Staff picks: Don't miss these seven talks at ONA16 – Trevor Knoblich

PewResearchLogo-colorThis post is sponsored by the Pew Research Center.

Stop by the Pew space on the Midway during Thursday Office Hours from 2-3 p.m. They will be discussing the defining traits of the modern news consumer in today’s complex and digital news environment, as well as their 2016 state of the news media report.

I’m excited. You’re excited. ONA16 is an exciting time! Our annual gathering represents the culmination of months of work from our staff and Program Team to bring you meaty conversations to dig into, and fresh ideas to bring back to your newsrooms.

Since there are so many concurrent sessions at ONA16, we’re often asked to guide people on the “can’t-miss” sessions of the conference. It’s a bit like asking someone to pick out the most colorful fish in a reef tank — a subjective choice in a sea of wonder — but here are a few of my favorites, and I’d encourage you to check them out.

Hype or Here: When Should I Use 360/VR in My Storytelling, Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

The past year has been a watershed time in news for immersive content such as 360 video and virtual reality experiences. A number of organizations have launched new projects — or even whole units — in 2016, and our expert panel hopes to convince you we’re past the hype … the tech, the tools and the amazing experiences are here. Which begs the question: When do we actually put these tools to work for us? And if you’re interested in virtual reality, Board Member Robert Hernandez made a handy at-a-glance schedule of VR sessions at ONA16.

Product-ify Your Newsroom: Innovate with Product Thinking, Thursday, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

“Our workflows are broken.” This has become the chief concern raised with Team ONA over the past year, supplanting even, “How do I maintain a presence on so many social media channels at once?” We have an incredible crew lined up to talk about how product development principles can apply to journalism, bringing you efficiency and a better product.

Planning Chat for Scale by Predicting a Two-Way Conversation, Thursday, 4-5 p.m.

Two topics are converging in journalism at the moment: the incredible proliferation of chat apps (and in successful cases, a boost in click rates to our stories) as well as the need to have a more open dialogue with our community. But if a project really takes off, how do you keep an audience of potentially thousands engaged? Automation seems the obvious answer, but we’ll talk about the need for a human touch behind it all.

Table Talks, Friday, 10 a.m -12 p.m.

Our popular Table Talks are a type of unconference — a chance for attendees to dig into topics they care about with other people passionate about the same subjects. You’ll have more time than a standard conference session allows to explore complex ideas. These were among our top-rated sessions at ONA15, and we’ve incorporated some great feedback to roll out an improved version for ONA16.

Designing More Emotionally Intelligent Digital Experiences, Friday, 2-3 p.m.

Every year, I feel like there’s a session people should be paying careful attention to, but might overlook. This is that session in 2016. If this election cycle has taught us anything, it’s that feels matter most in how we perceive and share information. Newsrooms that master emotional resonance will be the next wave of attention-grabbing sites. Get the jump on this with Fast Company’s terrific Anjali Mullany.

Fail Fest: I Failed, It Sucked, But Here’s How I Bounced Back, Saturday, 10-11 a.m.

In what’s becoming a perennial favorite at our conference, the Fail Fest will air out those big ideas that went sideways — you know, the ones where we really learn something. It’s a session with high energy, humor and some great lessons learned. What more could you want from a conference session?

Developing the Audience You Don’t Have, Saturday, 11:30 a.m -12:30 p.m.

In past conferences, we’ve focused a lot on analytics for existing audiences to better understand their needs and expectations, and that continues this year. But the ONA16 Program Team felt strongly we didn’t have enough sessions to address getting a whole new group of readers, viewers and users interested and engaged in your stories. Since growth is a priority for most newsrooms, this is becoming a can’t-miss session for many.