Session proposal guide
Are you thinking about proposing a session for SRCCON 2021? We’ll have your back throughout the entire process—before, during, and after the conference. 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!
- Friday, July 16: Deadline to submit session proposals and stipend applications using our call for participation form
- By Thursday, July 22: Facilitators and stipend applicants will be notified
- August 11-13: SRCCON 2021, online!
How will participatory sessions work at an online conference?
SRCCON 2021 will be online-only, and just like last year, we’re excited about the ways that will make this event accessible to even more people. We’ve traded in easels, sharpies, and post-it notes for a set of digital collaboration tools, and here’s how all of that will work:
- Sessions will take place over video on Zoom, which really helped us best support accessibility, participation, and security last year. We’ll also share a set of documents and platforms for facilitators to use in collaboration and brainstorming work.
- We’re asking all session facilitators to work with at least one co-facilitator. Facilitation teams are popular at every SRCCON—it’s super helpful in representing different perspectives and backgrounds, plus it’s just nice to share the work with someone! When an event is online, facilitators may need to respond to many different things, from shaky internet connections to keeping an eye on threads of participant comments, and we think teams will help everything run much more smoothly.
- We’re planning a mix of sessions taking place largely between 9am-9pm ET, to make it easier for people from a variety of time zones to participate as well as for all participants to manage attending sessions alongside other responsibilities.
Many of the things that make SRCCON sessions great will stay the same, too. Sessions will last 75 minutes. You’ll be in conversation with a bunch of other smart, engaged people, so no one expects you to have all the answers—sometimes it’s important just to bring the right questions! We find that the best sessions are often led by facilitators who:
- Have a clear outcome in mind—what you want people to leave with,
- Know what they can realistically cover in 75 minutes,
- Build a clear outline for the session, but deviate from it as needed,
- Actively seek to run balanced, inclusive conversations, and
- Make a few simple backup plans in case a session gets a larger or smaller audience than expected.
Effective SRCCON facilitation is about effort and preparation more than expertise. We support facilitators as they prepare for their sessions, and we can help match you with a co-facilitator if you don’t have someone in mind already. If you’re thinking about pitching a session for SRCCON 2021, we’d love to hear from you!
What if I kind of have a session idea, but it’s not fully formed yet?
That’s completely okay! 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 the latest 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. Whatever shape your ideas are taking, please share them with us! You should feel free to talk about things at whatever level of detail you feel good about—we’d love to think things through with you.
Our session review process
Our goal is to build a program 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:
- Topics that are relevant to developers, designers, journalists, and editors in newsrooms
- A session description that shows you’ve thought through your time with attendees
- Thoughts about what you’d like participants to take away from your session
OpenNews staff reviews session proposals as they come in, and invites a diverse group of community members to provide feedback during the 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.
Qualities that make a session proposal stand out
- A clear and thoughtful format. A simple agenda goes a long way in helping people feel able to participate, and simple discussions or activities can 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.
- Topics 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 plan that helps attendees expand their peer group. SRCCON connects people with a community of peers they can reach out to for collaboration and support down the road.
What kind of planning support is there for session facilitators?
If your session is selected, we’ll support you during 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 (with changes specific to SRCCON 2021). We know you might have questions about how things will work at an online conference, so we’re planning facilitator training calls that will use the same platforms and tools you’ll have available for your session.
We’ll also check in with you individually 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. And 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 any financial support for session facilitators? Do facilitators have to purchase a ticket?
Yes, financial support is available. We have both free scholarship tickets and stipends to help you attend or cover unpaid time preparing to facilitate your session. Because SRCCON is a collaborative, peer-to-peer event, we ask that all participants, including facilitators, buy 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, when it’s time to purchase your ticket, there will be an option right on the Eventbrite registration form to pick up a free scholarship ticket directly.
This year, we’re also offering $250 stipends to facilitators whose time preparing for their session would otherwise be uncompensated. If this applies to you, you can apply for a stipend when you’re proposing your session in our call for participation form.
What happens when the conference is over?
One of the most exhilarating things for us as conference organizers is to see people go out and DO THE WORK. Maybe that’ll be you, as a session leader, with newfound energy after talking through how you’re changing the ways your organization operates. Maybe it’s an attendee who learned something new in your session, and takes home a plan to change their community’s relationship with journalism. There are so many exciting things that can happen when passionate people get together at an event like SRCCON. And we want to help you plan for those outcomes! If there’s something you’d like to build together or move forward after the event is over, we’re here to support that work. We just want you to tell us what you need.
- How to approach planning a session, by Ryan Pitts of OpenNews
- Power Dynamics and Inclusion in Virtual Meetings, by Evelyn Arellano of Aspiration Tech
- Three ways to facilitate a great conference session, by Sisi Wei of OpenNews
- How we facilitated a huge, participatory, highly charged SRCCON session, by Alyson Hurt of NPR
- Teaching and brainstorming inclusive technical metaphors, by Nicole Zhu of Vox Product
- Stuck in a rut? Tackle newsroom frustrations with board games, by Sara Konrad Baranowski of the Iowa Falls Times Citizen and Andrea Suozzo of Vermont’s Seven Days
- Great Conference Sessions, the SRCCON Way, by Brent Jones of St. Louis Public Radio
- 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
Sessions from previous SRCCONs
We archive each year’s conference site and schedule, so if you’d like to take a look back at the topics we’ve tackled before, dig in!