Ideas Expo, has it become just another conference with no mandate?

One cannot help but wonder where the policy makers are and why each year, speakers profile themselves but do very little teaching about their respective industries.


The Ideas Expo is one of the few creative conferences that exists for local creatives to network and exchange ideas. Since it was started six years ago, it has grown in tremendous ways, from the caliber of people attending to the type of speakers and activities in place. With that said, one cannot help but wonder where the policy makers are and why each year, speakers profile themselves but do very little teaching about their respective industries.
We keep seeing speakers from the same neighboring country and less from other parts of the continent, with the organization of the event easily dropping from a perfect 10 score to at least a 5. It is clear that the expo is necessary for the creative industry, however when it is said and done, policies need to be implemented which support activities from this industry- and six years into the event, one imagines that it could have attracted grey suits and policy makers but instead the same people from the advertising and marketing sphere keep turning up. Speakers spend hours talking about how they worked their way up and although inspirational, fail to inform those present on industry rates, statistics on how others in the same industries are doing and things to avoid in their different industries. The presentations at times sound like self praise recitals and lack a scholarly approach.
“I have been following the Ideas Expo for a while and although there is growth, not all creatives are included. They need to start including more grey suits to these conversations and get corporates involved so that they understand the creative process, because now it seems as if advertising and marketing people are talking to themselves. I appreciate that at least now there are speakers from film and publishing- which opens up the conversation to more creatives other than just advertising and marketing,” says entrepreneur and writer Galaletsang Molabi who attended this year’s  expo.

“This was my third time attending the Ideas Expo and I feel this year’s expo was a bit disorganized looking at the previous ones. This expo is one of the good ones in the sense that this is the place where creatives meet to exchange ideas, but somehow it seems as though it has hit the ceiling, there is no more growth, the speakers seem to be the same kind of people in different faces. They need to focus more on teaching and not necessarily profile themselves,” says brand strategist Mmadiofa Pilara. Gabriel Tlagae, Marketing Executive for one of the top companies says although he sensed a bit of disorganization, he was quiet impressed with the expo. “This was my first time attending this expo and I think the speakers were interesting and their stories were quiet inspirational, I particularly enjoyed the panel discussions. I liked the part were a marketing association was suggested, an association like that will help bridge the gap and create synergies between corporates and creatives.”
When addressing the issue of why this year’s expo had less people as compared to the others, one of the organizers at Ideas Expo Calvin Bosilong said, “I must admit that we started communication late and the dates of the expo were released a bit late which is why we didn’t have the numbers we had in the past years. But other than that I believe the expo has grown to include other creatives, in the past when the Ideas expo started the type of people who came was usually your advertising hipsters  but now our audience has grown. More creatives from other industries are attending and even sharing their stories.” As to why it seems there were no grey suites he said that, getting a response from a local CEO was probably a lot harder than getting a response from a super power CEO in a different country, but was adamant that the expo does invite policy makers. “Policy is a broad term, there is middle management and high management, and I would like to believe we have been doing that although not to at the scale we want. In the past year, we had Brand Botswana and HRDC at the expo and I believe those organizations influence policy. This year we involved academics in our panel of discussions, and I believe academia influences policy in terms of curriculum. As for why there weren’t a lot of people from government, I also must admit that because we started communication late, we couldn’t work around their schedules. We had issues I can not disclose relating to communications but all I can say is it is always better to have a show than risk a no show because the Ideas Expo is the biggest creative conference in the whole country, and we must keep the momentum going. Our only hope is that next year we will do way better and communicate well on time.”