How a master networker convinced execs, Olympians, and Nobel laureates to come to his house, cook him dinner, wash the dishes — and like it

Donald Bowers / Stringer / GettyJon Levy.
  • Behavioural scientist Jon Levy has hosted more than 150 dinner parties for high-profile guests in his New York City apartment. The catch: Guests cannot discuss their careers until they sit to eat.
  • In eight years, Levy has formed a community of influential people who use their influence to support nonprofits and social justice causes as a result of the dinners.
  • In a TED Salon talk, he said he got people to come by creating something novel, and then convincing people to put in the effort that builds trust.

You don’t need a large following to influence others.

In eight years, behavioural scientist Job Levy has hosted over 150 dinners for more than 1,400 high-profile guests including royalty, Olympic athletes, and and big company executives in his New York City apartment. The catch: Guests cannot discuss their careers until they sit to eat.

At first, Levy only invited his personal friends but word about his elite dinner parties spread like wildfire. Since 2010, Levy has organised bimonthly dinners for 12 high-profile guests to cook dinner, eat, and wash the dishes after.

Levy is not a Wall Street executive, hip-hop legend, or an athlete, like his guests – he is a networking entrepreneur.

“I had a hunch that this approach was working when one day I walked in my home and 12-time NBA all-star Isaiah Thomas was washing my dishes while singer Regina Spektor was making guac with the science guy himself, Bill Nye,” Levy said at a TED Salon event.

He said the key trait of the dinners is novelty. The beauty about the dinner is not the dinner itself, he continued, but the shared effort in cooking, eating, sharing, and cleaning.

“The amazing thing is that we took on a mission. It became to improve our member’s lives, their communities, and hopefully one day the world. That by bringing together influential people from diverse backgrounds, their shared knowledge, and resources could create a bigger impact on the problems we face as a society,” Levy said.

Over the years, countless friendships have formed as a result of dinners, Levy said. The community Levy created has used its influence to support non-profits and social causes with their own resources and donations.

“I have a life I love and the connections and the trust I want because people keep making me burritos and guac,” Levy said. “If I can encourage you to do anything it’s to bring together the people you admire. There’s almost no greater joy in life and not only will their lives improve but so will their friends lives and even their friend’s friends lives, all because of you.”

Watch Levy’s TED Salon »

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