Christine Wong and Brooke Hubbard from BNI Chapter 8
are mentioned in this Wall Street Journal Article.
by Anne Kadet
May 6, 2020
When a handful of New York City businessmen met on Zoom for a 6:30 a.m. networking meeting late last month, the discussion turned to the challenges of networking itself in the coronavirus lockdown era.
“My issue is trying to find other ways to connect with people,” said Ellisen Wang, an email- marketing copywriter who lives in Queens. “I used to go to a lot of networking events and meet with a lot of business owners. Now that Covid-19 happened, I can’t really do that anymore.”
Yes, until the pandemic hit, New York City offered a truly dazzling professional networking scene. On any given day, there were dozens of breakfast, lunch and cocktail events targeting everyone from Asian professionals to pet-tech entrepreneurs. Now, in a time when people need new connections more than ever, many such gatherings have been suspended. Others carry on as Zoom meetings, with varying degrees of success.
Manhattan real-estate attorney Christine Wong says several of her networking standbys, including a women’s group and a lawyers’ community, have gone silent. Her chamber of commerce groups and Business Networking International chapter, meanwhile, moved online. “I’ve gotten stuck in the world of Zooming,” Ms. Wong said.
The move to Zoom has been smooth for some groups. At a recent meeting of Ms. Wong’s BNI Chapter 8, the business-networking program continued the same format the group followed pre-lockdown, when they met every Tuesday for breakfast at a Mexican restaurant near Grand Central. The usual 15 regulars were in attendance.
The difference: A larger showing of newcomers, as the group is waiving its usual $20 guest fee. Fresh faces included a yoga instructor, a leadership coach and a personal stylist.
“Thank you for joining us in this weird scenario online,” said chapter President Brooke Hubbard, Zooming in from her living room.
Everyone got 45 seconds to introduce themselves and make a pitch.
“Even in this trying time, there are great parts of a portfolio that have done well. Health care and technology are up for the year,” said an asset manager.
A promotional-products dealer offered a rhyme: “I love my job, I love what I do, let me get branded items for you!”
Ms. Hubbard, a social-media strategist and business owner, said these Zoom gatherings produce more post-event meetings among participants. “People can quickly hop on a Zoom call rather than finding a place to meet for coffee,” she said.
Some online networking events, however, fall flat. One gathering I attended last week, billed as a local “Entrepreneurs Referral Networking Zoom,” attracted eight participants, half of whom kept their cameras off. After introductions, an awkward silence descended.
The organizer tried prompting participants to speak: “Doug, did you want to say anything?”
“Just hi,” Doug responded.
A woman broke the lull by typing into the chat window: “I can’t get my system to work.”
Benjamin Einersen, a content strategist and agency founder who was co-organizing a fast- growing Manhattan networking circle geared toward entrepreneurs and professionals, says the move to Zoom altered nearly every facet of the enterprise, which had been drawing hundreds of guests.
Now that the meetings have temporarily gone online, they typically are drawing 20 to 25 participants. “It’s harder to get people to show up, which seems counterintuitive,” he said.
And the conversational tenor has shifted. People no longer approach with a selling mentality. They ask how they can help. “There’s a required sensitivity now,” Mr. Einersen said.
Networking chats tend to be deeper and more personal these days, as people connect over shared challenges, said Jeff Zalewski, executive partner of Performiforce LLC, an outfit hosting fee-based online networking events for New York City-area professionals. The pandemic, he said, “is getting people to slow down and communicate with their connections in a way that they should have been doing all along.”
Still, it can be hard to make connections when there are dozens crowding a Zoom room. Some networking events rely more on a guest speaker format, with a Q&A at the end.
Virtual 5 O’Clock, a free, biweekly Zoom meeting that evolved out of an informal in-person happy hour hosted by three Manhattan friends, recently featured local entrepreneur Paul Szyarto who noted that despite his rough upbringing—“dad tried to kill us”—he still managed to attend several prestigious universities, visit 30 countries, create 27 companies, raise a family and compile a “Rolodex of hundreds of billionaires.”
