Raindrops on roses [in the city of roses] and whiskers on kittens…These are a few of my favorite things [about Portland Product Camp]. Well, not exactly these, but let me get to the point.
Since my days as a Pragmatic Marketing instructor, I have attended 11 Product Camps. If you haven’t yet had the privilege of attending, here are my 11 favorite things about ProductCamps:
Early in my product management career, I had never met another product manager outside of my company. When I attended my first Product Camp in Silicon Valley, I was smitten with the whole process, starting with spending an entire, energizing, wild day with other product managers. While the talks were valuable, my favorite part was hanging out with other people who got what I did for a living when I was a product manager. Networking was more like group therapy.
While many of the sessions are led by people who have never presented publicly before, Product Camp is full of smart leaders in product management giving back to the industry by imparting their experiences (successes and failures).
The sessions are not supposed to be sales pitches. Even though vendors who serve product managers are there (see #2), they are there to share insight, engage the audience, and deliver valuable information. If you’re in a session that feels like a commercial, exercise the following rule.
Your mother may have taught you that it’s rude to stand up and leave in the middle of someone’s talk. Not at ProductCamp. If you’re in a session that is not meeting your expectations, use your two feet to walk out. As in life, at ProductCamp you’re responsible for your own happiness and satisfaction.
As a product manager, your most important skills are the ability to listen, observe, and engage with your market. Discovery. Such as learning what is important, critical problems that people are willing to pay to solve, and understanding the competitive landscape. At ProductCamp, practice your listening and observation skills with people at your table, in the hallways, while you’re munching sandwiches or cookies. Listen not only to the speakers, but to the questions your colleagues are asking during the sessions.
Be an active participant in the sessions. Even if you’re not ready for #7, you’ll get more out of the session if you ask a question, contribute to the discussion, or follow-up with the speaker afterwards.
The agenda is built by the attendees, which includes the possibility that you can lead a session. ProductCamp is a great venue for you to step outside of your comfort zone to present an idea, lead a discussion, or explore something new with a group of like-minded people. Great for your career, great for building your network. The content you present can lead to posts on Slideshare, LinkedIn updates, or blog entries. Why should you do that? Read my LinkedIn update on Why Product Managers Should Care About Content Marketing. (This was my session at Portland Product Camp 2016. Slides here.)
See #7. Plus, I love to see what people tweet at events I’m attending. Photos, pithy learnings, who is there, impressions of the day. People who can’t attend will often follow the tweets to participate virtually. You will gain new followers and find new people to follow whom you might have missed otherwise which may lead to great content that is relevant to you.
You will meet people at ProductCamp with whom you’ll want to continue the conversation. Reach out and set up coffee or lunch. I’ve met some great people at ProductCamps that I love to hang out with periodically to exchange ideas and challenges.
You can feel the energy emanating from people who are engaged and having fun. ProductCamps leave me pumped up and motivated to try something new.
I have decades of experience in product management and product marketing and I still learn something new at every ProductCamp I attend. The return on investment of time and money (and most importantly time away from your family) is huge. If you walk away with one or two great new ideas that you can put into practice right away, it’s worth your time once a year to attend. And each time you attend, thank your family for giving you ProductCamp and the opportunity to hang out with your peeps, learn something, and everything in between.
I’d love to hear what your favorite things are about ProductCamp.
About Barbara Nelson
I wasn’t always a marketing executive and consultant. My journey from the trenches to management to the executive suite to becoming an elite member of the Pragmatic Marketing team of instructors and back to the executive suite has given me a unique perspective on technology marketing.
Let me apply my expertise and passion to help you unlock your story to engage colleagues, customers, and buyers. From idea to content to visuals to delivery. Contact or follow me: Barb@BarbaraGNelson.com, @barbaragnelson, LinkedIn.