Be Creative in the Format of Your Session!

One of the main benefits of ProductCamp is the exchange of ideas and this happens primarily in the breakout sessions. The value of the event is determined by the number and diversity of sessions people volunteer to lead.

The purpose of this article is to encourage you to propose a session, assure you it’s really easier than you think and suggest there are many ways you can structure it. It doesn’t have to be a polished, well-researched, formal oration with stunning PowerPoint slides crafted by a graphic designer.

First, what works well? Research shows that ProductCamp participants like:

  • Interactivity
  • Discussion
  • Use Cases/Real World Examples
  • Whiteboards
  • Games and exercises
  • Take-home artifacts and online resources

So what are some different formats you might consider?

Townhall – The Town Hall typically leads with a brief presentation (15 -20 minutes) on a specific topic area and then transitions into an open discussion encouraging input, conversation and even debate from all participants. Town Hall sessions are consistently among the most popular ProductCamp sessions.

Roundtable – This format can take many shapes, but in general, participants break up into smaller discussion groups focused on a specific topic or topic area, and then present or discuss their findings with the group at the end. A moderator typically floats from table to table to help stimulate the discussion or contribute expertise and perspective.

Workshop – In a workshop, the session leader introduces a topic or concept and the participants actively participate in an exercise to reinforce those concepts. Workshop participants generally leave the session with a strong grasp of the topic area and have an opportunity to apply their new knowledge immediately. If proposing this session, make sure your description includes details about the expected outcome of the workshop.

Panel Discussion – This popular format is usually led by a moderator and a panel of 2-3 topical experts. The panelists may or may not give an opening statement on the session topic, but the majority of the session is a Q&A facilitated by the moderator, using a combination of prepared questions and impromptu questions from the audience. The most successful panel discussions have a well-defined topic, and rely heavily on audience questions.

Ask the Expert – This format is most successful with a recognized authority on a subject of wide interest, or a direct participant in some particularly interesting event or phenomenon. The expert or a moderator introduces the topic and frames some appropriate discussion and then opens the floor for questions, including those that might be somewhat specific as long as they are applicable to more people than the individual questioner.

Presentation – While ProductCampers tend to avoid traditional one-way “talking head” presentations, good speakers and experts can pull them off and deliver extremely successful sessions. If you are considering offering a session in this format, we suggest strongly considering whether another format might be a more engaging way to create an ongoing discussion in your topic area. If your topic really needs a traditional presentation, bring it on.

These are only a few possible formats. You may think of others. The key is pick a topic that will be of interest to a number of attendees and choose a format that will generate interaction and tap into the collective wisdom and experience of everyone attending. And don’t forget to have fun!

You’re no longer a ProductCamp spectator – you’ve moved from the stands onto the field as a player. We know you will find this to be a fun and fulfilling experience.