It’s week two of my exploration of BNI Manhattan, and this week I hit two more chapters – numbers 60 and 45.
9AM Chapter (Manhattan 60)
Tuesday saw me get up at the leisurely time of 7:45am. How was I going to a BNI meeting, getting up that late, I hear you ask? Well, if the title and the subtitle didn’t give it away, Manhattan 60 meetings start at 9am.
My contact was Kara Turner from Joonbugg, who I’d contacted mostly on account of her adorable company name. I’d also managed to find someone who needed a sub (free breakfast, what’s not to love).
The meeting took place in an Irish bar on East 45th Street, right next to Grand Central Terminal. The subway made the trip to Midtown easy, though at 8:30am it was packed full of commuters. The venue was fairly small, and during the meeting it was mentioned that should the group grow any bigger they’d have to look for larger options.
The way that 60 really excelled was their visitor welcome. WOW. I was introduced to practically all of their 26 members in the 20 minutes before the meeting started. Each person dragged me over to another person who just HAD to meet me. Everyone was super chatty, super friendly and conversation flowed easily. I’d sussed about 5 people I really wanted to have 1-2-1s with before we even sat down to eat. In fact I hardly had time to grab a bowl of oatmeal before the formal meeting began (and you can blame the lack of photos on that too!).
Hearing the BNI mantra read out in an American accent brought new meaning to it – it’s easy to see how the “Giver’s Gain” attitude started in the USA. Unfortunately the first part of the meeting reminded me why I prefer larger chapters – at least 10 minutes was dedicated to discussing their new strategy to increase to 35 members by the end of the year. As a visitor myself, it was a little off-putting.
This was another group with “commercials” shorter than 60 seconds – each member and visitor had 45 seconds, which was conveniently counted down on a large digital clock. Some members overran a bit but weren’t penalised, which I was glad to see. The 10 minute speaker was Jeff on real estate, and it was then I noticed there was no projector. Jeff gave his presentation without visual aids, and I have no idea if there is one if a member has a Powerpoint.
The contribution round was a bit different too – members passed referrals down to the head of the table during the rest of the meeting. In both meetings I’ve been to so far there have been a lot fewer referrals passed. I think there’s more of an emphasis here on passing solid leads rather than speculative ones, and a lot fewer calls for “easy referrals”, such as event RSVPs and small item sales. I myself passed a referral to Guy, an immigration attorney… because why not?
I was taken away with the other visitors to talk about the benefits of joining BNI – actually the first time this has happened to me as I always subbed at rather than visited my own BNI group before joining. The cool thing about chapter 60 is that they genuinely have a USP over other groups – if you’re a mum and have to get kids to school, or you just can’t stand early mornings, the 9am group may be the one for you.
I wish it could be the one for me, because the people there were so friendly and welcoming and brilliant – probably actually even friendlier than my own chapter, and that’s really saying something. But I don’t think 9am worked for me. 11am is too late to start work, especially with the time difference that meant by the time I got out of the meeting it was 4pm in the UK. In my opinion, the 9am meeting cuts too much into the rest of the day – but I can totally see how it works for others, and it was one of the best networking events I’ve ever been to.
Breakfast of Champions (Manhattan 45)
The following day I took a familiar 6:15am subway to near Union Square, just around the corner from my meeting last Wednesday, for the self-proclaimed “Breakfast of Champions”. I walked in, was greeted and got my name sticker. While the welcome committee wasn’t quite as awesome as 60, I got talking to a few people and was introduced to some good connections for me, so it beat out 62 in that area.
Glancing over the list of members conveniently provided on my table (which seems to be a common fixture at all Manhattan BNI meetings), I remembered why I’d chosen this group – their marketing power team was insanely huge. With a digital strategist, a graphic designer, a copywriter, a web designer and a PR guy, this group was bursting with people I wanted to meet.
I was confused when we all took our seats and the meeting began – we hadn’t had breakfast yet. But the chefs were busy in the open kitchen right next to our meeting, so I wasn’t worried; I’d been promised that this breakfast was the best on the island!
I didn’t find my contact, Daniel DiGriz, until he stood up for his 60 seconds. They actually had a proper 60 second round, the first I’d encountered in New York. They also chose the randomised order rather than a logical progression around the room, like my chapter in the UK uses. It seems that every chapter over here has their own equivalent of the “Sixty Second Oscar”, awarded by the winner from the previous week.
It was around this time that breakfast was served – first a bowl of yoghurt and fruit, then the strangest assortment of food items to ever constitute a breakfast! A spinach and potato omelette, some dressed salad, a very sweet piece of bread, and a fruit scone. It seems this is one area that America radically differs from the UK!
On to the presentations, and Shayne the web designer stepped up to speak. Although the room had the facility for a powerpoint presentation, he spoke without one, and I was excited to hear that he’d started off in social media! In fact multiple members had mentioned social media in their commercials, which I was very pleased to hear – though I was a little worried I was accidentally overlapping with some of the other members. But Daniel, who’d invited me, was the largest overlap by far, and if he’s okay with it, then that’s okay, right?
As the meeting finished off, I found out the costs of BNI in the USA. Unfortunately for us Brits, the price is the same in dollars as in pounds, meaning we’re paying a half to a third more – in fact, I think we might be paying more in pounds!
I managed to grab pretty much everyone in the room I wanted to speak to, to schedule a 1-2-1 later in the week. By the end of the meeting my diary was chock-full.
The meeting overall was pretty great. At the start someone had described them as the “antithesis of chapter 62“. Really they weren’t all that different – but that’s BNI for you.