Jon Levy | The Influencers Dinner (Episode 351)

Jon Levy is known for connecting some of the most interesting people in the world and creating unique events. Here's how you can do the same.

Create your own influential network.

“Just start something. Test something out; let it fail and let it fail often.”-Jon Levy

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What would it be like to have an Olympic athlete, an Oscar-winning actor, and a CEO of a billion-dollar company at your dining room table? How could you create an event to bring them together and make them want to share a meal with you? Our guest for episode 351 did just that. Jon Levy runs an event called The Influencers Dinner in his home in New York.

On today’s episode he shares the origins of his idea, how he executed it to become the successful experience it is, and how you can apply the same principles to create a similar event of your own. Join us for all of this and more on episode 351 of The Art of Charm.

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More About This Show:

Jon Levy is a behavior expert, digital strategist, and keynote speaker, but what he’s probably best known for is dinner. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite to one of his exclusive dinners, you’re bound to have an amazing time with some of the most influential people in the world. He’s had members of royal families attend, Nobel Laureates, famous actors, musicians, artists, and some of the top leaders in every industry from around the globe.

So what’s his secret? Did he have an amazing Rolodex and just decided to gather people together at his place? Not at all. About six years ago he attended a seminar with Landmark Education and something the seminar leader said struck a chord within him. The leader said the quality of our lives is largely determined by the people we spend our time with and the conversations we have. These two things are the fundamental elements that have an impact on who we are and where we go with our lives.

Jon realized he wanted to connect with the greatest influencers he could, but how? At the time he was 28 and working for a startup; he wasn’t anyone who could get a phone call (much less a dinner) with the heads of state or Olympic medal winners. He spent the next year ruminating over how to create so much value for these people that they would make time in their already hectic schedules.

He knew whatever he created needed to be so novel they would say yes. He eventually thought of having people over for dinner. He knew a group activity like cooking together would bond them quickly, and sharing food and conversation would cement that bond.

Here’s the novel part of the event: no one knows each other and each person is a leader from a different industry. They are not allowed to talk about what they do; they can only use their first names and if they are famous, they must assume a different first name. Then, over dinner, the guests will guess what each of the attendees does for a living — only then can the guest reveal who they are!

Since his first dinner, Jon has since held 36 more, and The Influencers Dinner has grown to be legendary. It’s been featured in Forbes, The New York-Times, and has been the catalyst behind millions of dollars done in business deals, publicity, and press coverage for the attendees, multiple non-profits, and even some romantic relationships.

But Jon is the first to admit he overcame many hurdles and made plenty of mistakes along the way. He says he has embarrassed himself more times than not, failed countless times, and had to learn many lessons the hard way. But it’s all been worth it. In his words, “it takes a long time to become an overnight success.”

If you’re in the same position Jon was when he first had the idea, what are some practical steps you can take to get going and create your own variation of The Influencers Dinner? Jon’s first suggestion is to create novelty. Find something unique you can offer your guests that no one else does. Do you love games? Then do a game night and spend some time sorting out how to structure the evening so your guests enjoy themselves and you add value to their lives.

That’s another key point Jon makes: be sure you do something that is true to your core values. Remember, this is going to be an event you’re hosting for years to come, so make it fun, make it enjoyable, and make it something you already like doing. If it’s not games, then how about a wine tasting or a mixology night? Again, put some thought into this and be sure the event and activity you are hosting is true to you.

One last suggestion Jon has is to spend a lot of time coming up with the idea. It took him a full year to come up with the dinner party idea! And he cautions about following in his footsteps with the dinner party: they get expensive (he spent $30k on his last year alone), so consider other alternatives before going down that road — unless you’re willing to fork over the money. Jon recommends giving your idea a lot of consideration; there are plenty of other viable and equally fun alternatives to a dinner party.

Jon also discusses some of the basic etiquette he follows in inviting people and for the event itself — suggestions you’ll want to bear in mind as you create your own version of The Influencers Dinner. This is a fascinating topic, so be sure to listen in and get all the golden nuggets! Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

THANKS, JON LEVY!

If you enjoyed this session of The Art of Charm Podcast, let Jon know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Jon on Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

Jon Levy’s website

The Forbes article on Jon’s dinners

Jon Levy on Twitter

John Corcoran on The AOC

Adam Grant on The AOC

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 703 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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