The ONA conference can be overwhelming. Here are 11 great ways to make #ONA19 smaller.
1. Check out these speakers
Every year at ONA, a diverse group of journalists, developers, product managers and other industry leaders offer insights on the future of news. Don’t miss these events:
- 2:30 p.m. Friday: Everdeen Mason will talk about experiments newsrooms can try to test their abilities to reach audiences. It will be especially helpful for anyone at a traditional news outlet looking to take some digital risks. “Editorial Experiments to Develop and Refine Your Digital Audience Strategy” takes place on the fifth floor in Grand Ballroom D at the Sheraton.
- 4 p.m. Friday: Saheli Datta, an applied scientist at Microsoft, will speak on how machine-learning converges with online news. “Fireside Chat on Machine Learning with Microsoft” takes place on the fifth floor in Grand Ballroom D at the Sheraton.
- 2:30 p.m. Saturday: Andrew Losowsky and Heather Chaplin will guide the audience in an interactive session and imagining the future of news. Losowsky runs Coral, a Vox Media product, and Chaplin is director of Journalism + Design at The New School. “A Game for Imagining the Next Generation of News” takes place on the fourth floor in Bayside C at the Sheraton.
2. Browse the Exhibit Hall and Midway
Full of vendors, free stuff, media companies and schools, the Midway is the perfect place to pop in between conference sessions or when you just don’t want to take notes for another minute.
CNN Newsource will host a talk about “must-see” video from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, during which conference-goers can drop in at anytime. And Parse.ly is back with green food — green king cake, green yogurt parfaits and green beignets are just some of the options throughout the conference. Other booths feature Sinclair, Chartbeat, USA Today Network Careers and Sony. (And did we mention there’s free stuff?)
The Midway is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
3. Stroll through the French Quarter
The city’s oldest neighborhood is filled with two-story Creole townhouses with wrought-iron balconies and Creole cottages with steep roofs and long front porches. New Orleans embraces its 301-year-old history and often preserves the older buildings and neighborhoods to maintain the cultural identity of the city. According to the city’s Historic District Landmark Commission, the Creole architecture style was influenced by French, Spanish and Caribbean cultures. Some key features you’ll see include French doors, large windows and shutters on all windows and doors.
4. Build your network
Use Twitter hashtags to find people at large conferences like ONA. To signal that you are at the conference, you can include #ONA19 in your handle or bio. Some folks also like to find groups with hashtags like #NABJatONA or #mediadiversity. Once you’re connected with your mentor-to-be, future colleague or new best friend, jot down their information by grabbing a business card or taking a picture of their conference badge. Another option is to use LinkedIn’s QR code feature (which can be found in the right corner of the search bar when you open the app).
AUSTIN _ Look at this beautiful gang of brilliance at #ONA18 – We are #NABJatONA, and it was a fantastic conference, a great bookend to #NABJ18 in Detroit! pic.twitter.com/HkYNcjTWDQ
— Rochelle Riley (@rochelleriley) September 15, 2018
5. Find your community
Conferencing can be overwhelming. It’s important to find people who you feel comfortable around and who understand you and where you come from. For journalists of color, there are a number of spaces dedicated to community and diversity. Storytelling in Spanish at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Melpomene will be a great opportunity to explore Spanish public radio. If you need space to unwind, the SRCCON Takeover is the perfect session to meet other people of color, get advice from seasoned journalists and de-stress with some arts and crafts.
ONA shines with its parties. The opening night reception, which starts 6:30 p.m. Thursday at
at Generations Hall Mardi Gras World, offers drinks, food and a welcome to New Orleans with a brass band. Generations Hall is a 15-minute walk from the Sheraton. UPDATE 3:42 p.m., Sept. 12: ONA announced a venue change for the opening reception Thursday afternoon. Shuttle buses will run from the Sheraton and Intercontinental hotels.
Throughout the week and weekend, unofficial events for attendees and partiers will be held off-site. One of the highlights is the coveted Google party, which will be hosted at the Riverview Room, a 10-minute walk from the Sheraton, from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. It’s a function so exclusive that those who have already RSVP’d are not guaranteed entry.
Take it from Mark Briggs, vice president at SmithGeiger, who has attended ONA for 15 years. He views the parties as “a celebration for digital journalism.” What are some tips for the party circuit? “Don’t go to bed early, and drink lots of water,” Briggs said. “Take care of your body and mind.”
7. Take a tour
Did an ONA-sponsored tour fill up before you snagged a spot? There are several options for tours all around the city with a wide variety of topics to fit any interest, from a history tour to nighttime tours featuring ghosts, vampires and voodoo:
- Southern Style Tours gives first-time visitors a chance to learn more about the history, culture and architecture unique to New Orleans.
- If you’re interested in Mardi Gras, take a behind-the-scenes tour at the New Orleans Mardi Gras World. Check out where the Mardi Gras parade floats are made, try on costumes and even get a piece of King Cake at the end of the tour.
- Discover the swamps and bayou with a boat tour in Honey Island Swamp. Learn more about one of the last protected wetlands in the state.
If there isn’t a tour that fits your schedule, hop on the historic streetcar and make your own way around the city. A single ride is $1.25 per person (exact change only), and a daylong pass is $3.
8. Experience the music
Welcome to the birthplace of jazz: New Orleans! On any day or night, you can hear the upbeat, sophisticated and swinging sounds of jazz filling the city’s clubs and streets. Want to know where to catch it live? This week, we’ll release our top spots to visit for a great live jazz experience.
9. Eat and drink
For groups interested in experiencing the culinary scene in a U.S. food capital, here are the 10 best spots to eat and drink with a group in New Orleans. We picked spots that are an easy walk from the Sheraton.
10. Unwind at Unconferences
Is there something you really wanted to learn about that you’re not seeing on the schedule? Check out the Unconferences. Unconference sessions last an hour and focus on topics that haven’t been covered throughout the event. They’ll take place Saturday, and you can vote on what gets chosen. Seeing something you like? Voting is open until 5 p.m. Vote here.
11. See the Future
The 12th Annual Tech Trends for Journalists is an ONA staple. Each year Webb, a “quantitative futurist,” presents a report on trends in the industry. Webb is known for giving energetic talks and pragmatic predictions. Webb is the founder and CEO of Future Today Institute, a strategy firm that helps prepare for the future of tech. Aside from the wealth of knowledge, Webb’s session is always sprinkled with prizes. Last year’s session even had mimosas. She confirmed in a Twitter DM that there will be prizes this year again. The featured session will be 10 a.m. Saturday in Grand Ballroom C at the Sheraton.
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