The rundown on RightsCon: 5 reasons why you should lead a session (and how to do it)

UPDATE, 11/20: If you haven’t submitted your RightsCon session proposal yet, you’re in luck: we have extended the deadline for proposals to December 4th, 2017.


Every year, we invite each of you to play your part in setting the RightsCon agenda by designing and building a session through our Call for Proposals.

Leading a session is the best way to get involved at RightsCon. Here are our top 5 reasons why:

1.) Make a direct impact with your work. This is your chance to launch a new report, showcase a new technology product, lead a crash course on a particular topic, raise awareness of a trend in your country or area, or share best practices from your field.

2.) Connect with allies and partners. Networking with our expansive global community is an excellent way to forge strong bonds with people at fellow organizations and find collaborators for your projects and initiatives. By leading a session on a specific issue or challenge, you guarantee yourself an audience of interested stakeholders and future partners. This year, we’ve introduced new ways to elevate our RightsCon communities, including highlighting our local champions, connecting people with new networking platforms, and creating intuitive and collaborative program tracks.

3.) Learn from our community. Take advantage of having the leading experts at the intersection of technology and human rights together at the same place. Curate your session for the purpose of knowledge sharing among participants. Get diverse feedback and advice from people from different sectors, countries, and perspectives.

4.) Workshop solutions and develop outcomes. Want to tackle a particular challenge you’re facing in your work? At RightsCon, you can take dialogue on critical digital issues one step further by facilitating practical sessions to identify and solidify tangible outcomes.

5.) Influence global norms. Every year, RightsCon plays a critical role in setting the agenda for human rights in the digital age. Our community shapes the internet, telecommunications, and digital policies impacting people worldwide — and the session you propose will play an integral role in this. You can be a part of challenging the status quo and driving change.

Glad you’re on board! Next, get familiar with the RightsCon style:

At RightsCon, we believe that intimate, outcome-oriented, interactive gatherings are the best way to facilitate dialogue, develop networks, and foster post-conference action. We want all of our sessions to be driven by a focus on driving change. Based on our experience, we have a few suggestions to help you out:

  •  State your objectives. Knowing what your goal is will help you craft a proposal that gets you there.
  •  Prioritize participation. Consider who your audience is and engage them in reaching your goal.
  • Break down silos. Don’t be afraid to cross stakeholder lines in your invites to session participants.
  •  Challenge the status quo. This is your opportunity to disrupt pre-existing beliefs.
  • Plan with an outcome in mind. Work to build momentum that will carry on past RightsCon.
Last step — nailing down the details:

First, check our guide: We recommend you take a look through our submission guideline before starting. It offers insight into how we evaluate proposals (is it diverse, relevant, outcome-oriented, collaborative, and original?), provides helpful tips and suggestions for what makes a great proposal (including example submissions!), and has details on this year’s 17 program buckets (everything from artificial intelligence, automation, and algorithmic accountability, to digital tech and sustainable development).

Next, choose the right format: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to setting the RightsCon agenda, but the key to a successful session is picking the right format to engage participants and achieve your objectives. There are many different formats you can choose from:

  • Need to get our community together to problem-solve a major challenge? Design a Fishbowl.
  • Want to launch or showcase a new internet freedom product? Do a Tech Demo.
  • Have a specific policy or advocacy strategy you want to map out? Lead a Workshop.
  • Looking to give a crash course on a recent development in your field? Give a Lightning Talk.

Finally, while competition is steep and you should put your best foot forward, remember your submission doesn’t need to be set in stone on the first go! Think of this as your concept note. If accepted, we’ll work with you to fine tune your session for the greatest impact.

As always, we’re here to help! Email us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

P.S. We’ve officially launched ticket sales! Did you know that we provide program session organizers and speakers with generous discount codes for the event? You can find out more information about our ticket policy here.