’s what we’re doing this week.

That sounds like a lot of fun.

Yeah, it should be fun.

This week, however, on the podcast, I want to start a 12-week program for the podcasts. It’s called 12 Weeks of BNI Fundamentals, and this is content that is available to all education coordinators by going to BNI.com and going to the educational coordinator download section. If you’re an education coordinator and you don’t have that information, connect with your local director and get the user name and password so that you can have access to the information.

And what I want to do, Priscilla, over the next maybe more than three months, I might intersperse a few other podcasts in this content, but what I’d like to do is, certainly over the next 12 to 16 weeks, hit these 12 weeks of BNI fundamentals and have education coordinators hopefully coordinate their training with these podcasts.

That sounds great. So what’s the first one?

Well, the first one is one that I find interesting. It’s called Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in BNI. Your BNI seat in this chapter, the chapter that you’re a member of, is worth a considerable amount of money. If you calculate the time you spend each week and the business value of your time, you don’t want to squander that money. Now, success in BNI comes when the rest of the chapter members trust you enough to open up their best referrals to you, not just their normal referrals, but their best referrals. And that comes when they have seen you work, when you have earned trust with them by demonstrating your professionalism at all times.

So here are what BNI directors and members around the world have come up with as the top ten ways to prevent gaining trust and delay your success in BNI, or the Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in BNI.

Are you ready for them?

I’m ready.

Here we go.

Number 1: show up late or multitask during the meetings. Don’t be there on time and be texting while the meeting is going on or walk away for telephone calls. That’s a great waste of time in BNI.

You’ve never seen that, have you?

I have, actually.

I know; so have I.

Number 2: be absent. No big deal, right? It doesn’t really make a difference if you’re there. One of the things I’ve always said to BNI members, “How many of you have ever gotten a haircut over the phone?” It’s one of those things where you’ve got to actually be there in order to make it work for you, so being absent is not going to generate referrals for you.

Number 3: why invite your own guests? Just focus on those who show up. It’s really interesting, the strongest chapters of BNI are chapters that have a lot of interrelated relationships in terms of business, people who know each other. Because when you bring in somebody that you know there’s a trust level that exists, and the more you have people that you know and that you’re meeting with regularly, the faster the confidence curve moves. And so you want to be bringing in your own people.


Number 4: use other people’s 60-second presentation time to think about what referrals you should be giving or what presentation you’re going to be giving. That’s a great waste of BNI time. Don’t think about what referrals to give or what presentation to give while other people are doing their 60-second presentation. You want to focus on their 60-second presentation so that you can think of ways that you can actually refer them.

Number 5: focus your efforts on selling your services to the members. Now, that sounds counterintuitive. Isn’t that what this is all about, sell your products or services? No, it’s not. BNI is really about training a referral team, not closing a sale. And so if you come to the BNI meetings thinking that you’re just going to close sales, you’re missing a great opportunity, because the people in the room are not just prospective clients, they’re referral sources. If you can get them to refer you, that’s that classic way of farming and not hunting.

Number 6: don’t rush following up on a member referral. They know who you are; they know you’ll get back to them. Not true! When you get a referral, follow up on it immediately; that’s really important.

Number 7: use one-to-ones to talk about the chapter. How many times have you seen people doing one-to-ones, and what they do is they talk about the meeting, they talk about the chapter, they talk about somebody that drives them crazy, or they talk about how the meetings aren’t being run. You’ve got to use one-to-ones to educate people about your business and how they can refer you. That’s really important.

Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in BNI, number 8: wing it with your 60-second presentation. You’ve got plenty of chances anyway, right? So just wing it. That’s a total time waster. You do not want to wing it. One of the best examples, I know I’ve talked about it on the podcast before, is to schedule your educational 60-seconds for the next year. Sit down and create – right now, anyone listening to this podcast, schedule out the rest of the year with your 60-second presentations. Just have the topics every week throughout the rest of the year, and then what you want to do is, a day or two before, sit down and figure out what you want to say on that topics. But plan your 60-second presentations; don’t wing it.

