Episode 339: Networking at Non-Networking Events

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Priscilla came up with this week’s topic. She’s been the educational coordinator for her chapter and has been going through Networking Like a Pro and she was particularly struck by the chapter on Networking at Non-Networking Events.

In Episode 30 we talked about networking anytime, anyplace. You can network anywhere as long as you honor the event. The important thing is to find a way to help people or make a connection with them, not to sell to them.

If you’ve had a successful experience of networking at a non-networking event, leave a comment on the podcast.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 339 –

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 am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio, in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you and where are you?

Hi Priscilla. I am doing great, and I am actually at BNI HQ this week, working with Directors from all over North America going through director orientation, kind of the second thing that I do that I really enjoy. I love doing these podcasts and interviews- and training new Director Consultants is one of the really fun things that I get to do because I train them on the traditions of the organization.

So when they go out, they have a good sense of where the organization is coming from and what the culture of the organization is. I don’t know if people know this but Director Consultants have to go through three full days, 24 hours of training and a gigantic manual. I like to be part of it every time we do it.

That’s great.

Let me throw it back to you because today’s topic is your topic. You have come up with a topic which I really like and you are going to interview me.

That’s true. Well, let me give everybody a little background about how this happened. I have been the educational coordinator for my chapter and I decided to go through the book, Networking Like a Pro, that you wrote, Ivan. So every week, chapter by chapter, I would give the educational moment on something that you wrote. Some interesting fact or concept.

So I came across this chapter in the book, which happens to be chapter 23. It has the same title as the episode, Networking at Non-Networking Events. It really affected me in a deep way because it is such an odd concept- which is you might go to an event like a funeral, a bar mitzvah, a Christening, or a Christmas party and it’s perfectly okay to network there.

The reason that it’s perfectly okay to network there, as you have pointed out, is because of givers gain, which is when you are networking, you are actually trying to help the person that you are networking with. You are not trying to do a sales job on that person. You are trying to deepen the relationship and find out how you might be able to help that person in their business.

I thought that was really unique and a different way of looking at networking. So Ivan, I’d love it if you could talk a little bit more about that.

It’s got to be pretty good to be the education coordinator and the host of the podcast because you every now and then can pick a topic. You picked a good one, a really good one because we are really talking about networking certainly outside of a BNI meeting. To be honest with you, I think BNI is sort of the culmination of your networking efforts. It’s not just your networking efforts. You are really networking before a meeting and after a meeting. How you network is really important. It’s not just business events or business meetings that you network at.

You named a few things- holidays, weddings. We did a book a number of years ago, Truth or Delusion and one of the things that we asked was could you network anywhere, anytime, any place? I think we actually did a podcast on it many years ago, episode 30. The answer is yes. You can network anywhere, anytime, any place. Even at a wedding. Even at a funeral.

But here’s the thing: you must always honor the event. You must honor the event. You can’t be showing up at a wedding or a funeral, heaven forbid, passing out business cards. Not a good idea. It’s completely inappropriate. If you are, as you suggested in the opening, if you are trying to help people- by helping people, I am not talking about selling something to them. I mean finding some way to connect them with someone or help them with something in some way.

For me, when I was in management, people- as I got to know a little bit about their business, I would recommend articles to them on that topic. This was, of course, before the internet. I am kind of old now, so it was way before the internet. I would have hard copies of them, and I mailed them to them. It would be my way of connecting now with the internet. Today, I send them a link to the article. That’s the way that I found to help.

I believe you can network anywhere, anytime. And you should be networking at non-networking events because I believe it is more of a lifestyle. Networking is more of a lifestyle that is about relationships. It’s not just a skill. It is a mindset as well. You have to apply that mindset to the way you life your life. That is why I think if you honor the event, you can network anywhere, anytime, any place including at those holiday parties.

We just finished the holidays, right? It’s the beginning of the new year. A lot of you went to these crazy parties. There may have been holiday parties. There may have been a lot of family. It could have been a corporate company party of some kind. You may have wondered why you were there. Let me tell you, that is a great opportunity to really connect with people and to get to know them a little bit better on a personal level.

It’s a great way to get to network up if there are people there that you think are very successful and you want to get to know them better. Do you know what I mean by network up?

Being networking with people who are in a more powerful position than you are?

Yeah. A more powerful position. I did a radio interview just a few months ago. I said, listen, when you meet somebody who is really successful and you would really like to get to know them, what tends to happen is that people try to sell to them immediately. Even in private events, that is one of the reasons why people don’t like going to some social events is because someone is going to try to sell to them.

Don’t be like everybody else. Everybody else is trying to sell to people. Don’t be one of those guys. Don’t be one of those ladies. Instead, get to know more about what they do and find an opportunity to somehow help them or make a good connection with them. It is the only chance you have of ever seeing that person again on a regular basis. It’s to find a way to help them or connect with them. If you don’t do that and you are like everybody else trying to sell to them, and they are not interested. It is really rare.

Yeah, in fact, I think you may not even want to mention what you do for quite a while or until they ask or it becomes a big part of the conversation for whatever reason because otherwise, you are just promoting yourself and that is definitely not what you are talking about.

