Back in September 2014, our leadership team gathered and set about the task of planning the next ProductCamp Portland. This would be our fourth Camp and we planned to improve the event in several dimensions: we wanted more attendees, across more industry segments, representing more varied ‘product’ roles. We also wanted to offer a more diverse set of sessions, to best represent and serve the needs of this larger, broader group of participants.
Location, Location, Location – The past 3 years we delivered Camp at a suburban high school. That venue was very affordable and convenient for some, but was not allowing us to scale up. This year, we moved downtown and opted for the Eliot Center, and were not disappointed. The venue is centrally located and they did a terrific job accommodating us. Yes, we were ‘tight’ at times, but it is often said ‘it’s better to pack a small room than not fill a larger one.’ We will go back there again, and will likely reserve more space next time.
We wanted to do another Saturday event but, as event planners know, many things compete for our discretionary time: family, fitness, housework, and seasonally, any number of outdoor activities. We deliberately scheduled our event for early March, anticipating with some confidence that it would surely be raining and dreary outside here in the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, Saturday March 7, 2015 dawned as a fabulous day here in the Rose City – a top-10 day, sunny in the 60’s. While most people in town rejoiced, we fretted. Happily, any concerns about the nice weather charming our attendees away vanished early in the day: Of the 207 people we registered, we checked in 154 at the door – a record for us on both fronts. Our move downtown, along with promoting the event more effectively than years past, seem to have paid off.
Our Business Model and why we charge admission – Most Productcamps do not charge admission. We too are mostly sponsor funded. But we charge $10 and there’s a reason we do so. Each year, we survey our registrants to learn why people register, then don’t show up on the day of Camp. There are lots of valid reasons, not the least of which is that ‘something more important’ came along. We hypothesized that by making participants pay a nominal $10 fee, they would have some ‘skin in the game’ and be less likely to no-show. As our numbers this year show, that hypothesis seems to be true. Our no-show rate dropped significantly – even in the face of that awesome, surprise weather. Finally, we advertise that this is ‘the best $10 you will ever spend on professional development’ and we think the camp experience delivers the goods. Heck, awesome training aside, getting breakfast, lunch & an after-party party thrown in are worth $10, no?
Worldwide, ProductCamp brings together smart, passionate people who are thought leaders in their respective businesses, or aspire to be. Portland is no exception, where several hundred Product practitioners and experts have opted-in to our Camp community. Is it any wonder that our sponsors want to reach these people?
Prior to camp, these folks proposed more than 25 intriguing sessions, with additional topics proposed onsite. Given this diversity, selecting the Sweet 16’ to offer at Camp is always a challenge for our participants – and scheduling them is even harder for our staff, especially while everybody is watching! When the smoke cleared, we offered sessions on such topics as ‘Blow up the F***ing Roadmap’, ‘From Vision to Prioritized Backlog’, ‘Mobile Product at Scale’ (by eBay, who ought to know), ‘Product Management in Healthcare’, ‘Make Good Products Great with Analytics’, and ‘Agile Fluency’. Our participants also selected sessions on UX & User Research. We are rounding up the content from all 16 topics as we receive it from our session leaders here. Check back over the next week as we complete this task.
Men, move over – Interestingly, of our 154 attendees, 93 are male and 61 are female. This equates to a male/female ratio of approximately 60/40. Let’s take a moment to reflect how awesome this is! It is often noted, rightfully so, that we need more females in tech, in every role. We are delighted to draw this many females, not merely to our event, but to careers in Product Management.
Last, we were delighted to welcome guests from afar, including leaders from ProductCamp Vancouver and ProductCamp Minnesota.
We have Awesome Sponsors – Seriously, take a look. These are leading local, national, and global companies who invest in Product Management, and they let their wallets do the talking. In return for helping fund our event, they can tap into the community. Some of our sponsors make tools for Product Management while others were there to find talent. Everybody wins.
Participant Event Survey – We measure lots of things about Camp. I’m going through our participant survey now. Next time I’ll share what our participants told us about their roles, their reasons for attending, and their thoughts on the event.