What happens once I submit my ONA18 pitch?

ONA’s Suggestion Box, open Feb. 28 – March 29, is your opportunity to pitch session ideas and presenters for ONA18. This post by Trevor Knoblich, ONA’s Head of Programs and Events, is the fifth in a series we hope will be useful references if you’re considering submitting a pitch.

We’re often asked what the process is for selecting sessions for our annual conference. If you’re interested to know what happens to the hundreds of ideas we receive, read on!

Step 1: Read every idea and nominate the best


Ideas come to us from staffONA Board members, the Program Team and the Suggestion Box. The Program Team — a diverse, volunteer group of professionals and students — reviews each and every idea. We had more than 400 ideas last year, so this is not an easy task!

The group is looking for the best and most innovative ideas and presenters to help move digital journalism forward. They review the proposals based on specific criteria that add up to a great fit for the ONA conference. We ask the Program Team to come up with a “short list” of sessions. In the end, this list usually accounts for roughly two-thirds of our final conference programming, depending on the quality of submissions.

Step 2: Create a draft program

Early May

Once the Program Team completes its review, ONA staff go through the list of recommended sessions and speakers and begin selecting ideas. We give the pitches a deeper look for quality and speaker diversity. We sometimes combine sessions on similar issues or ask submitters to add another presenter to their roster.

By the end of May, the conference schedule is 80 percent complete. We’ll leave a few slots for breaking news, emerging issues and any gaps identified by staff or the Program Chairs.

Step 3: Confirm speakers and post initial conference schedule

Late May / early June

We confirm speaker availability and post as much scheduling information as we can to the conference website before the early bird registration pricing ends. A few more sessions may still be added before the schedule is finalized, but we are no longer looking for submissions on speakers or topics. We do add sessions around breaking topical news as deemed critical by ONA staff.

Step 4: Final Conference Schedule


The final schedule — including the Midway, our interactive forum — is available by July. We may still have a surprise or two, be that confirming a great keynote speaker or an urgent breaking news issue. By this time we’re more or less finished, and looking forward to conversations with all of you at ONA18!

Feeling ready to pitch? Mark your calendar for Feb. 28, when we will open the Suggestion Box. The previous post in this series covered themes to consider when pitching to ONA18.

Refer to our Opportunities page if you’re interested in other ways to get involved or volunteer with the conference. For news and updates, follow us on Twitter @ONAConf or subscribe to our newsletter.