That is counter-intuitive. We talk about ourselves, especially if we are selling a service or a product. We want to talk about ourselves. I get that. But if we are talking to someone with whom you are networking up, you definitely want to find out more about them first. You should do that anyway. You definitely want to do that with somebody that is more successful than you.

You know what? They have been doing it enough that chances are they are going to ask you, so what do you do? That gives you a chance to talk a little bit about what you do. Again, don’t sell to them.

A couple of examples in situations for me when I was networking up, in one case, it was somebody who was a great storyteller, and I knew he was. So what do you do with someone who’s a great storyteller? Tell them a relevant story. I had this guy laughing so hard about a story that absolutely related to what was happening at that moment so he could really, really connect with it.

He was laughing so hard he was bent over holding himself up on his knees because he was bent over laughing. Well, that was ten years ago. I see him several times a year now and do business with him because I didn’t try to sell anything to him. I tired to make a connection with him and I made a connection in an area where I knew he lived in. He lived in great storytelling.

I made another connection with somebody else who was a very, very successful businessman. I knew there was this project he wanted promoted. I got him to talk about it and then I asked him, “How can I help you with it?”

He said, “I don’t know. I have no idea.”

Then I told him that I have a blog and told him about BNI and my membership and he was like, “You’d promote that for me?” Absolutely. And boom, we did a video recording and we did the blog and I stay in touch with him now regularly because I didn’t look for ways to sell something to him. I looked for ways to help him.

That’s the secret to networking at non-networking events. I think it is the secret to networking anywhere, but particularly at non-networking events. People don’t even look at that as networking.

That’s the secret sauce right there. It’s about generosity. It’s about looking out for the other person. It’s about being helpful and useful and you really, really have to kind of put your personal needs in your pocket and just really focus on the other person. I think that is the secret sauce right there.

I think you are right. I also think that many people view that as kind of woo-woo. It is not hard core business. I think that you are correct and you can actually get business done by making a connection, by being generous, by finding ways to help other people. I have been doing this now long enough that I know I am really and truly believe in the law of reciprocity, that what goes around comes around.

This technique is an effective one and people who use it definitely benefit it. Every now and then it doesn’t work, but I can guarantee you that trying to sell to people when you meet them for the first time especially at non-networking events definitely doesn’t work most of the time.

I am just wondering if any of you out there in radio land have had an experience where you have networked at a non-networking event and you would like to tell us a story about that, I know Ivan would love it if you made a comment on this podcast.

That’s a great idea, Priscilla. Post your stories here about networking at a non-networking event- what you did, how it worked. I get them emailed to me. I read them all, and I reply to many of them. So great suggestion. Priscilla, that was a great topic. I hope it helped your chapter’s educational moment.

It did. They liked it very much.

Great. Thanks.

I think that is it for this week. I would just like 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 for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Love this topic! I’ve networked in line at Target, on an airplane, at Panera, and, yes, even at a funeral. Helping other people is the true essence of networking!

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  2. Andrew Austin says

    Yes! Everyone’s got a story and wants to share it! Our “job” is to ask. I’ve worked in banking for several years and its interesting how the philosophy of “selling” has come around. I worked for one bank who would actually time me when I would meet with a client, and normally told me it took too long! Now. it’s all about hearing the story again and listening to the client and discovering how to help them, how refreshing! I met one client who was referred by an advisor just to open an account; we sat and talked (and talked!) and I ended up refinancing her first mortgage and providing an emergency line of credit. She appreciated the savings but more importantly the fact that I’d care to take the time to listen.

  3. says

    While at a house party (NON-NETWORKING EVENT), people I knew were asking me if I had anyone I could refer to them for various home projects. I mentioned that I belong to a BNI group and have incredible, trustworthy connections. As the conversations went along, I could see a guy getting closer & closer to our group. Finally, he spoke up and said “You are a wealth of knowledge. What do you do for a living?”. I told him I’m a RE/MAX real estate agent, and I surround myself with these people to help take care of my clients. He said that he was looking for a house but hadn’t been successful in the past 8 months. “Would I work with him?” Three days later, I had found him a home! Networking in a non-networking event!! Love it.

  4. Leon DSilva says

    Thanks for a great tip for networking at non networking events such as Networking Up if done correctly corectly could get us solid referrals. Got to practice it !
    Thanks again.

  5. says

    That truly was a great learning. Most of us don’t even give a thought to how we actually get a good prospect run away from us when we start talking about ourselves. No one would like to be sold to all the time. Connecting is most important.

  6. says

    I think this is a great idea. I tend to network at church events, soccer games, cub scout meetings and even when volunteering at the giant slide for community event. I actually had that happen. I was helping kids go up and down the slide and I started to talk with one of the parent. It turned out he has a restaurant and opening up a new one in the near future and he has been thinking about getting a website for both. So, we exchanged cards and the rest is history. I believe it is good to be in communication with people around you no matter where you go. You never know.

    Actually, funny story, my mom, who was in sales told me that one time when she was still selling advertisements for a newspaper she made a sale at the gym between push-ups at her aerobics class. Another time she made a sale on an international flight. She is a true networker.

  7. Maurissa Bruening says

    What a great topic. So many people I know abuse these events and ruin their reputation and that of their company. Kudos to Priscilla!

Solutions-focused comments are welcome