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ProductCamp Wrap-up, and Introducing ProductPotluck!

Another ProductCamp Austin has come and gone – Austin’s third.  If you haven’t participated in, or planned a ProductCamp in your city, there really are no excuses left.  ProductCamp has proven itself to be the ultimate grassroots gathering for Product Management, Product Marketing, and Marketing pros anywhere.  Austin’s third edition had a some valuable highlights:

  • Participation continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  The first PCA, we had 90 show up.  The second, 160.  The third – over 300!  In just over a year, we’ve experienced over 300%+ growth.  Many businesses would be envious of that kind of growth.
  • We’ve managed to maintain the spirit and character of the event as we grow it.  We do a post-camp survey after each event, and for the third consecutive time, our “customer sat” metrics were off the charts great.  98% of our participants would recommend ProductCamp to a peer.  For the third PCA in a row, we scored a perfect 100% on the question “Would you come to ProductCamp again?”  That is a testament to the team we’ve grown around this event.
  • Sponsorship is increasing.  We run ProductCamp on a shoestring budget – less than $10,000 not included donations such as venue.  In the beginning, we had a big sales job to get national level sponsors like AIPMM and Pragmatic Marketing interested.  Now, all of the major national product management sponsors are involved: Pragmatic, ZigZag, and Sequent Learning.  Local companies such as SolarWinds and AustinVentures are also taking notice.  SolarWinds used ProductCamp as a recruiting tool – it makes sense, since only the most motivated, passionate people are going to give up a Saturday to geek on on Product Management topics with their peers.
  • We’ve (re)validated Austin’s corner of the world.  Austin’s tech community has always perplexed me.  There are so many of us here, and we are so disconnected.  Austin doesn’t have the pulse that Silicon Valley has, and we definitely don’t have the density.  We do have passion and strong leaders in spades.  This third PCA proved that we can drive huge turnout here, and outside of the Valley can claim to put on the biggest ‘Camp.
  • ProductCamp is spawning leaders and building a critical mass.  We’ve built a great core team: people like Colleen Heubaum, Mark Suchanek, Bertrand Hazard, John Peltier, John Milburn, Roger Cauvin, and Scott Sehlhorst (and many others) have all contributed to the planning and execution of multiple ProductCamps.  This team makes me believe that we have established momentum.  It will be exciting to see the next generation of leaders step up, and the established team can work with them and mentor them to keep ProductCamp fresh and exciting.

Gaining critical mass has been a huge undertaking for ProductCamp Austin.  Setting up and tearing down the leadership for each event, twice per year, is a massive undertaking in manpower and logistics.  One consitent piece of feedback that we’ve heard from the ProductCamp participants is that they would like to continue the ProductCamp experience between the semi-annual ‘Camps.  In Austin, we don’t have a strong central Product Management and Marketing networking group like in other areas of the country.  That does not mean that we have to settle!

To fill the gaps between ProductCamps, the team that brought you ProductCamp Austin is introducing a new flavor of the ProductCamp experience: ProductPotluck Austin.  ProductPotluck is a mini-version of ProductCamp: instead of an all day event, it will be a happy hour plus a one hour session.  Instead of many topic areas and dozens of potential presentations, ProductPotluck will have 2 topic areas of focus, and a handful of potential presentations (or roundtables, panel discussions, or workshops).  Just like ProductCamp, ProductPotluck is by and for the participants – we will still have participants voting on which sessions make “the cut,” and the majority of sessions will be offered by the participants themselves (we’re leaving a little wiggle room to bring in distinguished guests, too).  We’ll cap the whole thing off by providing more time for drinking and networking, which is always popular.  As always, ProductPotluck is FREE; your only cost is your participation.

Austin’s first ProductPotluck will be October 21st, at the AT&T Conference Center near the University of Texas campus.

Happy Hour will be in Gabriel’s Cafe, which is located in the lower lobby (Level LL), to the north inside the University Avenue entrance.

ProductPotluck Sessions will be held in Classrooms 101 and 103.

Parking is available in the AT&T Center underground parking lot.  Pay for parking in Gabriel’s Café during Happy Hour and receive the $7 discounted rate.

1900 University Avenue
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 404-1900


5:30-6:30pm  Sign-in, Networking Happy Hour, Final Sessions Voting – Gabriel’s Café

6:45-8:00pm Marketing and Product Strategy Presentations – Classrooms 101 & 103

8:00pm -?? Networking Happy Hour – Gabriel’s Café

The two topics we will focus on this month are: Marketing and Product Strategy.

In true ProductCamp spirit, the participants determine which sessions are ultimately presented. Here’s how it will work: five Sessions have been submitted for voting consideration.  See the PPA wiki for detailed descriptions of each Session.


