You’ve done coffees. You’ve done lunches. You’ve even hit a breakfast or two. These are all wonderful opportunities to get to know people a little better. Now I’ll suggest another one…
Of course you can just meet at a restaurant, but I’m thinking about something a little more personal. Invite your networking contact and (where applicable) his or her spouse into your home to break bread.
Having someone visit you in your home makes you stand out as a person. Whether the occasion is a lavish 7-course affair or a simple barbecue, it leads to conversations which tend to be about what we like and dislike — more about who we are as people instead of businesses. Inviting someone in to your residence also tells them that you are truly interested in them. After all, who goes to the extra effort of preparing home and dinner for guests they don’t care about?
OK, except for those times when you have Great-Aunt Mildred over for the holidays.
Now, this invitation would probably be most appropriate with someone with whom you’ve already had some connection. They are likely to be already in the “trust” level or at least the latter stages of “relationship development”. Invitations to dinner prior to that might seem a little forward. Still, you’ll need to be the judge on that one.
Sharing your home and family with someone is a tremendously symbolic gesture. By it, you will be sending the message that you have the other person’s happiness and success at heart — the true foundation of good networking practice.