Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Leaving BNI

Today an important stage in my life came to an end. I left my BNI chapter after four years of membership.

BNI (Business Network International) is the world's largest networking organization. Each chapter has one representative of each occupation, and members meet each week to give each other business referrals through word of mouth marketing. The weekly meeting is structured, with members and visitors presenting their business, a central talk by one member, and the passing of referrals. Members are also required to meet each other for personal "one to one" conversations.

When I was invited to join, I was unsure how useful it would be for my translation business, but I knew it would help me develop new skills. Being a member of BNI taught me how to speak confidently in public, how to present my business, and how to interact with business people from all walks of life. My development was relatively rapid, and my newfound confidence enabled me to give a public lecture at a professional conference.

It was also good for my business. During 2007 and 2008, one third of my income came from BNI referrals. This is considered a good result. Members achieve differing levels of income from referrals, but most cover the cost of membership many times over.

Throughout my membership of the Haifa chapter, I have been an active member of the chapter's leadership team. I have served as Visitor Host (several times), VP, Education Coordinator, Membership Committee, and President. My term as President was an important achievement for me, and I learned a lot about leading and motivating a team. I was also chosen by the chapter as the Outstanding Member for 2007, and my name was recorded on the chapter's cup (see photo).

My main reason for not renewing my membership for a fifth year is a change I am planning in my business. I am reducing my translation workload to make time for my own writing and creative projects. This new business is less suited to word of mouth marketing. I feel I have given and received a lot from BNI, but now it is time to move on.

I would like to thank the following people:

BNI Founder and Chairman, Dr. Ivan Misner, for establishing this organization that has helped thousands of business professionals worldwide over the past 25 years. I listened to Dr. Misner's podcasts each week, and was thrilled when he graciously commented on a blog post I wrote here about International Networking Week.

The co-National Directors of BNI Israel, Yarden Noy, who has been a role model for me since I first met her at my first MSP, and Sam Schwartz, whose lectures at various BNI events have been an inspiration.

Dr. Itai Plaut, who started out as a member of my chapter, and later became Area Manager of the North of Israel, and accompanied my chapter. Itai gave me guidance during my term as President.

Danny Weiss, another member of my chapter, who was President when I joined. Danny chaired the Open Table meetings I attended every month, and generously shared his knowledge of BNI procedures.

Finally, I would like to thank all the current and former members of BNI Haifa Chapter for the time they spent with me, for the referrals and connections they made me, for supporting and witnessing my development, for giving me the opportunity to become a leader, and for everything I have learned. I will keep in touch, continue to make referrals when possible, and perhaps one day return.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Windsor Day Tours

During my reports on my holiday in England last September, I mentioned that my sister-in-law Jill took us out on some of the tours she planned to offer as part of her new business.

Now I am pleased to announce that she has opened her tour business to the general public. Windsor Day Tours offers personalized private tours, including the sites we visited (Jane Austen country and Stonehenge) and others.

Some may have considered it unethical for me to write a testimonial on Jill's site, being a relative (and therefore possibly "unobjective"), so I haven't done that. Instead, I feel I can write about Jill's tours here, with full disclosure of our connection.

Jill has always loved travelling, and throughout the years of our acquaintance, I have enjoyed many trips in her company. She has extensive experience in guiding small tours, first for friends and relatives, later also for overseas students. Since deciding to set up her own tour business, Jill has studied the background to the places she visits, and also explored each site fully. She has invested in a luxurious car, and acquired all the licences and insurance coverage required to drive small tour groups. Jill is a people person, with an outgoing personality, and her previous work experience in nursing and teaching English as a foreign language, make her a pleasant and considerate companion for adults and children.

The tours are ideal for small groups wishing to explore various aspects of England's landscape and heritage with a personal guide. Many people are reluctant to join large coach tours, where they might not get an opportunity to ask the questions they want, and where the schedule is dictated by others. On the other hand, some find it difficult to tour independently, by car or public transport. There is often a feeling that even with a good guide book, it is hard to know the best places to see. An experienced private tour guide can solve these problems and create the ideal day trip.

If you visit Jill's site and decide to contact her about a tour, I would appreciate it if you told her that you first read about Windsor Day Tours on my blog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Porcupine Tree live in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2010

Last night I saw one of my favourite bands perform live, and it was the best rock concert I have ever seen (not that I have seen many...).

[Photo of Steven Wilson from jonklinger's flickrstream]

Porcupine Tree is a British progressive rock band with metal influences. In my opinion, they are the best current progressive rock band, and among the best rock bands I know in terms of musical skills. Their songs are complex, interesting, and varied. They usually combine loud and quieter sections, original rhythms, various solo sections featuring the outstanding musicianship of each member, and thought-provoking lyrics.

This concert was held at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, in a large, airconditioned venue. I find it hard to estimate numbers, but it seemed to me that there were between 2,000 and 3,500 people there. I have been unable to find any report of audience numbers online. That makes this quite a large concert for a band that is not quite mainstream, and shows the band's lasting popularity in Israel. The audience seemed to be 60-65% male (which seems normal for rock concert audiences, judging by videos I have seen), and probably about 60-65% aged under 30, though there were several older people and a few pre-adolescents.

There was a long wait outside before the audience was allowed in, and the female ticket holders were asked to stand in a separate queue so their bags could be checked by female security guards. I have never seen this done anywhere else, and wonder where this idea came from.

