5 steps to convince your boss you can’t afford to miss ONA23

There’s no better place than the Online News Association’s annual conference (#ONA23) to learn about the latest digital trends and connect with other leaders and changemakers in journalism.

We know that the 2023 conference comes during a tough economic time for many newsrooms and individuals. Conferences are expensive. Professional development budgets are tight. Yet, year after year, our attendees’ feedback indicates that you’ll be more valuable to your team after this experience. Among respondents to a survey of ONA22 attendees, 92% made brand new connections, and 91% reported they apply something they learn within 30 days of returning to work.

One previous attendee told ONA, “I always have at least one jaw-drop moment at ONA where I learn one ‘big’ thing that was worth the price of admission all by itself.”

With that in mind, we want to offer some strategies to make the case for ONA23 to your boss and colleagues and show why you can’t afford to miss out. And if you’re the one who controls training budgets, read on to understand all the benefits waiting for your staff at ONA23!

1. Familiarize yourself with what makes ONA23 unique.

We offer a comprehensive learning experience that pays dividends in leveling up your work. Here are some of the can’t-miss benefits of our annual conference, based on feedback from ONA community members:

  • Resources you’ll actually use: We collaborate with presenters to make sure each session provides actionable takeaways. Plus, we share slides, any speaker handouts and recordings so you can keep learning beyond the conference.
  • The nudge to translate inspiration to action: LA NACION Data, MediaVax, Southern California News Group’s holiday pop-up newsletters — these are just a few of the initiatives and news products that were inspired by workshops and conversations at past ONA conferences.
  • Curated space to discover — and get skilled on — the latest tools and services: Exploring The Midway is an efficient way to try new technology or learn new ways to apply the ones you already use.
  • Choose your own adventure: We’ve experimented with hybrid in-person and virtual formats for over a decade. For ONA23, you can register for a pass to join us in Philadelphia in August, online at ONA23: Onward in September or both. The Philly experience (which includes a pass to Onward) will emphasize collaborative discussions, and we will follow up with lean-back virtual panels a month later.

2. Share a sneak peek of your agenda.

Outline the types of sessions you’re especially interested in attending and how you’ll prioritize your time. Are you a first-time manager hungry for the skills to understand your spheres of influence? Or are you an audience engagement specialist seeking inspiration outside your day-to-day focus?

ONA23: Philadelphia will deliver dozens of interactive sessions over four days, covering areas such as audience development and metrics, emerging technology, innovative news storytelling, leadership and culture, and product and revenue strategies.

Explore the ONA23 program

3. Define your approach to networking.

On average, ONA attendees report creating four to six lasting connections at every conference they attend. We encourage you to articulate the types of connections you’re aiming to make. Attendees represent over 40 countries and a range of organizations, from international outlets to hyperlocal news startups. Pro tip: Find networking inspiration from Samantha Ragland’s conference guide for extroverts and Irving Washington’s guide for introverts.

Attending as an entrepreneur? You’ll find fellow innovators, journalism funders and potential collaborators to bring into your network. Plus, you’ll meet leaders from other journalism support organizations like ONA.

4. Keep costs down.

We get it – conferences and travel are not cheap. So we’ve got a few ideas for how you can keep costs down and still have a great experience.

  • Get a group discount: Band together with colleagues — we offer $50 off each ticket for groups of 10 or more from an organization.
  • Consider traveling and booking a hotel room with colleagues or friends if you’re attending ONA23: Philadelphia.
  • Apply for a scholarship or volunteer opportunity.
  • Become an ONA member, if you aren’t already! Members save at least 30% on registration.
  • Factor in the total cost: If this applies to your work situation, make sure you’re coordinating with your manager and organization to see what costs they will cover so that you know what, if anything, you’ll be paying out of pocket.

Learn more about ONA23 passes

5. Make a plan to share and apply what you learn.

If someone is funding your trip to ONA23, they’ll want to know what you learned. Plus, you need to collect this information for your own purposes — who hasn’t gone to an event where you came back with a bunch of new ideas and promptly forgot them? Here’s how you can report back and keep a record of what you got out of ONA23.

  • Present to colleagues: Before the conference, ask for a block of time in a future staff meeting or another gathering with colleagues to tell them about the sessions that stuck with you and the resources you brought back.
  • Start small: Plan to experiment with one new idea based on something that inspired you at ONA23. Make a list of tools or processes to try that catch your attention during the conference and commit to trying one.
  • Dream big: As you take in everything at ONA23, think about what you would like to try or change if you had no budget restrictions. What’s the first step to get there? Then, take that step.
  • Come up with an accountability plan: Pick a buddy to keep you on track, or set yourself calendar reminders to take the next steps — whether it’s a specific action to take immediately after ONA23 or progress check-in six months from now..

Your future self and your colleagues will thank you for sharing and documenting! For more details and ideas, listen to the ONA18 session “Tips for Sharing When You Get Home.”

If you need more information to make the case to join us at ONA23, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us at registration@journalists.org — we’re here to help!