Putting the ‘fab’ into ConFab since 2015

Carel welcomes Greg Mills (white trousers, grey jacket) to CN&CO. “Greg is a bit of a good luck charm for me,” he said. “He spoke at the very first event I organised at Hollard, many years ago – which was the start of a great era in my life.”

CN&CO’s first ConFab was held a few days after we moved into our new offices in Illovo. The speaker was Greg Mills, head of the Brenthurst Foundation, security strategist, economic futurist and prolific author. He spoke about the book he had recently published, How South Africa Works and Must Do Better to a diverse group of people.

A couple of months later we heard from Gianni Mariano, founder of the Mastrantonio’s group of restaurants and member of the board at Business Arts South Africa. He spoke about the parallels between running a business and making the perfect risotto.

Our chairperson, Colleen Magner, was our next guest speaker. Her talk focused on transformative scenario planning.

Subsequent speakers have talked about being gay in the church, the perfect DJ set, wine, artybollocks, Die Antwoord, sport-for-charity and the door of serendipity – among other things.

Father Rowan Smith, retired Dean of Cape Town, in ConFab at CN&CO HQ in May 2016 about his life’s journey from being a monk in England to Dean of Cape Town

“So what’s the common factor here?” you might ask. “And what is a ConFab, anyway?”

Let’s answer the second question first. A ConFab, in the CN&CO sense, is a gathering of diverse people, hand-picked from our networks, where ideas are exchanged (as well as the odd phone number), opinions raised, ideas sparked, belief systems challenged and, we hope, horizons broadened. The common factor, as you may have worked out, is our humanity.

“Professional networks should include all kinds of people from a cross-section of cultures and companies – big and small, public and private, and from diverse industries,” says Carel. “We welcome the weird, the conservative, the Trump supporters, the ukulele players, the craft beer brewers, the clerics, the atheists, the globetrotters, the accountants, the abstainers, the millennials, the marathon runners, and even people who have no labels at all.

Justin Pearse and Justin Miller spoke at our “double-DJ” ConFab

“There are only three rules: 1. You must be smart, 2. You must be willing to engage with people who you might not necessarily talk to in the ‘normal’ course of your fabulous life, and 3. you can only attend once – unless you are part of our team, or gatecrash!”

Each ConFab session has a speaker who is chosen from our networks, and who we think has something interesting to say. We do not give them a brief, and we do not know what they are going to talk about. It’s all part of the fab component. That, and the wine, of course, which is always a good social lubricant, even for the abstainers by all accounts.



Here’s a list of all the ConFabs we’ve hosted:

#1.     August 2015: Greg Mills on his book How South Africa Works and Must Do Better

#2.     October 2015: Mastrantonio’s founder Gianni Mariano talked about people, brand and risotto

#3.     November 2015: CN&CO chairperson Colleen Magner on transformative scenario planning

#4.     January 2016: Conn Bertish on how he beat cancer

#5.     May 2016: Retired Anglican Dean of Cape Town Rowan Smith on his life’s journey

#6.     June 2016: Barloworld ex-CEO Tony Phillips on business, charity and running

#7.     August 2016: Wine connoisseur Derek Kilpin on how wine changes the world, saves us from Donald Trump and other Bacchian tales

#8.     October 2016: Two DJs, both called Justin, talked about their music and their lives

#9.     Feb 2017: Ann Roberts on that broad and fascinating topic we know as “the arts”

#10.   July 2017: Methodist bishop Gary Rivas spoke about personal growth, new discoveries, great business ventures and the door of serendipity

“If you’re keen to join us at the next ConFab, drop me a mail,” says Carel. “And for heaven’s sake, make sure it’s interesting.”