January 30, 2015

Those of you who read last week’s post, “From Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur”, are aware that I will be leaving Boardroom, the company I helped build over the last 34 years.

Today is the day.

I am sad but also very excited.

Something tells me I’ve got lots more to share…and I will.

34 years is a long time…although it’s only about 5 dog years, right?

And if I was a small dog, I’m almost a puppy!

Oh…but then there were those 23 “non-Boardroom years” beforehand…

Forgot to count those!

However if you read  “Living to be 156…” you will understand why I am still a young pup no matter how many of you want to put me out to pasture…

Leading up to today, I’ve spent hours reminiscing these past few weeks…the e-mails from many of you have been so generous, inspiring and filled me with such joy.

Because of you, I am reminded of so many great triumphs…but more importantly, how many wonderful friends I’ve made over the last three decades.

If I had to pick one thing that I will miss most upon leaving Boardroom, it’s “The Boardroom Dinners.

They are legendary–the brainchild of Marty Edelston—and if you click on one of the links above or below, the PDF you will go to is from “Networking Magic,” a fantastic book written by my good friend Rick Frishman.

Chapter two of the book is simply titled “The Boardroom Dinners.

As you’ve read many times in these posts, one of the key pillars to becoming extraordinary is to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself, with everyone in the room sharing at the deepest level…and then you go from a room of smart people to a room where everyone is getting smarter.

Marty would bring together anywhere from 15 to 30 experts on a given evening…and every dinner he hosted was magical. They still are.

We even proclaim at the end of every dinner:

“This was the BEST Boardroom Dinner ever!”

Each one is unique…with a mix of people interacting and sharing who had never before been together as a group…and they will never be assembled, seated and sharing in the same way again.

I hosted or co-hosted somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 of these “salon-style dinners” (as Dan Kennedy calls them) and I can say without hesitation that I learned as much at these dinners as I did in 16 years of school, including college.

The PDF outlines “The Boardroom Dinners” in detail.

And it even gives you a road map to be able to do similar kinds of dinners on your own.

The specific lesson I want to share today (which I learned by hosting so many dinners) is:

“You’re an expert? It’s still OK to shut up.”

To illustrate this, I will share a recent experience I had at a seminar:

I was invited to sit at a lunch table with the organizer of the event and some of his special guests, VIP’s, some other speakers (of which I was one)…all experts in a variety of areas and all total “sharers” of their wisdom.

Every person at the table was a true “rock star” too.

Plus…all of them understood the value of being interested rather than interesting.

Except one.

One of the guys sitting at the table…a speaker…started talking about things he knew a lot about…but also some things I believe he knew a lot less about than some of the other experts at the table.

Unfortunately, he kept talking without pausing (for quite a while) and never realized that he was talking to people who actually knew a lot more about many of the things he was “lecturing” on…


And then I thought about a subtlety of the Boardroom Dinners:

It’s not just that each person is an expert (and everyone can’t wait to hear them speak on their specialty for a concentrated but short period of time); but each person is also a “student” who can’t wait to hear the other experts share their experiences as well.

Even if you are not in an atmosphere like a Boardroom Dinner where it’s implied that everyone is an expert in something, it’s important to read and assess every table you sit at, every room you enter and any meeting you participate in…and assume there are experts everywhere.

And many of them know a lot more than you on a wide variety of subjects.

One technique that is always good to use is to preface your comments as often as possible with phrases like:

“In my experience…”

“I’m not sure if this is the prevailing thinking but”…

“There may be someone else who knows more about this but” …

And after you share, see who in the room can build on something you’ve got some smarts about but maybe you don’t have ALL the answers.

Allow someone else to show you why it might be more valuable to stop talking and start listening.

Simply put, no matter who is in the room, you can’t know the most about everything.

“When the student is ready, the master will appear.”

And that’s even if the student is a master in their own right.

I’ve shared in previous posts a quote from my mentor in all things direct mail, Dick Benson.

After a day of being with the “master,” full of the most actionable advice on everything Boardroom was doing at the time (with total precision)–I asked him:

“How did you get so smart, Dick?”

Benson replied lifting his right hand and putting his thumb and index finger an inch apart:

“I know everything about this much.”

My advice to people who don’t understand this concept:

“Be the expert…share your knowledge and answer all questions…then step aside and absorb everyone else’s knowledge.”

And ask questions.

If there is one thing I’ve learned being at Boardroom for 34 years and hosting all of those dinners, it’s that there’s nothing better than realizing how little you know…which actually makes you as smart as anyone in the room.

In my new life outside of Boardroom (and the dinners), I will never stop having a sense of wonder about every person I meet…who they are…and what they know.

Is there any better way to go through life?

Everyone is an expert about something (i.e. everyone has their version of “knowing everything about this much”); and it’s not that hard to get them to share that something.

Just ask them.

Maybe I will have the pleasure of having some of you attend my own future versions of a Boardroom Dinner—I held one for the VIP’s at “Titans of Direct Response” and it was epic.

I’ll supply the food if you come equipped with your super power…AND your questions…

Until next week,


P.S. All of the elements of the “Titans of Direct Response” DVD “packages…as outlined at the end of “From Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur”…are now being ordered. I know you are eager…and not as eager as I am…trust me.

But good things come to those who wait…I promise.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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