SMW Lagos comes of age

Ngozi Odita

Ngozi Odita is co-founder and executive director of the biggest conference in Africa. She is also founder at AFRIKA21, a media and production outfit. Ngozi has extensive background in Integrated Marketing and her role at Social Media Week Lagos is to guide the conference mission and objectives as well as oversee programming and production. As the fifth edition wraps today, she shares what her high points have been.

Social Media Week Lagos 2017 closes today; how does that make you feel?
I feel really happy; not in the sense that it’s ending, but in the sense that we’re able to do most of what we wanted to do. It’s always a challenge not knowing how things will turn out. Our attendance, so far, has been larger than last year and we’ve got a couple of positive feedback. We changed formats in our programming and they were well received. We’re happy.

What have been the highlights of this year’s series of events for you?
When I look at our interactive spaces and see hundreds of people gathered and having interesting conversations, that is major for me. Another cool thing is the night programming we introduced to show the creative side of Lagos. It was exciting to see people attend. We had an ‘Afrobeat and Eat’ event that focused on food and good music. Then we had ‘Shop Africa’. We want to be able to create more networking opportunities outside the conference. We’re also trying to show other people in Lagos who are not on the tech scene.

What were your expectations and have they been met?
We set a really high bar for ourselves for attendance and social engagement numbers. But from the look of things, we’re happy to see the event packed everyday and with encouraging feedback. Last year, our social reach was 810 million so this year we must have over a billion.

This is your 5th year organising SMW Lagos, does it get easier?
No it doesn’t; it’s funny how people expect it to be. We keep raising the bar that every year must give more than the previous no matter how successful the preceding year is. We continue to innovate, which is why we had new programming. We also challenge the community to do more and in different ways. It never gets easier.

How have your goals evolved from setting out in 2013?
In 2013, the question was: will people come? We deliver a conference that’s as vast as possible by curating content from the society. In 2013, we weren’t sure it was going to work but it was successful. Now in our fifth year, it’s like: what more is left? So we started looking at how to bring investors to the table. Gender balance is also a concern, so we challenged ourselves to say every session must have at least one woman speaking. Our board of directors is predominantly women; so is our team. This year, we introduced Skillshare, for training and creating jobs. We just want you enhanced when walking away from here.

What are the success indices you employ in judging each edition?
Because it’s a global conference we compare how we do locally with all the other hosting cities. Last year, we had the highest numbers so that’s no longer a marker for us. Right now, we measure by other global conferences like South by Southwest (Texas), CES (Las Vegas) and Web Summit (Europe). We don’t want to be the largest and most impacting on the continent. We just want to be most impactful, period.

What are your hopes for the next edition?
That’s a big question. Social Media Week is not free anywhere else in the world except Lagos. We want to continue to make it free. This year, we introduced N1000 fee because we thought it was affordable but registration was free online. That will always be the case. We were really excited when Chris Cox said he would attend. It’s great to have someone from Facebook and who’s essentially second in line from Mark Zuckerberg, come share with the communities, what they are doing and why they’ve been successful.

What do you expect to see from Nigerians in the social media space, in the next 11 months before the next SMW Lagos?
Our engagement numbers here are five to six times more than some other cities simply because Nigerians are an enthusiastic and passionate people whether they are talking politics or Nollywood. But we don’t do the best PR for ourselves. I’m hoping we’ll be better at communicating our stories on our terms.

How would you assess the SMW Lagos 2017 and The Guardian partnership?
Although we live in a digital world where everything’s online, nothing tops being able to see something in our hands. I really think it’s awesome that The Guardian has partnered with us.

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