Number 9: use your 10-minute presentation to explain minute details of how your business works. People don’t need to know the inner workings of your business, but they need to know how to refer you. So the more you can educate them on what a good referral is and how it works and what sets you aside from your competition, the better you’re going to be.

And number 10, the number 10 way of wasting your time in BNI is: go ahead and air your grievances among your table-mates and guests. After all, we’re all adults here. In other words, spend the time that you should be marketing complaining to people about life or the business or the chapter or whatever. You’re here to generate business. Focus on the business.

So these are the Top 10 Ways to Waste Your Time in BNI. Over the next 11 weeks, what I plan to do with you on these podcasts, Priscilla, is to address each of these areas in different ways. Next week’s topic will focus on how you can apply the Giver’s Gain principle to your attendance and to your participation in weekly meetings to accelerate the trust that others have in you and in your business.

That’s great, Ivan. Well, thank you. I think that’s a wonderful list of ten ways. I’m trying to think of what number 11 might be. And I’m thinking number 11 might be getting into some kind of personal dispute with somebody in your chapter and letting that grab all of your energy and focus.

Wow, that’s a great one. It probably should be on the top ten. I think that’s a real good one, one that I’ve seen happen a lot. As a matter of fact, here’s what I would suggest for the members who listen to this podcast. We’d love to hear your suggestions on the top ways to waste your time in BNI. Give us a number 11 and a number 12 and a number 13, and share that with us. Because these are the things – it’s not only good to understand what you want to do; I think it’s important to understand what not to do. That’s what this podcast is about, is really understanding what not to do as well as what do to.

Right. Okay, great. Well, I think we’ve come to the end of our time. Do you have anything else you’d like to add, Ivan?

No, that’ll do it for today, Priscilla. Thank you so much.

Okay, great.

Well, I just want to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the Net for networking downloadables. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you’ll join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Other ways are deciding the breakfast is more important than networking, avoiding the MSP and therefore not being able to give a ten minute presentation, describing your business either in such general terms that no one gets it, or using so much jargon that no one understands how to refer you.

  2. says

    How about having a substitute attend 50% or more of the meetings. Or putting a non-salesperson/non-owner in the member seat because the person with a vested interest in the success of the membership is “too busy” to attend regular meetings.

  3. says

    There’s only 4 words that matter: STICK TO THE PROGRAM. I love this about BNI- the program is already there-all members have to do is follow it! How cool is that?
    Anything a member does “off the program” is a waste of time! The policies, guidelines, and code of ethics are the key. Read them and become familar with them and evrything will be hunky-dory.
    If you want BNI to work for you, get out of the bleachers and get in the game- all the way in the game! Is BNI activity a “hobby” for you, or a serious part of your marketing plan? BNI IS marketing time- it’s time spent ON your biz, not away from it.
    BTW- here are some (strange) ways to waste your time in BNI that I’ve seen:
    Show up tipsy
    Dress inappropriately
    Have hygeine issues
    Text during the meeting
    Use foul language
    Tell guests they are not welcome to stay for the meeting
    Ask fellow members:”When are you going to give me some referrals”?
    Refuse to do letters for a Visitor’s Day or accept LT (or LT support) roles in the chapter.
    Be without business cards
    Say “anyone” or “full service”
    Say “I don’t have”
    Refuse to do follow up
    Be disruptive
    Be unethical
    Forget your door prize
    “Spam” your fellow members without prior consent
    Talk about your business opportunity
    Refuse to embrace the Givers Gain philosophy

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  4. Leslie Fiorenzo says

    Thanks for sharing this information, Ivan. The two I’ve seen recently are bad mouthing a local company in a 60 second presentation and using the 1-2-1 time to complain about another member.

  5. Scott Anderson says

    I love this list and other people have brought up some great topics as well. We could go on all day long with ideas…. I appreciate that we narrowed it down to the top 12. I have presented these at meetings and the reaction in impressive-people still don’t pay attention…. Can’t believe they waste their membership in BNI by not following the program as said above.

  6. Tom Meade says

    Not making yourself available as a substitute for other chapters and not visiting other chapters where your business category is not represented. Also, not attending other networking events.

