Jun 16, 2020

BNI Online: It's A Thing, and It's Our Thing

by Jodi Freeman

Social Distancing. Corona. COVID19. Face covering in public. Work from home.  BNI Online. ZOOM!

All things many of us had never considered, or had even heard of before March 15th. Some had different meanings. Corona? Beer, best served extra cold with LOTS of lime. Face covering? Only for doctors and nurses during surgery. Work from home? Meh, good for some people… not feasible for most, right? Zoom? What, are we all buying Mazdas now? (Is ZoomZoom even their catchphrase still?)  We’ll get to BNI Online in just a minute…

Our world certainly took a big turn in the middle of March.  A health concern that most of us probably thought wouldn’t arrive here in the United States suddenly became a BIG deal, impacting individuals and businesses in unprecedented ways.  Every business had to decide what “essential” meant in their world, whether their services were essential, who was an essential worker, who could work from home – and what their business might look like in this new way of working.

It was no different for BNI.  Suddenly, meeting venues were closing and people were worried about being too close to others. Hand sanitizer, protective masks, and toilet paper were all flying off the shelves.  However, in true BNI fashion, a plan was formulated LONG before this crisis ever struck.  Does Ivan and the Global Leadership team have a crystal ball?  Not that we know of at least. Forward-thinking is probably a better assessment.  Within a matter of days, BNI had begun rolling out BNI Online.  Teams from all over the world were setting up virtual meetings on a BNI-branded Zoom account.  Multiple informational and training sessions were implemented, and Executive Directors and Area Directors spent hours working with Leadership Teams to roll out BNI Online.

BNI Online has been an exciting opportunity to keep meeting, passing referrals, and at a minimum, maintain our chapter membership.  Many Chapters have taken this time to invite visitors who have not had time to attend in the past, and to invite visitors whose networking groups decided not to continue meeting. Some have even seen new members join. 

Several interesting and innovative programs have developed over the weeks we have been meeting online – everything from Speed Networking (think Speed Dating, only for your business) to Leadership Workshops.  We have had the opportunity to meet BNI Chapter members from all over our region, and even from across the United States.  The BNI Heartland Area Directors spent a couple of hours one Friday morning networking with BNI Area Directors from all across the world! It was definitely “proper mint” (schedule a 1-2-1 with your Area Director to learn about proper mint… and no, it’s not Andes mints, although those are a very proper mint in my mind).

Now, things are starting to normalize - whatever that might mean. BNI is working on a plan for chapters to safely meet in person again, and those who had to put things on hold are slowly starting to resume their businesses.  While we can never know if or when a crisis will strike again, one thing we can be certain about is that BNI will be on the front lines of networking, supporting its members in business, and continuing to hold our weekly meetings in whatever innovative ways possible.  Personally, I am and will forever be, INCREDIBLY grateful for my now worldwide BNI Family.

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