When most people think of hospitality, they think of hosting and cooking meals for guests. If they’re southern, they think about serving sweet tea. In any case, you probably think of “hospitality” as something you just do at home.
But making people feel welcome, honored, and “at home” can happen anywhere. And that’s why you should start thinking about hospitality as a professional skill, too.
People are people, regardless of whether they’re professional or personal contacts. So professional hospitality looks a lot like personal hospitality. You put your guest first—because good hospitality is a bent or attitude as much as any specific thing. It does not presume, it does not take. It gives.
There are a few ways you can give hospitably in networking:
- Treat contacts as guests – If you have met someone, treat them like a guest. Show them around—whether that means a trip to a favorite place in your city or even just a tip about what sessions they should attend at a conference.
- Protect your guests – You would shield someone if they came under your roof. You should similarly work to protect a potential professional relationship. Even go so far as to protect them from your own company if your company views any person as an asset to be exploited or simply sold to.
- Share a table – You can go as far as to literally make a meal for a professional contact. Inviting someone into your home is the ultimate way to become not just a solid professional contact but possibly also a friend. But you can do this through meals outside of the home, too. The more intimate the setting, however, the more hospitable the encounter will feel.
- Welcome your guest into the circle – Just as you might invite a new guest into your book club or another existing social circle, you can be hospitable by giving a professional contact access to your network. Bring them to a dinner with some of your colleagues, or welcome them into a conversation at your office.
- Let guests participate – Just as good hosts let their guests contribute to a good meal or party, you should also find ways to make reciprocity easy. This is a part of hospitality, too. Think of small, easy favors you can ask when your professional contact asks to help.