Suggestion Box FAQ

So you want to submit a pitch for an ONA18 session? Here are some quick tips:

  • Be specific. The session’s title should accurately describe the topic.
  • Be mindful. What audience will you reach? What do they get out of it?
  • Be refreshing. What new speakers and ideas should your colleagues hear? Suggest topics relevant to issues and trends in 2018, not rehashes of the past couple years.
  • Be realistic. ONA provides speakers with free registration, but cannot cover travel expenses, hotel or meals.
  • Be inclusive. ONA strives for all types of diversity.
  • Be enterprising. Think beyond demos or pontificating — help others learn something practical they can put to use right away.


What happens after I pitch?

ONA has a team of volunteers called the Program Team — journalists, educators and students — who review each and every pitch submitted along with ONA staff. The Program Team recommends which sessions to include to ONA staff, along with their own ideas for topics or presenters. Staff are also encouraged to combine ideas, add in a few additional topics or recommend additional presenters to be included. Read more in What happens once I submit my ONA18 pitch?

Will I be notified about my pitch’s status?

ONA will notify all submitters, whether they are selected or not, before early bird registration pricing ends.

Who can submit a proposal to the ONA18 Suggestion Box?

Anyone. Whether you are an executive, a manager, a journalist, a designer, a developer, a consultant, a vendor, a student, an academic or just a very interested news consumer, we want to hear your great programming ideas. We do not accept proposals promoting a single product or service. That said, there are plenty of ways to let people know about your awesome product, tool or service on our sponsorship page.

What makes for a good proposal?

As a rule: the more specific, the better. Why? Because specificity demands a lot more thought and planning about what the audience will get out of the session. As an example, ONA organizers are more interested in titles such as “Local Podcasting: Best Practices and New Opportunities for Small Teams” than something like “Podcasting Basics.” Read more in 10 factors that make for a great session pitch.

How important is diversity in considerations?

ONA is strongly committed to being as inclusive as possible in both topics and speakers at our conference. We view this with a broad lens that encompasses session ideas, geography, gender, race, nationality, professional experience and newcomers to ONA’s conference.

Speaking of diversity, I’ve heard ONA prefers presenters from different organizations. But I work for Tribune / TEGNA / The USA TODAY Network / NPR member station / another company with multiple properties. Can I submit my name and a colleague from another sister organization?

Absolutely! We prefer presenters from multiple organizations as it can give a range of perspectives, including unique regional challenges. If you can meet that goal from within your parent company, that’s fine. Here’s an example from two public radio journalists from ONA16. Just remember, a mix of mediums (combining a digital-first property with a legacy broadcast television group, for example) is also useful and can help distinguish your pitch.

Is it better to submit a panel or another type of session?

Research suggests that 80 percent of conference attendees prefer to be actively engaged in conference sessions. Particularly in our community of innovators, people want to build things, co-create documents and swap ideas. The more you have considered how to keep your audience engaged and participating, the better. We do plan to host a variety of sessions, from panel discussions to workshops to groups joining together to create collaborative documents. Read more in Get creative with your session format.

What makes for a good title?

Cute titles are fun. But remember that your title is going to be fighting for attention with hundreds of others. So the more direct and descriptive you can make it, the better. People will be searching our site for topics relevant to them, so your pitch should be something easy to find in a search. Read more in Themes to consider when pitching to ONA18.

Do I need to have other speakers confirmed when I submit my session idea?

No. In fact, we strongly prefer that you do NOT confirm other speakers until your session idea is accepted because ONA staff will work closely with you to make sure there is sufficient diversity and expertise in your session. You are capped at two speakers per submission during the pitch process.

How does the selection process work?

Each idea is reviewed by ONA staff and a group of volunteers, the ONA18 Program Team, comprised of journalists, educators and students. The Program Team recommends their top picks to ONA staff. These recommendations are largely approved and make up the core of our educational programming. ONA may sometimes add additional topics or speakers on an invite-only basis to ensure diversity, cover a breaking news topic or meet other pressing needs. Read more in What happens once I submit my ONA18 pitch?

If my idea is selected, what happens next?

ONA will work closely with you to fine-tune the focus of your session as well as to select other speakers if needed. As a general rule, the more preparation, the better the session. Pre-event preparation means communicating with other speakers weeks ahead of time to clarify the focus of the session, as well as discuss how to keep the audience engaged. ONA attendees are smart and they enjoy smart programming. If they realize you haven’t fully prepared, they will leave your session room and go to the more interesting one next door.

If my idea is selected, what does ONA pay for?

Invited presenters receive complimentary ONA18 registration. We are not able to provide travel, lodging or other financial compensation for speakers.