For the past 11 months, I’ve been working with AAJA’s national leadership team and programming chair to build out programming for our annual convention.
I was thrilled to have been tapped by this opportunity, especially given my work curating a diverse web journalism speakers list. My goals from the outset were to increase the diversity of the speakers, including getting more young speakers on sessions and panels.
Our speaker list is published here.
Major caveat: being a group of journalists of color, we were at a somewhat natural advantage. Still, in years past, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of diversity represented at some of the conference sessions.
How do we inspire the next generation of journalists to embrace diversity and become advocates when we’re trotting out panels that don’t reflect our mission?
We invited an AAJA member to lead every single session, which means we’re highlighting the amazing work our members do all year and makes them more seasoned speakers to be poached by other conferences.
In addition to racial diversity, our attendees will see an impressive array of gender and age. There are more than 27 sessions that are being led by women. At least 15 speakers are well under age 30 and more than a few are first-time speakers.
We were clear that diversity was a priority when we invited our members to lead sessions: “While every speaker does not need to be Asian or a member of AAJA, we encourage you to consider racial, gender and age diversity as you seek panelists for your session.”
I attended Spark Camp last year and really love their method of inviting half their guests, then having their chosen guests invite another guest to ensure they’re reaching an audience that goes beyond the pool of “usual suspects.” I’m also a fan of Deanna Zandt’s #one4one campaign to raise the profile of digital influencers from all backgrounds.
Next year for AAJA programming, I’m hoping to incorporate these concepts in our call for proposals. Maybe make it mandatory that for every session someone pitches, they would need to include a suggested speaker who is a student, recent graduate or emerging star — someone full of potential that our organization should be encouraging to grow as a speaker.
Through this process, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the work being done by and conversations I’ve had with Jeanne Brooks and Lisa Williams at the Online News Association, as well as Tiffany Shackelford at the Association of Alt Weeklies.
Our conference in New York City is just a few weeks away. I hope our AAJA members gain great value from the speakers we’ve assembled. I’m looking forward to getting the feedback and working again next year to make the programming even stronger for 2014.
I’m part of a community called the Tech Lady Mafia, and this topic of diversifying conferences comes up often. This post has been adapted from emails I’ve sent contributing to those conversations.
Resources, tips and ideas for AAJA convention go-ers:
* Be sure to add the sched.org app to your phone and start planning out your sessions.
* Planning to hit the job fair? Get your resume prepared with NABJ’s Benet Wilson with this webinar or listen to AAJA’s podcast with convention co-chair Brooke Camp and convention session leader Lars Schmidt about how to stand out in the crowd.
* All that networking is sure to work up an appetite, so check out our AAJAEats page with tips from AAJA-ers and locals on where to eat near the convention hotel.
* Prepare for George Kiriyama’s Sixth Annual Korean BBQ night, where we hope to flood 32nd St with convention goers. Do your research ahead of time for the best bulgogi, kalbi and Korean fried chicken stops!
* Still on the fence about attending? Let AAJA past president, Sharon Chan, convince you.
* More questions? Check out my post with advice for building your network, saving a few bucks, and making some new friends from last summer’s UNITY conference.
My first UNITY was in 2008 in Chicago — I was still a student, looking for my next big internship, and scared as hell. UNITY is a large event and can be incredibly overwhelming.
So, with that in mind — here’s my two cents of advice to first-time convention goers:
* Talk to everyone—but be mindful of people’s time! If someone’s group of friends appears to be leaving them behind because they are still talking to you, exchange contact information and let them be on they’re way. On the flip side, if you’re a UNITY veteran and you meet a newbie who appears to not have arrived with an entourage, adopt him or her and introduce them to your crowd.
* Bring business cards, and lots of ‘em. Good places to pick them up for cheap are Vistaprint.com and Moo.com (the former is probably cheaper, though at this late date you’d have to pay rush shipping, I think; the latter creates beautiful photo-based cards and has integration with Facebook and can pull from your cover photos album to show) and pass them out like candy. Stay organized with the ones you receive.
* Dress professionally! My mentor, Benet Wilson, created a group "What to Wear at NABJ" board on Pinterest, which is a great resource for UNITY-goers. She also has a "What Not To Wear" board for folks who aren’t real clear on the line between classy and not-so-classy falls. Also, it’s usually freezing in conference rooms despite the blazing heat outside. Layers are key.
* Follow up quickly. If you meet a new contact that you hope to stay in touch with, shoot them an email to thank them for their time or ask a follow up question. If you meet someone who gave you great advice, invested a lot of time with you or helped you make another great connection, send them a thank you card. Yes, a real, cardstock, in-the-physical-post-office-mail thank you card.
* Socialize! If you’re young or new to one of the alliance organizations, the best thing you can do is meet people who are leaders, movers and shakers. Get to know folks “off the clock” and become part of the fold.
* Label your gear. A thousand tech-savvy and tech-dependent folks running around a small space for 5 days? Yeah, that’s a lot of iPads, iPhones and a sea of white chargers laying about. Put your name on yours.
* Pack snacks. If you’re watching your budget, one of the fastest ways these conferences can get expensive is by eating at the convention center every day. UNITY in Chicago was sort of isolated and there weren’t a ton of off-site, walkable lunch options. Throw some almonds or granola bars in your bag so you aren’t 100% reliant on $12-a-plate cafeteria lunches.
* Share the wealth! Not everyone can attend UNITY and once you’re there no one can attend all of the great sessions they’d love to. If you’re in a great panel, consider blogging or tweeting some of the insights you pick up (and share on the #UNITY12 hashtag, of course).
* Please, read this: How to Ask Questions at a Panel. It was floating around during SXSW this year and I hope we can apply it at UNITY. Ask questions at panels, contribute to the discussion, but please don’t waste people’s time by self-promoting or picking fights with the panelists.
See you in Vegas!
See you in New York!
When we made the decision to move from Minnesota this year, one of the biggest losses I’ve felt was that of the AAJA Minnesota chapter. I had spent six years as a member of the Minnesota chapter, five of them serving on the board as student representative and co-president. The AAJA Minnesota board became not only a source of my incredible mentors, but great friends who felt like a family.
I’ve decided to apply my experience working on a local chapter in our new home, and am currently running for Vice President for Online within the AAJA DC chapter.
Any AAJA DC full members, I’d greatly appreciate your vote and support.
In the contested chapter president race, I’m backing POLITICO’s Seung-Min Kim. Her candidacy statement is included on the ballot emailed to all chapter members eligible to vote. I’ve been impressed with her leadership since moving to the area and am excited about her ideas to continue leading the chapter.
AAJA DC is also seeking members to step up to fill positions of treasurer, community liaison and member outreach.