The acoustics and sound balance were probably not perfect, but sounded good enough to me. I don't have enough experience to say if another local venue would have been preferable in any way, and the airconditioning  helped make it more bearable on a humid summer's night than an outdoor concert would have been. Unfortunately, people were smoking, and this is the first time in years I have been exposed to so much smoking, which I hate, but it was to be expected.

The supporting act was an Israeli band called Eatliz. I hadn't heard of them before, as I'm not really interested in Israeli music, I don't really like female vocalists, and so I can't say their music was to my taste. Some members of the audience appreciated them, but I got the impression most were impatient for the "real" concert to begin (especially after the long delay in getting into the venue). Supporting acts are always in a difficult position, playing for an audience that is waiting for someone else to come on stage. Also, the sound during their show was quite bad, for some reason.

It is ten years since Porcupine Tree's last concert here, and accordingly they played not just songs from their latest album, The Incident, but also many songs from previous albums. I was easy to please regarding the choice of songs, since I like all the albums. I was happy to hear one of my favourite songs, Dark Matter, and didn't mind that some other favourites were not included. In general, the songs selected seemed well suited to live performance. Of course, there will always be some people who either have clear preferences among the songs and albums, or perhaps don't know all the material, and they are more difficult to please.

The band's leader, Steven Wilson, is known as a great friend of Israel, having lived in Tel Aviv on and off over the past few years. I have heard this originally started with an Israeli girlfriend, but that he continued to spend time in Israel even after this relationship ended. He started the show speaking in Hebrew, which impressed everyone. As you can imagine, Israelis are particularly sensitive to the way foreigners treat them, especially after so many artists either refuse to perform here or cancel shows at the last minute. So Wilson's attitude earned him and the band great respect.

Apparently, drummer Gavin Harrison didn't really want to perform here, as he supports the Palestinians. Of course, he is entitled to his opinions, and I really respect him for performing here with the band despite his personal objections. He is an outstanding drummer and gave a great performance. I don't think the audience held his opinions against him.

I am not a fannish person. In the two main fields of art I consume, music and literature, I have a tendency to collect all the disks/books of artists/writers I enjoy, but I don't feel the need to publicize my support by buying posters or t-shirts, and I don't need signed copies. For me, it's all about my personal reaction to what I hear/read, and it's a private thing that happens in my head.

So, I was wondering why I felt the need to attend the live concert. First, in practical terms, I know that nowadays bands obtain most of their revenue from live performances rather than from selling recorded music. It is said that in the past bands toured to promote their albums, while today they release tracks to support their concerts. This is one reason why I wanted to attend, to pay back the creators of the music I enjoy. I believe in rewarding artists I appreciate. Secondly, since there are so few concerts in Israel by groups I want to hear, the moment I heard my favourite rock band was coming here I knew I had to go. I bought the tickets at the end of March, when they first went on sale. I felt quite confident the concert wouldn't be cancelled, and I'm so happy it wasn't.

As I mentioned earlier, I haven't attended many rock concerts in my life, and I don't go out dancing. So before the concert started, I was standing around wondering why I was waiting among a loud, sweaty, and smoking crowd of strangers just to hear music that I can listen to whenever I want. As soon as the concert started, I began to realize why. The experience of live music is so different to recorded music. First, there is something magical about seeing the creators of music I love in person, making music and talking to the audience. It felt slightly more personal than just listening to recordings. Second, the live versions of the songs included some solos that are not in the albums. Third, the light show and the video art were very impressive.

For me, it was an other-worldly experience. I was in a large crowd, but felt completely alone and uninhibited in dancing and singing (badly) along with the songs. I was aware that every audience member was experiencing the music differently, and I just went with my instinctive reaction to the music, based on my feelings about the songs. I was able to forget about externals like how I would appear to others, and just make the direct connection between the music I was hearing and my expression of my response to it. I felt at home.

Thank you, Porcupine Tree: Steven Wilson, Gavin Harrison, Richard Barbieri, John Wesley, and Colin Edwin! You have made thousands of Israelis very happy.

(Also, thanks to the music shop manager who first thought I might like Porcupine Tree a few years ago - I did, and he benefitted from his successful recommendation when I bought all their albums in the space of a few weeks!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hit and Run Accidents

Recently there have been a lot of hit and run accidents, where drivers hit pedestrians and then drive away without checking to see who or what they hit, and without providing assistance. Some of these accidents are fatal to the pedestrians.

Sometimes the pedestrians are to blame, when they jump out into the road and the driver has no time to stop. Sometimes the driver is going too fast, or just not looking. In some cases the drivers are drunk.

The hitting may be an accident, but the running is not. Drivers often say they didn't know they hit something, or they thought it was an object rather than a person. This is not convincing, especially when one sees photos of the car involved in the accident.

The law states that whenever drivers hit something, they must stop and investigate. If they hit a person or caused damage to property, they must report it and get help for the victim. Apart from this being a legal requirement, it is also a sign of human decency and even common sense.

It is sad that so many drivers seem to think they can avoid the consequences of their actions, and are more interested in protecting themselves than in possibly saving their victim's life.

I call upon all drivers to drive carefully, never drink and drive, and to stop if they hit something. I also call on pedestrians to be more careful, and never assume that drivers have seen them or will stop for them. Our use of public spaces like roads requires us all to be responsible and considerate.