  • Applying buyer personas to marketing strategy – Mike Boudreaux
  • Top 10 Ways to Use Facebook to Promote your Business – Christopher Sherrod
  • Error 404: The Panel You Are Looking For Does Not Exist – Jonathan Gesinger, Alex Jones, Amanda McGuckin Hager, Jason Sugawa

Product Strategy

  • Help! I work for an engineer who knows nothing about Product Strategy – Jeffrey Eversmann
  • From customer centric design to customer centric marketing to customer centric companies (Enterprise 2.5?) – Andreas Voss

At the PPA October 21 meeting, the five sessions will “face off” during the 5:30-6:30pm networking Happy Hour in Gabriel’s Café.  Each participant will be given one vote to place on the session of their choice.  The top session in each category will be announced and will run in parallel in Classrooms 101 and 103.

To get all of the details, please go to the ProductPotluck wiki.  We’re looking forward to seeing you on the 21st!

ProductCamp Austin Summer 2009

ProductCamp Austin Summer 2009

ProductCamp, the free unconference for marketing and product management, is teaming with the McCombs School of Business to return to Austin for its Summer edition!  ProductCamp is a must-go event for marketing and product management professionals.  ProductCamp is a free, collaborative,  gathering for interesting, smart people to network and learn from one another.  ProductCamps have been held in Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston, New York City, Toronto, Atlanta, with more in the planning stages.  This is Austin’s third ProductCamp, and will be one of the largest in the country.  If you are in Austin, or can get here, ProductCamp will be well worth your time.

ProductCamp Overview

If you’ve never been to a ProductCamp before, you’ll need to wrap your brain around a few new concepts.  First, ProductCamp is an unconference, meaning that everyone participates in some way.  For some people, that means offering a traditional lecture style 1-hour session on a relevant topic.  For others, it might mean being on a discussion panel, facilitating a roundtable, participating in a workshop, helping with planning, volunteering for venue setup, doing marketing activities, or managing the budget.  At ProductCamp, there are no attendees, only participants. Second, there is no direct monetary cost for ProductCamp to the participants.  The only cost is your investment in time and effort.  Third, the trappings of a traditional conference are gone.  There is no keynote speech, no thinly veiled sales pitches, and very little B.S.  As a peer-to-peer event, ProductCampers bring their very best stuff – and we keep each other on our toes.  ProductCamp is sponsored by corporations who enjoy supporting the marketing and product management communities, and often offer sessions of their own.

How ProductCamp Works

The first thing you do is register.  You’ll fill out a form asking you how you want to participate and what topic areas are the most interesting to you.  Next, check out the ProductCamp Austin website, and list of sessions offered by people like you.  Based on what you marked, you’ll be contacted by one of the ProductCamp Austin planning team leads to get your help.  For people interested in Marketing, you’ll post about ProductCamp Austin to your blog, or retweet @PCAustin‘s tweets.  You’ll receive several emails over the next few weeks from the PCA Planning Team, and on the day of, you’ll stumble out of bed early on a Saturday to come to the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas for your first ProductCamp experience.

When you walk up for registration, you’ll receive a badge, some goodies, and three small stickers.  A volunteer will take you to a wall where all of the sessions being offered by your peers are listed; there may be dozens of them.  You’ll be asked to “vote” by placing your three stickers under the three sessions that interest you the most.  This helps the PCA Planning Team understand the interests of the group and assemble the schedule.  When you’re done, you can grab a coffee and head into the auditorium for the Intro session.

In the intro, I will explain to you what ProductCamp is all about, and we’ll play some icebreakers to set the tone for the day.  Soon, the schedule will be done and posted on the website and on the walls, and you’ll go to sessions throughout the day, stopping just to grab one of the box lunches we provide.

At 3PM, everyone gets back together for a quick closing session.  Then we head to the bar to burn through any extra budget we might have!

During the day, expect to network with a ton of people.  You’ll meet product managers, product marketers, social media experts, marketing greybeards, executives, startup junkies, big company people, developers, agile experts, finance and ops people, and everyone in between.  You may leave with a stack of business cards, and should bring a stack of your own to give away!

ProductCamp Austin Details

When: Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where: The University Teaching Center (UTC) at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin (map)

Who: Anyone willing to participate!

How: Register Now! (space is limited)

Cost: FREE!

