Beginners Guide to ProductCamp

Wow. If you haven’t been to a ProductCamp, you’re in for a treat.

ProductCamp Seattle is an unconference put on by the Product Management Consortium; it’s our big annual event.

What’s an unconference? Well, take everything that sucks about a conference and turn it upside down. Think about the hallmarks of a conference:

  • The keynote speaker, who’s supposed to be a thought leader, is giving a thinly veiled product pitch.
  • The panelists on the dais, by virtue of having been invited to speak, are often completely out of touch with the reality facing the audience. If you were to take any 5 random people out of the audience and put them on the panel, you’d have a more relevant, more relatable, and more authentic discussion than you could ever get out of the high profile talking heads.
  • The sessions were planned 6 to 18 months in advance, so they’re no longer topical. You already solved that problem or learned that lesson. Today’s problems will be covered in the next conference.
  • If you wind up in a session that’s a horrible waste of time, you feel obliged to sit through the whole thing. You paid for it, and you don’t want to be rude to the speaker or the audience.
  • Conferences are expensive.
  • The most valuable time at a conference is the 15 minutes of networking you spend waiting in line for the shuttle or the coffee or the bathroom. Awkward, abrupt, inopportune.

How would you fix that?

  • No keynote speakers. No product pitches or any other kind of pitch.
  • The attendees are participants. The participants are the presenters. They are the panelists. Every participant can propose sessions. Then the participants vote on the session proposals. The most popular sessions are scheduled into a grid of rooms and times. That’s how the day is planned. It couldn’t be more relevant and topical to that particular audience.
  • If you wind up in a session that you’re not enjoying, you should obey the Law of Two Feet. Namely: you have two feet; use ‘em. If you’re not getting value out of a session, you owe it to yourself, the group, and the presenter to leave the session and find something else. If you’re not adding value, you’re detracting value, and you’re accountable for the quality of your own experiences.
  • Unconferences are nominally priced. Usually, they’re FREE!
  • Unconferences are built to optimize networking, engagement, enjoyment.

In a conference, you get all the usual suspects. In an unconference, you also get amazing new voices that come out of the woodwork, looking for just such a forum. Those brilliant people you would pay to speak at your conference? Those people come to an unconference, only they aren’t trotting out the presentation they’ve given a dozen times already and are bored by. They’re bringing their freshest content, their raw ideas.

I’m telling you, you will love it! It’s the most surprising and elegant organized chaos you’ll experience this year.

I’ll see you there!

Dave Manningsmith@manningsmith

Beginners Guide to ProductCamp