General Guidelines for Educational Sessions at ONA20

Educational sessions serve one of the main objectives of the ONA annual conference: to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all attendees. These sessions cover industry best practices, develop skills, raise awareness of key issues, highlight unique talent, 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 ONA20, regardless of whether they are selected via the Suggestion Box or organized by ONA or sponsors.

Guidelines for ONA20 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: With what skills, tools, and resources will attendees walk away? 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 ONA20 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.
  3. Diversity is a must
    Diverse perspectives encourage nuanced, innovative ideas. ONA considers dozens of 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 ONA20.
  4. Be specific, inspiring and solutions-oriented
    The world is full of intractable problems and journalism has more than its fair share. ONA20 values actual, concrete and 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 thought your idea all the way through.
  5. Bring something new to the table
    The same topics are 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? Do you have a new 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 is 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 highly values sessions that incorporate presenters from multiple organizations; this includes 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! ONA is continually revising requirements for presenters to ensure session quality, but it also helps if prospective speakers consider their strengths and weaknesses when developing a session. If you have a great idea but are not confident or experienced as a presenter, consider inviting a colleague with those strengths to join you, while keeping diversity goals in mind.