The secret to this transformation? Courage, he revealed, drawing on the examples of Rosa Parks and the Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion.
Mr. Szyarto advised guests to be pandemic-era doers: “Don’t be a drone, be a change agent!”
While most of the 38 attendees appeared content to simply observe, there usually are many private side conversations transpiring in the platform’s chat window, with people making both business and romantic connections, said co-organizer Mindie Barnett, a public-relations executive.
When the lockdown ends, organizers say, Zoom networking will live on. While some find the medium unsatisfying or even annoying, many are loving it.
“I have my headphones, my camera of choice, I have my lights—everything I need to feel the part,” said Virtual 5 O’Clock’s co-organizer Layne Frank, a Manhattan businessman. “This is my comfort zone, my world.”
Read the article in The Wall Street Journal
Hero of the Day: NYC lawyer offers pro bono legal help amid coronavirus crisis
Courthouses are empty and proceedings delayed as the city battles the coronavirus, but Manhattan lawyer Akiva Cohen is still taking on new clients, offering free legal aid to those affected by the crisis — even as he battles the bug himself.
“I knew my business was going to be slowing down anyway, so I was going to have time on my hands,” the 41-year-old lawyer told The Post as he nursed a mild case of COVID-19.
“Times like this, everybody’s got to do what they can to help each other out. That’s really all we can do, is take care of each other.”
Cohen, a commercial litigator and intellectual property attorney, posted on Twitter on March 22 offering to help anyone with coronavirus-fueled legal issues, all pro bono.
“[New York] people—these are insane, trying times. If you need any legal help trying to deal with the impact of Coronavirus on your life or business, reach out. No charge,” he wrote.
Since then, the Long Island resident said he’s been flooded with a “crazy” level of notifications, and has begun fielding comments and messages from people in need of legal help.
“I’m just trying to get to as many as I can get to,” he said.
The altruistic attorney has been tackling issues from small business struggles to paperwork problems, something he says could be handled virtually.
“The very first real substantive response that I got a couple weeks ago was from people who were like look…we want to do healthcare proxies, but we’re in quarantine and can’t have witnesses because nobody can come in and witness it, what do we do?”
“These questions are not really questions that come up all that often in normal times,” explained Cohen, who helped the pair navigate finding a witness while staying socially distanced.
Most of the responses have come from freelancers frantic over unpaid invoices, Cohen told The Post.
“It’s mostly been, ‘Hey, people aren’t paying me,'” he said.
“You’ve got people who need to be paid but you also have people who, for legitimate business reasons, may not have the money. So you’ve got to try and walk that line of, let’s figure out what we can do here that is survivable for all of us. Because the point is, we’re all trying to survive this together.”
“When you’re talking about one of these mom-and-pop shops, you don’t want to be bringing out the bazookas and destroying their business,” he added.
The lawyer told The Post that his assistance “adds a little bit of weight” to virus-related conflicts—but for questions outside his expertise, he has no objection to calling in colleagues.
“Other attorneys have, when they saw my tweet, chimed in and said, you know what, I’d be happy to help with this if you could use the help. People are really stepping up all over the place,” he said.
“It’s good to have sort of a network of specialists that you can look to to help you answer these types of questions, and most people don’t. And that’s what I’m trying to offer people.”
His new clients have been grateful to get the legal assistance while the jury’s out, but Cohen brushes off the praise.
“People that I’ve helped and people that are just seeing this happen are like, ‘Oh my god, you’re amazing.’ … No, this is basic living-in-a-society stuff. I have the ability to help, I can do it without harming myself and my family — that’s my job.”
The veteran litigator told The Post he was especially inspired to lend a hand by family members on the front lines of the pandemic.
“My wife is a nurse, she works with chemotherapy patients. She saves lives. My mom’s a nurse, I’ve got other relatives who are front line fighting this off. If I can use this to do some level of good, that’s wonderful. I’m gonna have the time, I may as well put it to good use.”
Read the Article in The New York Post
The purpose was two-fold. To bring about better cohesion within the chapter, and above everything else have some fun and laugh at ourselves. Suffice to say a lot of calories were burned in the process.
