Thinking about proposing a session for SRCCON 2023? We’ll have your back throughout the process. Here are some answers to questions that might be on your mind right now, and if you’re curious about anything else, please let us know!
SRCCON Session Proposal Guide
- What are SRCCON sessions like?
- What we look for in a session proposal
- Other things to know
- Examples from previous SRCCONs
What are SRCCON sessions like?
SRCCON is a participatory event, and sessions will feel different from other conferences you may have attended. Think workshops, not panels. Conversations, not presentations.
Our program is organized around a few principles:
- SRCCON is built around collaboration, discussion, and problem-solving.
- SRCCON responds to the needs and interests of our community, and we’re intentional in including perspectives from throughout the field.
- Every attendee is a peer. Conference badges don’t show organizations or speaker status—we’re all here to learn from each other.
We avoid traditional lectures and classroom-style trainings, and you might notice that we always refer to “facilitators” or “session leaders,” not “speakers.” When you run a session at SRCCON, you get to be in a room with dozens of other smart people to compare notes, share skills, and help everyone learn from each other.
- Friday, June 16: Deadline to submit session proposals and stipend applications using our call for participation form
- By Wednesday, June 28: Facilitators and stipend applicants will be notified
- October 17-18: SRCCON 2023, in Minneapolis!
What we look for in a session proposal
Our goal is to build a conference program with a mix of:
- Workshops that push boundaries in journalism tech or technique
- Discussions that equip people for organizational and cultural change
Sessions are 75 minutes long—plenty of time to dig into even deep topics, but it goes faster than you think! In a session proposal, we look for:
- A topic that you can realistically cover in a little more than an hour. (Narrowing down to a specific problem or idea is almost always the right choice. Asking a question can work really well, too.)
- A clear, inviting description that explains how attendees will spend their time. (This doesn’t have to be a literal outline! But help us see the agenda you have in mind.)
- A clear outcome. (What can people expect to leave having done or having learned?)
Effective SRCCON facilitation is about effort and preparation more than expertise. You don’t have to have all the answers, just a plan to help people search for them together. Other things that make a proposal really stand out:
- A topic you don’t often see at traditional conferences. SRCCON welcomes hard conversations, and session topics you might have never seen on a journalism conference schedule before.
- A clear and thoughtful format. Simple is great! A straightforward plan helps people participate, and simple discussions or activities draw people in.
- An inclusive perspective. Journalism needs to hear from underrepresented communities and organizations outside the New York-DC corridor. We look for these voices in our session topics and facilitators.
- A plan that helps attendees build relationships. SRCCON connects people with a community of peers they can reach out to for collaboration and support down the road.
Pitching with a co-facilitator
We love to see people team up on session proposals. Working with a partner lets you share the load of preparation and facilitation, and makes running a session in-person easier (and more fun)!
Working in teams can also make sure your session represents different experiences. Our goal for every SRCCON program is to represent our full community, so we encourage you to consider pitching with someone from a different kind of organization, and/or with a different background from your own.
- Can I still propose a session by myself? Yes! (And we also understand that there are situations where it makes sense to pitch with someone from your own team, too.)
- Can you help me find a co-facilitator? Yes! At every SRCCON, we have community members who offer to help with a session that can use them. Just let us know in the form, and we can make a recommendation.
How we review proposals
After the call for participation 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.
Other things to know
What if I kind of have a session idea, but it’s not fully formed yet?
That’s totally OK! If you’re excited about being part of the SRCCON program, we’re excited to work with you to refine your topic. 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.
We don’t consult a list of trends to figure out which sessions to invite; we want SRCCON to be a place where passionate facilitators challenge us in ways that couldn’t happen at any other conference.
What kind of planning support is there for session facilitators?
If your session is selected, we’ll support you throughout your planning process. That starts as soon as we confirm your session for the program, when we’ll share a Facilitator Guide that should look a lot like this one.
We’ll check in with you to ask about scheduling needs, make sure you’re happy with your session name and description, and offer any feedback you need on your session plan. We’re always happy to jump on a call to talk through any questions or brainstorms that come up.
And we believe that conferences like SRCCON are where amazing work only begins, so we’re already thinking about ways to support you in moving ideas forward after your session is done.
Is there financial support for session facilitators? Do facilitators have to purchase a ticket?
Yes, financial support is available. We have travel and caregiving scholarships to help you get to Minneapolis. We also offer a free, scholarship ticket option.
Because SRCCON is a collaborative, peer-to-peer event, we do ask that all participants, including facilitators, pick up a ticket. This approach to ticketing is part of how we make the event accessible to as many people as we can. If you or your company are not able to pay for a ticket, there will be an option right on the Eventbrite registration form to pick up a free scholarship ticket directly.
Writeups from previous SRCCONs
- 3 Ways To Facilitate A Great Conference Session, by Sisi Wei
- How We Facilitated A Huge, Participatory, Highly Charged SRCCON Session, by Alyson Hurt
- Teaching and Brainstorming Inclusive Technical Metaphors, by Nicole Zhu
- Stuck in a Rut? Tackle Newsroom Frustrations With Board Games, by Sara Konrad Baranowski and Andrea Suozzo
- Great Conference Sessions, the SRCCON Way, by Brent Jones
Facilitation tips & ideas
- Behind the decisions that help make SRCCON, and your sessions, more humane
- Our favorite facilitation guide from AORTA Coop
- Tips from our friends at Aspiration Tech about running a breakout session
- General facilitation tips from Aspiration Tech
Example sessions that have worked well in the past
- Every day I’m juggling: Managing managers, peer expectations, and your own project ideas. Talking to management, helping them to see things from your perspective, coaxing change out of newsrooms—it’s tough to go it alone. This session used the “experts in the room” to help level each other up.
- Let’s All Be Terrible at Things Together. This session forced people out of their comfort zones and into collaborating around weaknesses and fears.
- Mentorship at Scale: How The NYT Women in Tech group build a mentorship program for 250+ people in our free time. This session shared practical tips from leaders who helped create a program in their own newsroom, and ran condensed versions of goal-planning and peer-coaching workshops.
- Threat Modeling, But For Your Own Well-Being. This session used a guided series of questions to help participants identify their sources of anxiety, and then shared strategies for taking care of yourself emotionally.
- Lights, Camera, Algorithms: Acting out (and then discussing) Machine Learning. This session got participants up and moving around, with active learning exercises (and dice-rolling!) that helped make sense of abstract concepts.
- Managing the blind spots in community news coverage. Participants worked together on strategies to identify the blind spots in their own newsroom’s coverage, talk about them with decision-makers, and build relationships with underserved communities.