Photo: Erik Westra

SRCCON 2018 • June 28 & 29 in Minneapolis

There are a lot of ways to think about sessions at SRCCON. We’ve put this guide together to help you turn your great idea into an equally great session proposal.

In This Guide

What Are SRCCON Sessions Like?

SRCCON is different than many other conferences you may have attended. It’s a highly participatory event: no panels on a stage or speakers running through slides. You might notice that we always refer to “facilitators” or “session leaders,” because when you run a breakout session at SRCCON, you’re in a room with dozens of other smart people with an opportunity to compare notes, share skills, and help everyone learn from each other.

We created SRCCON with a few principles in mind that lay the groundwork for our program as a whole:

Our sessions inhabit these values in different ways, through structured discussions and problem-solving groups; peer-to-peer workshops; even games, drawing, or field trips. We avoid traditional lectures and classroom-style trainings, but we welcome your creativity across a range of hands-on and collaborative session styles.

Key Dates in the Proposal Process

As you’re finalizing your session proposal, in addition to this guide we have a handy walkthrough of the call for participation form itself!

Our Session Review Process

Our goal is to build a conference schedule with a mix of technical workshops, culturally focused discussions, and sessions that exist somewhere in between. As the SRCCON team reviews proposals, we look for:

Our program for SRCCON 2018 will be built around key community values:

After the call for proposals closes, we set aside two weeks for consideration by OpenNews staff. We also invite a diverse group of community members to provide feedback during the session review process. Our priority is to build a balanced program that reflects the entire community, and we actively welcome session proposals from members of communities underrepresented in journalism and technology, and from non-coastal and small-market news organizations.

What Goes Into a Great Session Proposal?

Successful sessions often emerge from a single question or problem—if you’ve been struggling with just about any aspect of your work, you can bet others have dealt with it, too. Topics don’t just emerge from a list of latest trends; we bring them to SRCCON because facilitators are passionate and excited to share.

As you propose an idea for SRCCON, your session description is the first opportunity to tell us how you’ll spend time your time with everyone else who’s excited about the same topic. We reserve 75 minutes for each session, which can be plenty of time to dig into even deep topics—but it does go faster than you think! Even though SRCCON is a conversational conference, a sketch of the ground you hope to cover is a great indicator of the thought you’re putting into a session.

Effective SRCCON sessions are about effort and preparation more than expertise. We encourage you to describe how you’ll share what you know, the types of great questions you’ll pose, and the ways you’ll help people learn something new. We find that the most promising proposals:

Qualities That Make a Session Proposal Stand Out

How to Plan a Session That Works

SRCCON is a genuinely participatory event, and it’s hard to participate in a session that’s mostly lecture with a few minutes for discussion. It’s great to start thinking about the format for your session now, and include detail in your proposal. It’s totally OK if you plan to set up a session with an intro and a few slides, or to use examples throughout to support learning, but we do look for pitches that include real interactivity. Our final program will include both conversational sessions, where people can dig into questions or problems in a way they can’t at larger conferences, and technical sessions, where people share specific expertise and participants leave with a new skill. Outstanding session formats in previous years have included:

We’re always interested in new ideas, too, so feel free to propose something we’ve never imagined!

It’s also useful to think about information/activity density and, again, your desired takeaways. Over-programming a session with too many activities can make it impossible to get to your goals—but a session that’s underdesigned can easily turn into a conversation between a handful of the loudest people. We’re happy to help proposers figure out the right balance, and we don’t expect you to have all the answers at the pitch stage, but it’s good to start thinking about content density early on. (When in doubt, narrow your scope.)

Pitching With a Co-Facilitator

A co-facilitator for your SRCCON session can share the load of preparation and facilitation, as well as the fun of participating in the conference itself. If you’re comfortable leading a session by yourself, that’s great too!

Only one person needs to submit the full session idea in our call for participation form—co-facilitators can let us know “somebody else has already listed me as a cofacilitator” in the form, and we’ll link you all up. Feel free to work on the proposal together, but don’t limit yourself to pitching with someone who can fill out the form sitting alongside you.

We consider solo and team proposals alike. But if you feel like your session could benefit from a co-facilitator, we encourage you to consider pitching with someone from another organization, and/or with a different background from your own. If you’ve attended SRCCON before, you might even consider proposing with someone who hasn’t been yet. (We won’t reject proposals featuring two members of the same team, two SRCCON alums, etc., but we may favor proposals that mix it up.)

And if we see a number of pitches on the same subject, you can bet we’ll make sure it’s represented on the schedule. Sometimes we’ll even suggest that proposers consider joining up to lead a session together as co-facilitators.

Example Sessions from Previous SRCCONs

To give you a taste of how SRCCON facilitators turn plans into action, here are a few writeups from previous participants on their experience hosting sessions:

And here are a few more examples of sessions that have worked well in the past:

Tickets for Facilitators

We’ll reserve a ticket for purchase by facilitators of each accepted session. We do not provide free tickets for session facilitators, but we do offer need-based scholarships that anyone can apply for if they need help covering the costs of attending. (Here’s more information about scholarships to SRCCON.)

Why do we do it this way? SRCCON is a collaborative, peer-to-peer event, and we consider all attendees to be active participants, not just speakers or passive audience members. This approach also helps us keep ticket prices low enough to be affordable for most news organizations.

How We Support SRCCON Proposers

Ok, so you’re excited to pitch your SRCCON session! If you feel ready to go, you can submit your proposal now. If you have still have some questions, we are here for you:

Submit a Session Proposal

The form for session proposals has now closed! By the end of April, we will let everyone who proposed a session know whether it has been accepted. Thank you to everyone who proposed a session.