While most One-to-Ones happen in an office or a coffee shop, this group pushed the parameters of a "dance card." Sometimes one of the best ways to get to know another member is through exercise. Ultimately that leads to building a better relationship and a better understanding of one another. The competition, albeit friendly, that took place is yet another way. It truly brings out the best in all of us. As Joshua stated "You don't really know a person until you're in the trenches with them."
This was a perfect way to go outside the box of the typical BNI dynamic, all the while enjoying the company of one another. A good time was had by all and there were no injuries to report. Everyone walked away under their own power with most of their pride still intact. Already everyone is looking forward to the next time around.
Real estate attorney Jay Zimner at a BNI meeting at the Cornell Club.
Click here to read the Crains NY article
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by Chapter 60's Charles DeBenedittis
William Bolls and Andrea Kent with Ivan Misner at the BNI National Conference in Savannah, Georgia
JP Pullos, Jacqueline Frank, Charlene Nixon, Michael Brathwaite, and Todd Hallinger
with Ivan Misner at the BNI National Conference Awards Dinner in Savannah, Georgia
As a devout BNI member, I continually ask myself, “How can I pass more referrals to fellow BNI members? How can I really connect with the members that are inside my chapter, but outside my power sphere, on a deeper level?” Giver’s gain.
This is where I launched “My Spring 1-2-1 Lunch Project.”
I made five lunch reservations over the course of one week. Taking advantage of restaurant week pricing at some of NYC's best restaurants, I sent a mass email to the chapter inviting everyone to pick a day that worked for their schedule. The days filled up quickly with members claiming their seats. My lunch project was "sold out" almost instantly.
I had each lunch table full of a random assortment of BNI members, keeping the number to a maximum of 6 members. Regardless of power sphere, or industry, my goal was to dig deeper and find the unlikely connections that lie therein. I knew this time had to be valuable for everyone at the table, as well as myself, so instead of referrals which are “5’s,” I wanted to dig deeper and learn about their “1” referrals.
So, using the referral slip as a point of reference, I pointed out that a "5" on the thermometer indicated a hot referral. As an example, last week, I overheard one of my clients complaining about their office computers. They were slow and virus-ridden. I referred my chapter's IT person, Brian Murphy of Murph Consulting, whom was there the next day, fixed the problems, and collected a check. An easy "5", right?
Now, I thought, “What about the other clients I have, who one day, may need IT support?” “Could I make those introductions now?” My clients trust me. I can simply make an introduction. We all give testimonials about each other at our weekly meeting, I can give a great testimonial to my best clients about a member of BNI that could potentially be an excellent source of business. This introduction is more “You should know this person,” a “1” referral, as opposed to “This person has a problem, let’s solve it,” a “5” referral.
With this in mind, I asked everyone around the lunch table, “Who are your “1’s?” What kind of passive introductions can I make for you? Who are your best client types? With whom do you do your best work?“
What I had learned really opened my eyes and drew some great connections between our chapter members. I learned our Trust and Estates attorney would like to be introduced to Nursing Home administrators, as they are a good source of referrals to families. I learned our printer knows the ins-and-outs of print campaigns for not-for-profit organizations and would like to meet more. I learned our residential Real Estate agent would like to be introduced to other real estate agents outside of NYC because empty-nesters moving back to the city from the suburbs. I also discovered other connections such as, the matrimonial attorney refers to the mortgage broker for refinancing before a divorce and the medical marketing expert and the printer both know and want to meet pharmaceutical reps.
This project gave us the opportunity to mix it up and connect on a much different level, allowing us find these new and unlikely connections with members new and old. It was a much deeper and meaningful discovery which I know will lead to more referrals and more close business. The biggest take away from “My Spring 1-2-1 Lunch Project” was how we can not only continue to listen for new opportunities, but also be intentional and proactive in creating more opportunities for our chapter.
Walter C. Ramin is a Senior Account Manager at Merchant Department and 5-year BNI Member of Chapter 53. He loves referrals to small-to-mid sized locally-owned businesses.
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