General Guidelines for Educational Sessions

Educational sessions serve one of the main objectives of our annual conference: to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all attendees. These sessions discuss industry best practices, develop skills, raise awareness of key issues, highlight unique talents, share trends and ideas and collectively discuss challenging issues, among other constructive benefits.

It is vitally important that all conference sessions uphold and further the educational, professional development, and diversity goals of ONA18, regardless of whether they are selected via the Suggestion Box or organized by ONA, sponsors or Midway participants.

Guidelines for ONA18 educational sessions:

  1. The audience comes first – Serving the learning needs of attendees is the central goal of the conference, including its sponsored sessions. To best do so, consider: What skills, tools, and resources will attendees walk away with? How can they apply this knowledge in the next week? What about six months beyond that?
  2. Engage, share and collaborate – Experience shows that there is no better way for presenters to meet their goals at ONA18 than by developing an interactive, collaborative and engaging session! Some of the best and brightest in journalism will be in attendance and making productive use of that talent will improve outcomes and further productive relationships. We’ve developed a list of different session formats – along with instructions and tips – to assist in your planning.
  3. Diversity is a must – Diverse perspectives encourage nuanced, innovative ideas. ONA considers 30 factors related to diversity, including race, gender and professional background, but also geography, newsroom size and experience with ONA. Considering how your session contributes to a diverse conference – and making amendments where appropriate –will help align it to the broader goals and spirit of ONA18.
  4. Be specific, inspiring and solutions-oriented – The world is full of intractable problems, and journalism has more than its fair share. At ONA18, we are looking for actual, concrete, specific solutions, even when they’re incomplete, aspirational, or visionary. It is much better to move forward with a tight, if yet unresolved, concept than vague proposals that will make attendees wonder if you’ve thought your idea all of the way through.
  5. Bring something new to the table – We hear the same topics proposed year after year, which makes it difficult to distinguish between some ideas. There are certainly ongoing challenges in journalism, but what makes your idea a fresh approach? A new technical tool? New research? A potential new revenue stream? A different framework for thinking about an issue? ONA staff would be happy – thrilled, really – to talk through what we have planned to see where you might be able to enhance conversations or fill in gaps.
  6. Consider including appropriate news organizations – ONA is all about community and collaboration and so we highly value sessions that incorporate presenters from multiple organizations; this includes our sponsored sessions. Where possible, you should make efforts to reach out to working journalists, editors, educators and others from outside of your organization to ask if they would be willing to discuss how they put your tool, product or concept into real-world practice. Doing so shows that you are committed to the type of informed, thoughtful discussion of ideas that makes ONA so valuable to attendees.
  7. Value speaker talent – Not everyone is good at everything, and that’s okay! We are continually revising our requirements for presenters to ensure session quality, but it also helps if prospective speakers consider their strengths and weakness when developing a session. If you have a great idea but are not a confident or experienced presenter, consider inviting a colleague with those strengths to join you, while of course keeping diversity goals in mind.