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.
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, never speakers or presenters, because when you run a 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.
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:
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.
We’ll reserve a ticket for purchase by facilitators of accepted sessions, and they won’t need to enter the public SRCCON ticket lottery in May. We do not provide free tickets for session facilitators, but we do offer need-based scholarships that anyone—facilitator or otherwise—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.
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. Last year’s sessions dealt with topics including advertising tech, audio sharing, chatbots, ethics in news apps, illustration, machine learning, management challenges, mental health, and science fiction.
Topics don’t just emerge from a list of latest trends; we bring them to SRCCON because facilitators are passionate and excited to share. 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 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:
Other qualities that help a proposal stand out:
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:
As we get closer to SRCCON, we’ll publish a facilitator guide similar to this one, with more details and advice on leading sessions.
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 fill out the proposal form, and we’ll follow up with any co-facilitators to gather their information as well. 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.)
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.)
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:
Our call for proposals is open until April 7 at 11:59pm ET. We’d love to have you pitch a session so we can consider your ideas for SRCCON 2017, August 3 & 4 in Minneapolis.