Get in the Game at ProductCamp

Ok, you plunked down your money and you registered for Camp. You’re obviously knowledgeable and passionate about Product Management, right, or you wouldn’t be here. Many others are too – and ProductCamp is all about leveraging the power of community to advance the dialog, share insights, and refine best practices for this career path we’ve chosen. We’re pretty informal around here: there are no keynote speakers or ‘big-room’ presentations. Camp is peer-led and all sessions are facilitated by You, our participants.

Now, it’s time for you to get in the game. You can do this. And you must. Here are three assertions for any practicing or aspiring Product Manager/Marketer to consider:

  • Product Management is not a spectator sport. One critical success factor & career skill for you must master is influencing others to take action: Customers, Developers, Executives, Partners…
  • It is often said that ‘you don’t really understand something unless you can explain it’.
  • If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Leverage the knowledge of others!

So, there is real personal upside for you in stepping up to lead a session at ProductCamp.

But, you haven’t done this before and you’re hesitant. Perhaps you don’t ‘do’ group presentations. Maybe you work with a PM Rockstar (credit: Paul Young) and don’t think you have ‘what it takes’. Maybe you’re not sure about which specific topic to talk about.

You can so do this, and we’ve got your back. Now that you’re thinking about offering a session, here are seven tips, tricks and best practices to help reduce your anxiety and ensure your success:

  1. Test the waters, before Camp – post one or more session ideas at our site(2015 session proposals will be on the air soon) and allow others to ‘upvote’ them. Final sessions are not selected by participants until Camp begins, but this will give you an early idea of interest in your topic. We will re-post all online session submissions at Camp, so you could have an early advantage in having your topic selected vs participants who submit ‘write-ins’ on the day of camp. Luck favors the prepared.
  2. Keep the session title short, and make it compelling- You’re competing for votes with many other topics and the ones that are easily understood, and valued, will be awarded sessions. Participants won’t have a lot of time to read long narratives. Be clear on the value prop of your session – ‘what’s in it for the attendees’ (you’re a PM, after all!). Our Camp, like several, provides the opportunity for prospective session leaders to do a 2-minute, live pitch before session selection begins. Practice your elevator pitch so you can nail it and become one of the must-attend sessions.
  3. Think ‘Discussion’, not ‘Presentation’- Don’t worry about being polished or perfect. You will have a room full of like-minded people who are there to learn and want to contribute, so make it easy for them to do so. Seek feedback on your hypothesis. Ask your participants to make choices, brainstorm solutions, or share what they have done. Keep it low-tech if you can. There will be projectors in each class room, for your laptop but we will also provide flip charts & markers for your use. Use them!
  4. Keep it Simple, Make it Fun – Consider facilitating a game or exercise to draw people in, get them thinking, talking, and contributing.
  5. No Selling! Sponsors and participants alike agree that Camp is not a trade show and sessions are not thinly veiled infomercials for your product or service.
  6. Manage your time – You will have 50 minutes for your session. Go light on the slides. Plan your opening, middle & close. ‘Nuff said.
  7. Assign a scribe – Your session participants will want to capture any magic that happens, take it home, and put it into action. We ask all session leads to post their notes online immediately after Camp ends.

Camp is a safe place to take risks, test ideas and build your confidence among your peers. That’s why many companies encourage their product managers to attend and many even offer training credit. At the end of the day, we will award prizes to those session leaders who have been recognized by their peers as having the ‘best’ sessions, in several categories.

If you’re a ProductCamp veteran, please feel free to provide some other and tricks in the comments.

See you at Camp!