I’ve been a member of BNI in South Wales for around seven years. I am a trade printer that specialises in paperback books and colour magazines, so publishers and self-publishers are my target market. When I first joined BNI my motivation was quite simple, it was to generate more business. At that stage I had run a successful business for 8 years and had never done any networking before.
It took me a while to truly understand the power of BNI, I spent my first year bringing in four referrals a week for the same digital printer. I didn’t understand that in order for the other members to pass me business, I had to make the effort to find business for them. When I did, the amount of business I generated was amazing and now at least 50 percent of my business comes from BNI.
The decision to join was a tough one. I could see the business potential, but couldn't face the presentation each week. My first meeting was a very traumatic experience. Having to stand for 60 seconds in order to present my business to the group was something I was uncomfortable with. It was challenging to just say my name, let alone express what type of business I was looking for, so much so that I almost left the room. I took the step and suffered the torment of panic and nerves over the first few weeks. I soon learnt to always prepare and eventually started to become comfortable presenting my 60 seconds. I was then asked to present ten minutes about my business – it felt like the first meeting all over again. Even though it was in front of a group of my now friends, it was still terrifying, but I got through it and step by step my confidence and presentation skills grew. I eventually became a Director Consultant, which called for me to present regularly to the chapters I support, as well as delivering various skills workshops.
It was this that led one of our members and a colleague, Rob Warlow, to suggest I attend the Professional Speaking Association in Wales (PSA). Rob had seen me train a few times and enjoyed the sessions, he felt I would meet some great contacts and have the opportunity to learn how to speak better. I thought why not, went along and joined.
As a new member, I was encouraged to enter the PSA Speaker Factor, which is a competition where you present a five minute talk on any subject. The initial talk was in front of 20 people, so I gave it a go. I was surprised to win and found myself heading up to Reading to compete in the semi-finals at the National Conference against 10 other regional winners. This was a bigger step in front of 50 people. The speakers were all amazing and I was shocked to hear I had got through to the final the following day.
I was speaking on the main stage in front of 250 professional speakers, which was my biggest crowd yet. Later that evening it was my name in the winners’ envelope, all a bit of a whirl. When accepting my award I was asked if I wanted to say a few words and I politely declined (I hadn’t prepared!). As the winner, I was offered a half an hour slot as a keynote speaker at next year’s conference, which I’m preparing for already!
It all started from that terrifying 60 second presentation at my first BNI meeting, which provided me with many small steps, pushing me further out of my comfort zone each time. Who knows where this new skill will lead, but BNI has given me the opportunity to develop further personally than I would have thought possible.
Xpedient Print Services