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Pay-it-Forward Attitude Nets Payback for Networking Women

Angela Greene of BNI (left), Kerry Brown of eWomenNetwork (right). That's the hand of Fiona Prince of Roaring Women in the middle! Photo by Kim Yanick, www.kimyanick.com

“Be grateful, be kind, be inspired.” “It takes teamwork to make the dream work.” “Be a catalyst for change to build a better world.”

These statements may sound like they come from an inspirational speaker but in fact they describe the philosophy of three business networks with chapters on Vancouver Island. The regional representatives of Business Network International (BNI), Roaring Women Worldwide and eWomenNetwork.com described their respective networks to participants at the fall, 2010 YouUnlimited Women’s conference and each one used the word “abundance” to describe the vision upon which their organizations were founded.

“Networking is about giving. Giving first creates abundance,” said Kerry Brown of eWomenNetwork.com.

“We support each other without thinking about immediate returns,” said Angela Greene of Business Network International, an organization that is open to men as well as women.

“Everyone who has the ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude is welcome, and there is a place for everybody,” said Fiona Prince of Roaring Women.

While top networkers have long realized that success is based on long-term relationship building, Prince said putting this understanding into practice comes more naturally to women than men.

“But the downside is that women tend to promote others before ourselves. We have to learn to do both,” she said.

The common characteristics

Each of these three networks exclusively concentrates on networking, as opposed to the broader function of other organizations such as professional associations and chambers of commerce, which also offer networking opportunities. Each network offers a variety of events, directories, training opportunities and personal coaching aimed at helping entrepreneurs, consultants or independent representatives of companies build their business or professional practices by becoming more confident and connected. Each network has a different structure, however, with Roaring Women the most informal and BNI the most structured.

Fiona Prince, VP and Regional Director of Roaring Women Ltd., Vancouver Island

Roaring Women

Format: Hosts one dinner meeting on the fourth Monday of each month in Victoria. “I promote local businesses and we also have guest speakers from Vancouver Island who have something special to share, whether it is a product, service or a passion for helping others,” said Prince.

Dinners also feature display tables where members can showcase their product or service for free. Prince provides business and communication tips to help with professional and personal development.  Networking is relaxed and informal with the occasional “table-topic” introduced to stimulate conversations. Non-members are welcome.

Prince also hosts a members’ meeting on the third Monday of the month to share information on how to use social media and other practical tips to help members promote and manage their businesses.

In June and July, Prince will travel throughout Vancouver Island to promote Roaring Women by delivering business and communication coaching workshops to groups and individuals. To schedule a session contact her at Fiona@roaringwomen.com.

Membership Requirements: None.

Fees: Range from free to various levels of paid membership. Visit the website for fee details.

Website: http://www.roaringwomen.com/


Format: Offers a combination of in-person events once or twice a month in Victoria and Nanaimo plus weekly live webinars and tele-classes. A dinner and trade show featuring a facilitated networking session and a keynote speaker is held on the second Tuesday of each month in Victoria and the third Thursday of the month in Nanaimo. Once or twice a month the organization holds a Strategic Business Introduction where an individual member hosts an event and members are invited to bring a guest.

Membership Requirements: None.

Fees: One-time initiation fee: $290 U.S. then $16.95 U.S. monthly

Website: http://www.ewomennetwork.com/chapter/victoria

Business Network International

Format: Holds weekly, two-hour meetings in chapters throughout Vancouver Island. Meetings include 30 minutes of networking and 60-second “infomercials” where members describe their ideal client. Each meeting also includes two 10-minute presentations in which a members describes who they are and what they do.  This means each member has four to five opportunities each year to present to 20 to 40 business professionals (depending on the size of the chapter).

New members receive nine hours of training to gain more confidence with networking and self-promotion. There is a mentoring program and once-monthly meetings of “power teams” where members with similar target markets discuss how they can further help bring new business to one another through their respective contacts. Since BNI is about building long-term professional relationships, members are also encouraged to meet each other one-on-one in order to become more familiar with one another’s services. This is because each member of a chapter is expected to act as part of a “sales team” for the other members.

Membership Requirements: Membership is open to men and women. New members must be sponsored by an existing member and provide two business referrals. Members are expected to attend each weekly meeting or send a substitute. Only one person per business category is permitted in each chapter.  “Because our members are acting as a sales team for each other, this restriction avoids diluting our support for each other,” Greene explained.

Fees: One-time administration fee: $130. Annual fee: $480.

Website http://www.bnibc.ca/

Each network welcomes non-members to events to check them out before deciding if they wish to join.

Professional associations also offer networking opportunities – many of which are open to non-members. Learn more about professional associations in Greater Victoria at the Alliance of Professional Associations networking mixer held every November. To register or find out more about the APA’s member groups, go to the “associations” tab at www.24carrotlearning.com.

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