Renowned UK businessman, art director and raconteur, Howard Lewis, will be in Port Elizabeth in April this year, to present his OFFLINE networking function and to talk about his family’s art collection, The Schorr Collection – one of the largest privately held collections of Old Master paintings in the UK. This is the first time that he will host these events in South Africa.
Many families with extensive art collections keep their art under wraps and this inspired Lewis to start OFFLINE, a business and social networking experience, at The Savile Club in London which initially attracted many high net worth individuals, top company directors and those from the world of art.
The rules (unlike many prescribed networking experiences) are very clear – strictly no technology (phones off), no emphasis on conducting any business and guests are expected to only come in the generosity of spirit.
Lewis has hosted private dinners and events in London for the past decade which challenges every stereotype and limitation of networking and connecting with others in the digital age.
“I realised that most people are fundamentally the same but different. There are far more that unites us than separates us. When you strip away the veneer of professionalism, we reveal multilayered personalities. In business and beyond, people crave acceptance and approval, but are so fearful that their perceived weaknesses might be exposed that they rarely wander off script. At OFFLINE, the emphasis is upon acknowledging that our respective imperfections are a part of our individual charm. As host, I tell stories that reflect the OFFLINE philosophy, our human frailties and idiosyncrasies, and take attendees slightly out of their comfort zone”, says Lewis.
The idea for OFFLINE started some 15 years ago when Lewis bumped into a former school colleague who had subsequently developed a very successful career in TV and film. They became very good friends, and whenever they met, Lewis would bring him a few articles of whatsoever nature he believed he would like. He had long been in the habit of dispensing articles to friends and associates but his feedback was so positive that it encouraged Lewis to invite a bunch of past recipients to dinner to share different articles and see where the conversation took them. “As they open their envelopes, often with different contents, I watch as they read, share, challenge, laugh, argue, flirt, eat and drink with one another as their self-imposed barriers and constraints slip even further away”.
Recently, Lewis had decided to open OFFLINE up to the general public and each event is sold out within a day of him releasing seats. Attendees are vast and varied. CEO’s to one-man bands, charities and art aficionados – everyone is welcome under the rules and in the spirit of the evening. By not placing any emphasis on an outcome it has led to many incredible relationships, friendships and business deals (though not the intended purpose).
“Events with anticipated outcomes are prescriptive and limit the possibilities of the unexpected. Curiosity must not be shackled. Moreover, it is enhanced when conducted in great company, a lovely setting, with good food and wine, not too long and not too late.”
Lewis has since been invited to host OFFLINE in New York, Los Angeles and Paris by people who have been. Since the start of 2017, many companies have recognised the value in Lewis’s fad-free and truly authentic experience and major international companies such as Salesforce have asked Lewis to host OFFLINE dinners for them. Lewis was recently featured in Forbes and Time Magazine for his OFFLINE networking concept.
Tickets are limited. The OFFLINE Breakfast takes place on Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at St Georges Club and starts at 07h30, tickets cost R150 pp. The talk on The Schorr Collection, is a cocktail function, and takes place on Friday, 7 April 2017 and starts at 18h30 at the GFI Art Gallery. To book tickets or for more information contact Lindsay Ziehl on (041) 581 4310/072 478 0054 or e-mail email@example.com.
All proceeds from these events will benefit the Yokhuselo Haven for Abused Women and Children based in Port Elizabeth.
Author: Jennilee Peremore
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