Today’s Ask Ivan question comes from Serena in the USA.
My chapter does not do visitor orientations at all. We haven’t done it since we chartered several years ago. Our members chose not to take visitors out of the room before the announcements, feeling that it would bring down the energy level, and we used to have 4 to 5 visitors a week. Now the VP and membership committee talk to the visitors at the end of the meeting and ask whether they would like help filling it in.
Visitor orientation was started by a BNI chapter; Dr. Misner discovered it when he visited this chapter in the 1980s. The chapter president gave Dr. Misner the job description for the visitor host, and the description of the visitor host in the BNI handbook today is based on that description.
You won’t get the same performance out of a BNI chapter if you don’t follow the tried and true agenda set out for you. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Visitor orientations have been proven to work since the mid-1980s. They’re important because visitors don’t know what BNI is about or how it works.
If you find your chapter is neglecting an important part of the BNI agenda ask your director for a referral to a chapter that’s doing that thing really well. Visit their chapter and see how they do it. Ask your director for help implementing it. There are systems and processes for everything that BNI asks chapters to do.
Don’t forget to listen to Episode 503, Making People Feel Welcome in BNI.
Brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube.
Complete Transcript of Episode 509 –
Episode 509. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, which is part of the Ask Ivan series. If you would like to ask Ivan a question, go to [email protected]
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube, which features Dr. Ivan Miser and many other networking experts. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan, how are you today?
I am doing great, Priscilla, thank you very much. I have kind of an interesting topic. I have a question that I had to go put my blood pressure cuff on after I read the question. You know, did a little meditation and thought it through. I have, I think, a better Asher than I would have had when I first read the question.
The question comes from Serena in the United States. This is what she asked. She says, “My chapter does not do visitor orientations at all.” This is where the blood pressure cuff came in. “We haven’t done it at all since we chartered several years ago. Members chose not to take visitors out of the room before announcements, feeling that it would bring down the energy level. We used to have 4-5 visitors a week,” which I think is interesting wording, used to have. “Now the VP and Visitor Host go and talk to visitors at the end of the meeting to ask whether they would like an application and like any help filling that in.”
I do know for a fact that she was interested in doing visitor orientation, but she just wanted my feedback on this. So I don;t want to throw Serena totally under the bus. She asked me about this. So what I thought I would do today is tell a little story about how visitor hosts and visitor orientation started.
It was actually in the mid-1980’s, several years after I started BNI. I might have the exact date in the book Givers Gain, but it would be in the mid-80’s. I heard about a chapter that had this thing called a visitor host. I remember the first time somebody told me about it. I am the Founder of the organization. I looked at her and I said, “Visitor host? What’s that?”
She said what the visitor host did, which was to introduce them around, to answer any questions. Then she said one of the most important aspects of the visitor host is to do an orientation at the end of the meeting to give the visitor a good orientation of what BNI is all about.
I said, “Visitor orientation? What do they do? What’s in that?”
What was amazing was when the person described this to me, I had not seen this done before. I thought it was incredible and then I started looking at the numbers of this chapter, and the chapter grew and grew and grew. It was very successful. When I realized just how successful, I reached out to the chapter President and I asked, this is back in the mid-80’s. I asked, “I would like to see this visitor host thing that you are doing and the orientation.”
She gave me a job description that they had done for the visitor host. What is in the manual today is probably 75% of what I was handed back in the mid-80’s.
The visitor host, ladies and gentlemen, is so important. It is so important to have the visitor host and what I scratch my head about is when chapters start pulling stuff out of a tried and true agenda – I had someone give an analogy, and he did it far better than I could. He gave me an analogy of a production line and how if you are going down the production line and somebody misses a bolt, you go, “Oops. It’s only one bolt. No big deal.” But then somebody else misses something else. Somebody else leaves something else out. And somebody else is on a break and another piece of the car, if this is a car coming off the production line, is left off. At the end of the production line it has three wheels. It’s like oh, well, oops.
You are not going to get the same performance out of a three wheel car as you are a completely finished vehicle, the person argued to me. I agreed that you are not going to get the same performance out of a chapter if you start leaving nuts and bolts off your car. We now have over 8000 chapters, Priscilla. I don’t know if you knew that.
With 8000 chapters, we have made every mistake in the book. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t start pulling nets and bolts off the system because it sounds better.
