I’ve been a member of BNI (Business Network International) for 5 ½ years. I was very timid and scared at my chapter meetings but knew I was where I needed to be to grow my business. As much as I loved my meetings, I also disliked them. It was not in my nature to talk to people I didn’t know. On my 30 minute drive, I would practice the commercial I had prepared but I would also think those thoughts that are so destructive. One of them being, who will I talk to? What if nobody talks to me?? By the time I arrived at the meeting, I was sick to my stomach with anxiety.
As a Once Timid Networker, I would arrive and put my things down at the seat I had selected then scan the room for the nearest escape, the coffee and treats, and a possible friendly face. Wayne would always catch my eye and wave across the room to me. He was and older gentleman with a very kind eyes and a warm smile. He was so friendly and I realized I could always go to his side and he would welcome me into the conversation. There were a few times I tried to go to another circle but ended up feeling more ridiculous than I did already, since although they acknowledged my presence, they didn’t include me. I grew to absolutely loath “Open Networking” and it was a nightmare if Wayne wasn’t there.
Fast forward about a year. My friend Kevin Snow (and now fellow Director) asked me to fill in for him at a group who was in the process of becoming a BNI chapter. Looking back, he must have been desperate for help and I must have been on cold medication! I have no idea why he asked me or why I said yes (lol). He handed me a sheet of paper that said something like “Mentoring checklist”. I put on my best pretend-a-ambassador face and went to teach this group about being a mentor and what it could mean to a new member.
As I prepared for this and researched the material for this presentation, it touched my heart and stirred my soul because I realized that I was not the only one who felt scared at their initial BNI meetings. I reflected on the way that Wayne had treated me. His warmth and how he always seemed happy to see me. He was approachable and made me feel as though I belonged there at that meeting. When I had a question, I knew I could ask him. When there were trainings coming up, he asked if I would like to join the group who was going. I realized, what if every member had their own version of my friend Wayne?
Shortly after that, I became and ambassador with the sole purpose of teaching chapters the value of the mentor program. We have researched and modified the program and have developed a system that is incredible and that our region is very proud of.
My point is, take the time. Whether it’s at your BNI chapter or any other social function and find that lost soul. The person who won’t make eye contact and is wringing their hands. The one standing (or sitting) at their seat. They are looking for a reason to get the heck out of there! Give them a reason to stay. Help them to feel comfortable and at ease. You may be giving them something that they have never experienced before. You might be pivotal in their success. You might be the one, who makes a difference for that person. I haven’t seen Wayne in years, but I hope he realizes how he helped me. Without him, I may have left the group and never become the Once Timid Networker.
Become a Mentor.
Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara’s