UK host to go OFFLINE in PE

Howard Lewis at an OFFLINE evening at the Savile Club in London Picture: Anthony Upton
Howard Lewis at an OFFLINE evening at the Savile Club in London Picture: Anthony Upton

British businessman, art director and raconteur Howard Lewis will be in Port Elizabeth next month 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 Lewis will host these events in South Africa, and the proceeds of both will go to the Bay NGO Yokhuselo Haven for Abused Women and Children.

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 highnet 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, so phones are switched off, there is no emphasis on conducting any business and guests are expected to only come bringing “generosity of spirit”.

Lewis has hosted private dinners and events in London for the past decade which challenge the 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 is far more that unites us than separates us and, when you strip away the veneer of professionalism, we reveal multi-layered personalities,” Lewis said.

“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 . . . [which] takes attendees slightly out of their comfort zone.”

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 good friends, and whenever they met, Lewis would bring him a few articles he believed he would like.

His feedback was so positive that it encouraged Lewis to invite other guests 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.”

Lewis decided to open OFFLINE to the general public and each event is sold out within a day of him releasing seats. Attendees are vast and varied, ranging from CEOs to one-man bands, charities and art aficionados – everyone is welcome under the rules and in the spirit of the evening.

Lewis has since been invited to host OFFLINE in New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

Forbes and Time Magazine recently featured him for this networking concept.

The OFFLINE Breakfast is on Wednesday April 5 at St George’s Club, at 7.30am and tickets cost R150.

The talk on The Schorr Collection is a cocktail function on Friday April 7 at 6.30pm at the GFI Art Gallery.

For tickets or more information, contact Lindsay Ziehl on (041) 581-4310, 072-478-0054 or e-mail mblake@agnet.co.za

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