I had someone I was talking to. It was in a live audience with a lot of people. We were talking about some topic and he said, “I really disagree with BNI about this process. I just disagree.”
I asked him, “Are you good at what you do?” It took him by surprise. I said, “No. I am serious. This is an honest question. Do you believe that you are really good at what you do?”
He said, “Yeah. I am darn good at what I do.”
I said, “Cool. In the same way that you are an expert and hope that your clients take your advice, there are a lot of people out there who think that I am possibly an expert. I have done this for over 30 years. And many of these people will follow my advice. My advice is,” as I told him and as I told Serena’s chapter, and every chapter out there, “don’t reinvent the wheel.”
Visitor orientations have been done since the mid-1980s. It is so important to do these. One of the reasons for it is visitors don’t quite understand what is going on as well as you do. You may think this stuff is second nature to us, but I remember that first visitor orientation I went to in the ’80’s when a visitor was saying, “Oh, that’s what those slips are. I wasn’t quite sure. Those are referral slips. How does that work? What is on that information? Who fills that out? Oh, I saw everybody was carrying those burgundy card files, so you have copies of everybody’s business cards in there.”
You may even tell some people this, but they are drinking water from a firehouse from a certain extent. There is all this stuff going on and of course they want to talk about themselves. They may not be paying as much attention as you would like, and this is why the visitor orientation is so incredibly important -because it’s not only explaining what took place but it is also explaining what will take place should they decide to join.
Now, one other bit of advice and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, Priscilla. One other bit of advice: if you listen to this podcast and you realize there are pieces of production line that you are not doing, you are leaving bolts out and you’re doing it on purpose, and you are making a change, and you understand it, here is my advice: don’t change half-heartedly. If you make a half-hearted change-
So the chapter that is not doing visitor orientation – hang on a second, I do need to go get my blood pressure cuffs again, Priscilla. They are not doing visitor orientations. Okay, don’t go into it half-heartedly. There are a couple of things to do to do it right so you can really genuinely see how it works. Ask your Director to refer you to a chapter in the area that is really rocking the house with visitor hosts and have a great visitor orientation.
Go observe another chapter. Ask the visitor host if you can sit in on their orientation because you want to do that in your group. I have found that chapters are incredibly cooperative with something like that. So that is the first thing. Ask your Director for a referral. Second, go there and watch and observe and ask questions. Third, this is really important, bring in your local Director to help you implement it in your chapter.
You are not alone. Don’t wing this. We have systems and processes, which by the way, will be the topic of next week’s podcast, Priscilla, about systems and processes and what can go wrong if you don’t do those things. Come back next week, everyone, and listen to that podcast because it is the perfect follow up to that.
You are not in this alone. You don’t have to do this alone. Even the best people to at something, experts at something, continually need coaching. Even if you have a great chapter, it just a matter of fine-tuning and improving what you are doing.
You know, I don’t remember ever saying this on my podcast, Priscilla, but Arnold Palmer, who was in his day the great golfer alive, every year he went out and got a golfing coach. Did you know that?
Yeah. He was at the top of his game. He was winning millions. Every year, he got a coach to help him with his swing because he said, ” You know what? You can get sloppy and once you get sloppy, you lose your game.” So he hired – could you imagine being the coach to Arnold Palmer? That would make me a little bit nervous, you know, if I were a really good golfer to coach Palmer. But he said, “Look, I found a really, really good golfing coach and every year, I just make sure to work on my swing just to make sure I got it down because you get into habits that aren’t good.” It’s important to get out of those habits.
So if you are one of those chapters who are doing those kinds of habits, bring in your Director. Listen to these podcasts. There is a lot of content out there to improve your group. I would urge you to do it and I will put away my blood pressure cuff now.
I just want to remind the listeners to listen to podcast 503 about how to be a very warm and welcoming visitor host and how that makes a visitor feel when they come to the chapter because I think that is really important.
Yeah. That is a great addition to this. Go back and listen to that. This chapter in question, I am pretty sure- they do have a visitor host, I know, but they just don’t do the orientation. I probably talked a little bit about the orientation and its importance there. That is a really good addition 503.
Great. That is everything I have, unless you have anything to add, Priscilla.
That’s it for me.
Alright. Thank you.
Okay great. Thank you, Dr. Misner. I want to thank all of you for listening. This podcast has been brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.