Midway Programming Application Tips & FAQs

Considerations for Developing Your Midway Session Proposal

As you think through your session concept, consider the following:

  • Audience: Who is your target audience? How is this concept relevant to that audience? How will you keep them engaged? What would you like them to walk away with once the session is over?
  • Concept: Your chief aim is to share knowledge with the community, not focus on a single product or project. People attend ONA conference sessions with a specific purpose: to be inspired by a new idea or learn a new skill. As you flesh out your idea, consider the following:
    • Can you be solutions-oriented? What may those solutions be?
    • Can you be specific? Think about why and how you think your topic is useful for ONA attendees, and why an attendee would take time to watch/participate live or watch the recording.
  • Your team and time: Who will be involved in this programming? Does that person/do they reflect the diversity of the ONA community? Can they commit to about four hours of preparation time before mid-August? Would they be open to collaboration and constructive feedback from ONA and potential co-presenters from other groups?

Questions You Might Have

What is the Midway?
In 2020, ONA took the tech space at our annual conference — formerly branded as the Midway — and applied it to all companies interested in showcasing their tools, products and more to ONA’s audience; effectively combining our exhibit hall and the Midway space. The Midway features the Start-Up Alley, as well as a dedicated series of curated sessions featuring conference supporters. With ONA23, the main exhibit space onsite — Franklin Hall on the 4th floor of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown — is called the Midway. All types of organizations are now included in the Midway, from social platforms to newsrooms seeking top talent.

What are examples of good Midway Programming?

Can I ask for advice before submitting my idea?
Yes, absolutely! Please email Hanaa Rifaey, who manages the Midway Programming, at hanaa@journalists.org with any questions. She can have a quick conversation to talk through your ideas, but please do not plan for her to edit your proposal.

There is another group (or groups) sponsoring ONA23 that compliments what we’re doing. Could we partner up and share a proposal together?
Yes! If you don’t already have a relationship with that group, please let Hanaa know if it would be helpful to have an introduction.

Is it possible that, if selected, I will be asked to have speakers from another Midway group in my session?
It is possible that it will make for better programming.

If selected, will my group receive additional full passes with our sponsorship package?
No. Please take this into consideration when considering potential speakers from your group because every speaker must have a full ONA23 pass to present.

Can I have people from outside of my group speak on my behalf in the Midway session, if selected?
This is something we would address on a case-by-case basis. If this is something you are considering, please include this in your session proposal.

My group is an ONA23 sponsor. Does this mean that we are guaranteed a speaking spot in a Midway session?
With the rebranding of the Midway to now also include what was previously known as the ONA Exhibit Hall, it is not logistically possible to accommodate all of the participating groups.

Can my group apply before committing to sponsor ONA23?
Yes, but if selected, your group will need to have a signed agreement in place within one week of the acceptance email (by May 26) to move forward.

Will Midway Programming be livestreamed?
No, but basic A/V, including mics and screens, will be provided as part of the programming space

Is there an option to do a pre-recorded session instead of a live session?

Can speakers participate virtually in live Midway Programming?
No. All speakers participating in live Midway Programming must have a full registration pass to ONA23 and plan to be present onsite at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. on the scheduled day of their session.

I have a great ONA23 topic idea but … it’s all about my company. Can I still submit?
Midway programming is not a place for sales pitches — but there is space for you to do that at your onsite exhibit space and as you connect with attendees. We are also offering special RSVP-only sessions on Wednesday, Aug. 23, specifically for organizations looking to train existing or prospective customers on new tools or systems, as well as private rooms that partners can use to offer training or hospitality during ONA23. Contact Jessica Strelitz for information on private room availability.

What makes for a good proposal?
The more specific your idea is, the better. We’re more interested in your idea and the kind of information you want to share rather than how you would share that idea. Check out the ONA22 schedule to get a sense of the various types of sponsored programming, including Midway sessions.

How important is diversity in consideration?
ONA is strongly committed to being as inclusive as possible in speaker selection and topic programming. This means supporting diversity in speaker demographics, including sex and gender, ethnicity and race, ability and disability, region and geography and professional background and experience, among other metrics. It also means balancing active versus passive session concepts, programming for people working multiple news focus areas and work roles, attracting ONA conference newcomers and making sure sessions are not dominated by a single organization.

What makes for a good title?
Cute titles are really fun! But keep in mind that your title will be fighting for attention with dozens of others. Be direct and descriptive.

If my idea is selected, what happens next?
ONA will work closely with you to develop your session. The more preparation you put in, the better the session will turn out. We estimate a minimum of four hours of prep will be needed. We will work together to flesh out your concept, develop the format, and execute the session itself. ONA attendees are smart people who enjoy smart programming. They will figure it out if you have not fully prepared and will leave your session to find something more interesting.

Is there any reason why you might cancel my session?
ONA reserves the right to cancel your session if you do not communicate in a timely fashion, adhere to our diversity principles, submit information on a pre-discussed schedule or take part in the pre-event development process.

Still have a question?
Happy to talk! Please email Hanaa at hanaa@journalists.org.