Written by: Kelvin Ibrahim
Before attending Social Media Week Lagos for the first time in 2017, I was always fascinated by the pictures and videos I saw about the conference. The minute I walked into the pavilion and saw people interacting I couldn’t help but feel the friendly atmosphere.
After attending several meetups and learning so much from the speakers from the masterclasses to the “big” stages, I conceived an idea of hosting an event for 2018. So on the last day after a long week, I decided to find out from one of the organizers what it would take to host an event at Social Media Week Lagos. For me, realizing that it was free to submit an event encouraged me to give it a shot. There’s no harm in trying, so I was sure I would apply as soon as they started calling for event partners.
Towards the end of 2017 I saw a sponsored ad on Facebook inviting event partners to send in their applications to host an event. The theme for the year was “Closer,” which examines the tension between individualism and community. I knew it would be competitive because of the number of applications they receive every year; I found out that more than 280 applications were received for #SMWLagos 2017. I had to get creative with my topic so my event could stand out. I also wanted participants who would attend my session to have a worthwhile time and leave informed.
I took a few days to really think about what kind of discussion I’d like to have. I came up with a relevant topic that is rampant on social media: cyber-bullying. My decision to host a talk centered around harassment in the virtual space was influenced by the theme “Closer” — I found an aspect of social media that was pulling people apart.
I initiated the process of registering my event for consideration on the SMW Lagos site. I had to decide if my event would be a meetup, masterclass, speakeasy or a panel discussion. I decided on a panel because I wanted the maximum amount of people to attend. I also had to consider who my target audience would be and the most appropriate speakers for the event.
I shared my event idea with friends and their suggestions were helpful. I finally chose the topic ‘Harassment In the Information Age: Rising Above Cyber-Bullying.’ I was detailed in my search for speakers who wanted to render their voices to this topic and cause change. I chose Ubi Franklin (a business mogul) Chioma Omeruah (Chigul) an actress and comedienne, Evelyn Ngugi (@EvelynfromtheInternets) a popular Youtuber from the USA, Lillian Afegbai (an actress) and Uriel Oputa (Nigerian reality TV star). Afterward, I submitted my application before the deadline and hoped my event would be selected.
I got an acknowledgment email when event submissions closed. The submissions for Social Media Week 2018 was the highest they had ever received in 5 years, reaching nearly 400 applications. My excitement diminished because, wow, that’s a lot of events to consider. But I remained hopeful and optimistic that my event would have an edge.
I kept refreshing my email to see if I got an email from the organizers about the status of my proposal. After a while, I concluded that my session wouldn’t make it through. But I had a surprise waiting for me just a few days into the New Year. I got an email notifying me that I had been added as a speaker and I could head over to a scheduling site to edit and update my event. I was sitting with my sister at the time and I started shouting and running all over the place; I showed her the email so she could join in on my excitement. I forgot to mention that my event was scheduled on the “big” stage – the Innovation Stage. I couldn’t believe my luck my first shot at this.
Next up I sent invitations to my speakers to get them to commit to the event. Fortunately, they all agreed to come and said that the topic was something they were passionate about. The next hurdle was for me was to promote the event on social media and get people to register to attend.
For several weeks before the date of my event, I posted teasers and asked people to register. Most of my followers and friends in Lagos were registered and I watched the number grow from scratch until it got to my personal target of at least 100 attendees.
The long-awaited day came and my panelists all showed up one after the other; we proceeded to the stage and had the discussion. My panelists shared personal experiences they had with people online and how they had to cope with hate, negativity, backlash and depression.
My session was a blast and the feedback I received was constructive. Many people walked up to me after my event and said that they enjoyed it because the panelists were sincere and open about their experiences with cyber-bullying. Many attendees said they would rethink how to behave in the virtual space.
If you’re considering hosting an event at the next Social Media Week Lagos, I think you should give it your best shot. You just might get to host your first event. And yeah, I’ll be submitting my second Social Media Week event next year! Definitely.