First Time Participant

What to know if this is your first ONA conference

(or you need a refresher!)

If you’re considering registering for ONA23 as a first-time attendee, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Each year, approximately fifty percent of our participants are joining us for the first time, creating a nice mix of new faces and seasoned veterans.

Whether it’s your first time attending or you just want a refresher, we’ve pulled together information below to help you make the most of your experience. Overall, we want to create a respectful, thoughtful environment for all participants, including you!

Preparing to register

  • Need to convince someone ONA23 will be a worthwhile experience for you? We’ve got you covered with our Why Attend ONA23 page.
  • Need help with fees? We offer a number of opportunities to make it free to participate in ONA23. If you’re not sure whether you’ll qualify and can swing the registration fee, you can always register now and we can refund you if you’re accepted for a scholarship or volunteer opportunity.
  • Want to know more about what the day-to-day will look like? You can look at the ONA22 schedule for a sense of the kinds of topics and presenters we include. Our initial ONA23 schedule will be posted in late May, with updates coming through July.

Schedule and travel

  • Want to know when to plan your arrival and departure? Or, if you’re participating virtually, when to block off time on your calendar? You can view a skeleton schedule here.
  • If you’re joining us in-person, we offer discounted rates at the host hotel, making it easy to get to and from the conference activities. (Hint: The hotel block typically sells out way earlier than conference tickets do, so we encourage you to make your reservation early!)

Know before you go

  • We will host a virtual webinar for both in person and virtual participants in advance of ONA23 so you can maximize your time.
  • We have a Code of Conduct that sets expectations for our events. In short, be thoughtful, be kind and be prepared to engage in some great dialogue.

Veteran tips

We’ve collected tips from conference veterans over the years and have consolidated a few here:

  • Don’t be afraid to jump into the conversation. Sometimes first-time participants, especially if they are students or young professionals, are shy about asking questions or joining discussions. They don’t want to say something that will seem embarrassing, which is understandable. But the reality is that industry veterans love hearing new voices. The conference is based around evolving the journalism industry, and the only way that will happen is to listen to fresh perspectives.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll have to prioritize your time to pick your top sessions, network when you’re up for it, and rest when you need downtime. We understand you may have some fear of missing out — but you’ll get more learning, connections and inspiration from the conference if you give yourself time to slow down and focus.
  • Networking doesn’t have to be terrible. Many people are concerned networking will feel like a high pressure sales pitch. We understand that! But we’ve heard so many incredible stories over the years of people finding their favorite colleagues at our conferences, often sparked by a casual conversation. Lead with your passions and your kindest self, and you’ll likely find some terrific new friends.

Have more questions? We try to share helpful information (and love feedback, good and bad). You can reach us at Please note we’re a relatively small non-profit team, so we’ll try to get back to you within about 24 hours Monday-Friday.