By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

Dennis Hetzel


The leaves aren’t falling yet, but our Convention Committee is working hard to make our 2014 convention one of the best ever.

We want to send members home with actionable ideas and new skills. The committee, chaired by Lori Figurski of the Martins Ferry Times-Leader, wants a program that will appeal to not just top executives but also mid-level managers.

For perhaps the first time, we will have as many as three program tracks at once with repeats of some panels so that attendees who miss a desired program get a second chance. We also are going to lower registration costs for organizations that send more than one person.

Sarah Sladek

Sarah Sladek

We’ve already confirmed an outstanding keynote speaker, Sarah Sladek, who will focus on two big, related issues we constantly hear about from members: attracting and retaining bright, young employees and developing products that appeal to Generations X, Y and Z.

Sarah – a journalist in an earlier life – works with organizations across the country to bridge generation gaps and do succession planning.  Her presentation also will be a great segue into ONA’s second annual Rising Star awards to recognize employees who have made great contributions in a short period of time to Ohio’s newspapers.  We will be posting nomination forms soon.

Meanwhile, we are working to nail down speaking commitments for breakfast and lunch from major leaders in our industry and the advertiser world. Here are some of the other program topics we’re planning:

  • A pre-convention workshop on motivating sales staffs with Zack Ahrens of the Repository in Canton. Zack has led training sessions for many other groups such as the Local Media Association.
  • Protecting your content in the digital age
  • What it takes to have a “digital agency” in your ad department
  • Great content and story-telling techniques you’re probably missing for both print and digital
  • Watchdog reporting in tight times
  • Tips and tricks for monetizing mobile
  • Pricing models and rate cards that work
  • Our popular weekly newspaper roundtables
  • The Hooper and collegiate newspaper awards

A new wrinkle this year is that we will do the awards program in the morning and honor the top winners in general excellence from our weekly and collegiate papers at the luncheon so that they will receive greater recognition.

We expect more legislators and other key political decision makers at our opening night reception since the convention is moving to the new Hilton hotel in Columbus’ Arena District, only a few minutes from the Statehouse. We’re inviting both Gov. John Kasich for a return visit and his likely opponent, Democrat Ed FitzGerald.

The Arena District also is a safe, fun area. It will be an easy walk to dozens of great restaurants, clubs and shops in the district as well as the Short North neighborhood between downtown Columbus and the OSU campus.

So, circle Feb. 5 and 6, 2014, on your calendar now. And don’t hesitate to send us any suggestions you have.

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