Each year the BNI National conference is held in a different part of Canada, last year it was in Ontario, next year will be in Vancouver. This year’s event was held in Montreal, a city that has a special place in my heart.
Not only did my mother grow up in the area, but I also spent some great years there while I studied at Concordia University in the late 80s. I’ve only returned a few times since I left in 1991, but it’s always nice to go back and visit the campus and my old neighbourhoods. Not much has changed, except being able to ride a bike around where I lived as a student – a death wish in the 80s.
Of course, Montreal also makes a great host for a BNI conference. We were lucky enough to enjoy a cruise along the St Lawrence with people that included members from BNI chapters across the country, as well as some from local chapters.
The bringing together of the mix of chapters is what makes these conferences so special. With representatives from across Canada, it’s a great chance to contrast and compare. This was the focus of our sessions, with presentations from executive directors and spirited discussions.
These allowed us to approach solving some common problems, for example, one session looked at what we call ‘category cowboys’ – people who claim multiple categories within a chapter. As with a lot of problems, the solution lay in clear communication, listening, and providing supportive but instructive feedback. My team did a skit covering 19 categories of lawyer, including space law, employment law, property law etc…
As you would imagine, it also offers a tremendous opportunity to further your own network and business, and I will be following up with a few people that I met. It was also great to take advantage of the chance to connect with some people from the web design industry.
One of the big takeaways I have is that we need to share our success stories on Vancouver Island more. Many stories were shared from members of various chapters, including one from a cleaner who joined BNI 4 years as a single operator, and through a very precise target market and BNI, now has 6 employees. BNI helps people grow businesses, and these success stories are important to share.
The conference was a great opportunity to reflect more on what we do as a chapter, the many things we do well, and a few things I think we should look to improve going forward. For example, we should be using more live streaming and other video platforms. We should also be clearer about communicating the BNI structure to members and prospective members, not just what it is, but how following it will lead to more leads and increased business growth.
On a final, personal note, I was very grateful to be given a dedicated award during the closing conference banquet. I’m exceptionally proud of all of our chapters back here on the island, and to have that and my work as an area director recognized was a wonderful moment, thank you Hazel and Mark.