  7. says

    I benefit in many ways from my BNI membership and I listen to most of these podcasts. I want this message to get to Ivan Misner and others responsible for member information. Ivan is out of touch with some features of his baby. There is no 10 minute presentation any longer (some literature also refers to 12 min). Reduction of the presentation time us a form of tax on the members. When it was reduced in order to add items to the agenda, members lost value. Ivan needs to get up to date.

  8. Dr. Ivan Misner says

    Joe, thanks for your comment. I’d like to think that I’m keeping pretty good track of my “baby”.

    On page seven of the Leadership Team Manual which address the BNI Agenda, item #13 states that this is the time for the speaker to give a 5-10 minute presentation (note that some countries may have this item on a different page number because of the difference in page sizes – I am quoting the USA version). [By the way, if your version does not say that – please email BNI HQ so we may get your BNI Director the correct version.]

    It is true that the time is now a range instead of a fixed number. The reason for this is primarily because of the growth in the average chapter size of a BNI group over the years.

    We are getting more and more chapters that are over 30 members (many over 50). Growth is good. However, it does offer some unique challenges for groups. The biggest is getting the meeting over on time. As a result, of a lot of feedback from members and Directors (yes, we asked many people before making this change), we’ve opted to give some flexibility in the amount of time a speaker may have for the meeting. This allows groups to have one OR two speakers depending on their size. Larger groups like having two speakers because it takes so long to get through the speaker rotation if there is only one speaker.

    I can assure you that no change is made to the meeting agenda in a vacuum. There are literally hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people that are involved in making changes. Key members are always included in the process.

    Joe, I hope this brings you “up to date” on what the agenda states and more importantly, some of the reasons why it has evolved as it has in regard to this issue.

    All the best.

    Dr. Ivan Misner

  9. Mary Gethings says

    Excellent material for the educational slot of a chapter. Our chapter used it two weeks ago and it was really amazing to see the reaction on some of the members faces. It really and truly got the message across about being late, not listening etc. I would recommend that it be used in all chapters. Excellent.Mary Gethings, Chapter Director, BNI Falcon, Gorey, Co. Wexford. Ireland

  10. Mary Gethings says

    In answer to Joe. We had 47 members after we launched in january. 22 members from the core group and 25 members from the very successful launch night. Every week 45 members got 60secs to promote their business, 1 core group member got to do the 10 min presentation and 1 newer member from the launch night got to do the 4 min ‘launch pad’of their business. We have been able to fit this into every meeting and finish on time. I have found that once the agenda is followed and the members are attentative everything just runs smoothly and gets finished on time.

    Also attending training especially the presentation skills workshops helps members to be precise and stay within their allocated time. A small percentage of our members attended the presentation skills workshop and the difference is amazing. I would encourage all members of every chapter to attend this worth while training. It not only helps members to prepare for BNI meetings it helps with the every day running of your business.

    Whether it’s writing up reports, meeting customers, the skills learned from this workshop can be used to great advantage. It helps you to keep to the point and get the message accross in a much more precise manner. This training is definitely to be recommended.

    Mary Gethings, Chapter Director, BNI Falcon, Gorey, Co. Wexford. Ireland.

  11. says

    Point 9 is a wake-up-call, because most members focus on what s/he did best at the expense of saying ‘what a good referral is’. I’d also add ‘Ask For’, when we don’t have a clear business objective or plan, we don’t know what to ‘Ask For’.

  12. says

    The one thing that really irks me, and I think is a waste of time, is people checking their e-mails and texts on their cell phone. Makes me want to reach out and touch someone, but I just won’t give them any referrals. PAY ATTENTION to other members PLEASE!!!

  13. Sharang Pande says

    Im contributing 11 and 12 way of wasting time in BNI

    11) No interaction with fellow members – There are few members in every chapter those do not interact with other members and they seat every time at same place with same mates.

    12) Make an inner circle or group – There are some members who form a inner circle or group and they meet and talk with only with those 4-5 members and seat away from other m embers and also do not communicate and interact with other members and guests.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome