BNI (Business Network International) has announced it is launching hybrid networking in the UK from 1st October 2021 following an 8.1% pound-for-pound increase in business passed by members during the pandemic.

BNI is the world’s leading business referral organization with over 280,000 members in over 70 countries worldwide.

Established over 30 years, it provides weekly networking meetings for groups of businesses, known as chapters, who follow a structured meeting agenda that enables them to use their combined network of contacts to find business opportunities and referrals for one another.

For the organisation’s entire history prior to the pandemic, meetings were conducted face-to-face and in 2019 BNI chapters in the UK & Ireland passed 640,739 referrals worth £566million.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, BNI globally closed all meetings for one week to provide member training for online meetings, then reopened purely online the following week. Since then, all meetings worldwide have been conducted online, still following the same structured agenda as live meetings.

The total number of referrals passed in 2020 actually increased by 1% to 647,146 compared with the previous year with a total increased in referral value of 8.1% to £611.8million for the year.

Commencing October 2021, BNI meetings will now be run on one of three models: in-person, online, or hybrid, where members meet in person for the first meeting of the month and then the remaining meetings of the month are online.

BNI Lancashire Chief Happiness Officer Liam Mulligan said: “I’ll be honest, we are quite astounded by the figures BNI has achieved through the period the world has just gone through. What’s even more amazing is how many new members we have, contributing to these figures, who have never met anyone in their chapter in real life.

“If you had suggested before the pandemic that people could build relationships strong enough to provide business referrals for one another, without ever meeting face-to-face, no one would believe it. But many of our members have said they have felt the weekly contact with likeminded businesspeople has been a lifeline during the pandemic and we have seen some fantastic relationships formed.

“We are launching the hybrid model as a reflection of how business attitudes have changed during the pandemic, providing our members with a choice of how they network and make the optimum use of their time and resources.”