ONA20 is here, there and everywhere

Chief Knowledge Officer Trevor Knoblich details what to expect from our global journalism innovation festival

Let’s not bury the lede: We’ll be hosting ONA20 fully virtual, rather than in-person. By now, many other major events in 2020 have made this move, so hopefully this won’t be surprising news. That said, we are re-imagining all of our learning, networking and inspirational activities for everyone participating to deliver a virtual experience designed to exist that way from the ground up.

Here’s an overview of what to expect, as well as why you should join us. Want to really geek out with me about event planning and design? Head over to our Framework blog for the deep dive to understand how we came to this decision. Even if you’re just curious about our thought process on how to pull off a large-scale event like this, you’ll enjoy reading it!

The basics

ONA20 will take place Oct. 1 – 16, with more of a festival approach in mind. We feel spreading the conference out gives more people flexibility to focus on the conference while still juggling home and other work needs.

We’ll have tiered registration, and as you might expect, a higher tier will offer additional networking and learning perks. We also plan to keep the lower tier affordable, in the hopes more people around the world will be able to participate. We’ll release more information on pricing in the next few weeks.

Why come together for a large conference now?

For the easy answer, we all miss one another. ONA staff have received message after message from our community saying they are looking forward to the learning atmosphere, energy and networking provided by our annual conference. Now is the chance to come together to say hello, catch up, offer support and get some professional development and training.

Moreover, ONA’s mission is to inspire and support innovation and excellence in digital journalism. Across the board, the news community needs inspiration right now. And practitioners, executives and educators focused on innovation will create the newsroom systems and products that will excel in the next few years.

What you’ll receive as a participant

We design our events to consider three main aspects: learning, networking and inspiration. Each of these are strong reasons to join us, and we like to mash it up to create the magic energy that makes ONA events so exciting.


A virtual conference opens the ability to experiment in entirely new ways; we’ll be playing with a variety of learning approaches, networking ideas and social connections. We plan to deliver the essence of what ONA’s annual gathering has always been about, but in entirely new ways.

Expect to get:

    • Research into the latest trends in news
    • Templates for improving workflow or starting a project
    • Best practices and tips for your work
    • Case studies and under-the-hood glimpses at incredible projects
    • Solutions-oriented conversations for common challenges
    • Masterclasses from a variety of amazing people
    • Panels and debates on the most critical issues of the day


As always, we’re looking at innovative ways to create connections with peers, sponsors, VIPs and friends old and new. We’re not interested in attempting to transpose an in-person experience into an awkward online analogue. Instead, we’re working to provide you with the means to connect to those you care about in ways that are designed for a virtual environment.

We plan to:

  • Reimagine our most popular conference offering, our Table Talks, online; these let you dig into niche topics with people who are just as passionate as you
  • Offer virtual ways to get detailed breakdowns of products and features
  • Connect you with new, useful tools to apply to your work
  • Offer chat lounges and other areas to connect with colleagues and friends


Having fun and making memories are important for ONA events. Count on plenty of fun surprises.

Ideas we’re considering:

  • Virtual tours of newsrooms or cultural institutions
  • Opportunities for socializing, perhaps showcasing some of those non-journalism skills
  • Happy hours and receptions
  • Coffee breaks or other opportunities for chatting throughout the event

Health, safety and accessibility

Moving a conference online means different ways of ensuring the health and safety of our participants. As always, we expect ONA events to be a professional, fun and engaging environment. Here are a few key things to expect from us:

  • We will review our Code of Conduct to ensure it reflects expectations in an online environment
  • We never sell our attendance list or share our contact information with sponsors (though, as past attendees know, some can work out standardized email addresses from your parent company or connect your name to existing information in their database, so be aware of these techniques)
  • We will have dedicated screen breaks to give you a chance to get some air!
  • Specific educational sessions will focus on overall self care and burnout issues
  • All sessions and events will clearly list what expectations participants will have; e.g., “Will I be just watching, with no camera on me, or will I be expected to turn on my computer camera to join this event?”
  • We’ll provide participants with tip sheets on how to keep personal information out of view if they choose to join video chats
  • We’ll let you know in advance if you need special software or browser plug-ins to participate in certain chats so you can be set up and ready to go!
  • We’ll have transcripts for many of our talks; you can learn more about accessibility here, and we anticipate updating that page in the coming months

What’s next / get involved