On January 4th, 2010, I attended the annual Leadership Conference of my networking organization, BNI Israel. It was held at Pitaya Conference Center in Kfar Saba (the town where I grew up from age 12). For the first time, this conference was open to all BNI members, instead of just three representatives of the leadership team of each chapter. There were about 250 people there from Israel's 37 existing chapters, and a few from the new chapters soon to be announced. The theme for 2010 is Local Business, Global Network, which may be particularly relevant to non-physical businesses like mine.
The conference started with an hour of networking. I spoke to many members I already knew from other chapters, and met many new people. I discovered that a former customer from 15 years ago had become a member, and we became reacquainted and may work together again soon. There is a type of coincidence that makes me think "it's a small world", and this was demonstrated by the following story: I was talking to someone who heard I was a translator and told me his wife was also a translator. It turned out that I had met his wife at last year's Israel Translators Association conference and talked to her without knowing that her husband was a member of BNI! I also met a few translators and translation agency owners who are members of other chapters. My profession is getting a stronger representation in BNI every year.
Yarden Noy, the Co-National Director, gave us a review of 2009. BNI Israel has 37 chapters, with a few more on the way, and 850 members. Worldwide there are 5,570 chapters with nearly 125,000 members. The reported income from referrals in Israel increased in 2009 by 17% compared with 2008, which was quite an achievement for a year considered as a recession. When the chapters with the highest reported incomes from referrals were announced, I was pleased to hear that my chapter, BNI Haifa, was the second most profitable chapter.
Itai Plaut, the Regional Director for the North of Israel (and a former member of my chapter), gave a fascinating lecture on decision making and the irrational nature of human decisions. For example, people prefer to choose the middle of three options with different prices. He stressed that people distinguish between social norms and business norms.
We then had group discussions around the table on BNI issues, and tried to help each other find referrals and contacts. I managed to connect one person at my table with a member of my chapter, and hope they will collaborate.
We had lunch, and then there was a ceremony giving awards to the outstanding members of each chapter for 2009. I received this award for 2007, so I know what it feels like to go on stage and receive the chapter's cup.
There was a short comedy show, followed by a panel where four former or current chapter presidents shared their experiences. Our president spoke about the Mastermind meetings he has been providing for our chapter.
The conference ended with a prize draw among the participants' business cards. I was very pleased when the first prize, a hotel vacation, was won by the outstanding member of my chapter, Danny Weiss, who deserves both the recognition and the prize!
I really enjoyed this conference, which was well-organized and had a good atmosphere. But my experience was slightly diminished by having a bad cold which made it difficult to talk to people, as I kept losing my voice! This has also prevented me from writing my blog for over two weeks, but I now hope to resume normal blogging.