As my family and I celebrate the Festival of Passover, I can’t seem to shake the thought of breaking bread. In early March, a friend – who I came to know through work – his wife and daughters, invited my family to dinner in their home. It was the three of us, a young couple who they know through church and a woman who once interned with my buddy. We all met through some project work that we have been doing. The hosts prepared a wonderful smorgasbord of culinary delights, served wine and delicious desserts. We all enjoyed ourselves so much that we so overstayed our welcome! Nobody wanted to leave. Though we had come to know one another in different ways, via different paths, there was something about breaking bread together that really solidified a bond among us.
A few weeks ago, I received a lovely invitation. Apparently, my name had come up in conversation among two of my contacts. I recently saw one of them (probably the root of the discussion) and the other, since we had not connected in a while, sent me a quick email. She said that she would enjoy catching up. Then, she invited me to her offices to share “a healthy lunch” together. How cool – an opportunity to see her offices and to dine on a meal that she was preparing for us. Needless to say, I felt very special and immediately accepted.
This past weekend was a busy one for my family. Going back a bit, we spent a good portion of last week getting ready for Passover: Cleaning up the house, symbolically getting rid of the bread (it’s not allowed during this holiday) and, most importantly planning and preparing two big, back-to-back holiday meals. On Friday night, we had nine guests; on Saturday night, fourteen guests. Both dinners were lively, the food was tasty and we all enjoyed one another’s company – it was great! For me, it was especially wonderful because I put some extra effort into creating a menu (with my mom’s help), wrote up the grocery list, did a bit of time management (e.g. when to cook each dish), set the tables, prepared the food, served it, enjoyed time with our family. It was at once cathartic, energizing, exhausting and fun; I took away a great sense of accomplishment and felt like I had a hand in helping others to feel welcomed, nourished and well cared for.
Have you recently been made to feel extra special? Did one of your contacts reach out in a way that showed you that they cared? That you were on their mind and they wanted to see how you were doing? How about in reverse? Have you asked for the meeting? Thought about what information you have to share? If not, time to get busy. If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Whatever the case, why not consider preparing a meal for someone? Think about what you’ll serve, how it will make them feel, how you will feel serving it. You might even consider preparing a meal with someone. Make it an activity – or ask them to prepare a side dish to bring along so that they, too, have a sense of ownership for the luncheon or dinner party. The way that you engage them in the process, the importance that you place on their involvement, the way that (in some cases) you open your home or business space will be especially meaningful.
I know, for a blog on networking, this may seem a little unconventional, but it is a great way to prove that you are willing to go that extra mile to literally invite someone in and make him/her feel great. The conversations that you have during a meal have the potential to be richer, more robust, spicier, extra flavorful than your typical networking interaction. Your guests will never forget the extra attention you gave to the event, and neither will you.