To an outsider, most business networking events follow a similar routine: Socialise. Chitchat about the economy. Swap cards.
But not at BNI, a networking group, which meets in Abu Dhabi and is just one of the 5,800 chapters in the global BNI network, holding meetings that are carefully structured, recorded and monitored.
"This is a measured and systematic approach to networking," says Anna Heystek, the chief executive of the human resource consultancy goBlue International and BNI's chapter director in Abu Dhabi. "It's less about being social. There's a result in the end."
Members join expecting there will be results. After all, they are looking for a return on their sizeable investment: In Abu Dhabi, members pay a one-off fee of Dh625 plus annual dues of Dh3,800.
That is why early into a meeting, every business member has 60 seconds to introduce who they are, what his or her firm does and the kinds of "referrals" it needs to generate future business. The organisation's philosophy centres on the concept of "givers gain" and that if you provide business to someone else, you will get business in return. In other words, says Bijay Shah, the national director of BNI Middle East, "what goes around, comes around".
Asking for help is one thing, but how successful have these businesses been at getting it? Learn more by reading "The Life" in The National.