After being invited to attend a BNI meeting in Pretoria a few weeks ago, I had my first visit on Tuesday at the Ayoba Tshwane chapter. I had no idea what to expect and a few minutes after my arrival I realized that the microphone was heading my way.

I can’t remember the last time I had to speak in front of so many people and now I had to sell my company in 30 seconds with NO preparation whatsoever. I might have sucked… badly.

Enough said about my public speaking abilities, the BNI meeting itself was something I did not expect. It was actually quite amazing. Here you have many different business owners in one room, from plumbers, electricians, to IT specialists, Doctors, Attorneys… you name it. And all these people are there to help each other by means of referrals.

BNI is the largest word of mouth referral organization in the World. Members have the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and most importantly, business referrals. In 2014 South Africa alone passed over 108 000 referrals between members, with completed business worth more than R630 million. That’s allot of closed deals.

But what makes BNI even more amazing, is that they do not allow businesses with the same services in the same chapter. So all referrals for that specific service will end up coming to you.

What’s the catch? Well you have to attend all the weekly chapter meetings, to present your business, chat with people and do business so to say. They also have other events and training programs that are available, but those are not mandatory.

So yes, I was impressed, and I might just join the BNI group.