To learn more: ProductCamp Austin, Follow ProductCamp Austin on Twitter, ProductCamp Austin on Facebook

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

ProductCamp Austin Winter 2009

I’m proud to announce that we are bringing ProductCamp back to Austin for an encore!  The first ProductCamp Austin had amazing participation from the Austin and Central Texas area, with over 130 people signing up and about 90 participate back in June.  ProductCamp Austin Winter will have more people, more sessions, and be better in every way – if are are in Product Management, Marketing, or Product Development and can get to Austin on Jan 24th, this is the event you want to participate in – and it is free.

What is ProductCamp?

ProductCamp is an unconference.  An unconference takes the old, stogy idea of a conference and turns it on its side.  Instead of corporations paying for boring keynote speakers talking and waving their hands, you have the participants in the conference leading all discussion sessions.  ProductCamp is a meritocracy, or perhaps a participatocracy – anyone can lead a session on any topic relevant to product management or marketing.

At the first ProductCamp, we had sessions ranging from career advancement for product managers, to intellectual property discussions, to working with Agile development organizations, to working effectively with Sales and Executives, to user interface design.  ProductCamp attracts a broad and diverse crowd of smart people who “get it,” so the networking is really good and the discussions are rich and rewarding.

Describe the ProductCamp Experience…

It’s Saturday January 24, 2009 and you wake up way to early for a weekend and head down to the UT campus.  You park and walk up to the College of Communications and follow the signs to ProductCamp.  As you ride the elevator up to the 4th floor, there are three other people with you looking confused.  “Are you here for ProductCamp?” “Yeah, this should be interesting…”

You exit the elevator and see a registration table with people milling around it.  As you make your way to the front, you recognize a few familiar faces from other companies.  You give your name to the PCA volunteer at the table and he hands you a badge and a goodie bag with a PCA shirt in your size.  You make a beeline to the coffee.

As you get your coffee, you notice that ProductCamp has attracted all types – managers, developers and engineers, academics, startup junkies, and everything in between – and these people are talking to one another.  Someone is rambling about their startup, and other person is educating a small group about Twitter: “ProductCamp has its own Twitter ID, here’s how you follow it…”

After chatting for a few more minutes, a PCA volunteer calls everyone into one of the rooms.  The studios at UT are huge, with 40 foot ceilings and have seen much use and abuse over the years.  As you walk in, a volunteer hands you three post-it notes and you wonder “why just three?”  The room has a projector showing a “Welcome to ProductCamp” slide.  Someone gets up and introduces themself as a ProductCamp planner and thanks the sponsor for breakfast.  Next, someone gets up and gives a short minute intro on the open grid scheduling process.  You listen as you’re told to put vote with your sticky notes under the three sessions you’d most like to attend, which are listed on the back wall.

You head to the back wall and read the session names, offered by people just like you.  You recognize a friend-of-a-friend’s name who is giving a session about “Connecting with Customers.”  That sounds good – you use one post-it note.  You see another session about “Agile Product Management.”  Your engineering team is moving to Agile so that might be a good session to attend, and use your second note.  As you step back to consider your third note, you see a dozen other people doing the same thing, and people feel geniuely torn about what to vote for – there are so many good sessions to choose from!  Finally, you put your last sticky on a session called “Career Building in Product Management and Marketing.”

You walk back to your seat and see the PCA volunteers start to rapidly count the votes.  Someone gets up and explains that they are determing which sessions are most in-demand so that they don’t overlap on the schedule.  While the volunteers assemble the schedule, a ProductCamp planner gets up to talk about what ProductCamp is and why everyone is here.  He says things like “ProductCamp is for starting conversations, not finishing them – it’s OK if these discussions spill out onto email, blogs, forums, twitter, or facebook.” “Learn from each other’s collective experiences, but challenge each other – speak up if you hear something that you agree or disagree with.”  You think “wow, this is definitely not a normal conference.”

The planners announce that the schedule has been set, and the crowd huddles around the posted schedule to see which sessoins they are going to attend.  You notice that your favorite sessions are at 10-11, 1-2, and 2-3, and you fill your schedule with other sessions you think sound interesting, including a roundtable discussion.  You refill your coffee and head to the first session in Studio 4E…

As you walk in, you see 20 other people looking at each other and wondering how this is going to work.  The session leader is welcoming everyone and making introductions, and you see her slide projected with the session title “Roundtable: Working with Sales.”  The session leader gives a quick facilitation of 1-2 slides and kicks off the discussion by talking about a recent scenario where she introduced a new product to Sales and was immediately met with hostility from the Sales team.  The questions fly quickly “was the pricing right?” “how is your relationship with them normally?” “How did you explain the value of the product?” “Does that product solve a customer problem?” “Did you just repackage one of your existing solutions?” “Is sales compensated correctly on your product?”  The Q&A continues and the facilitator guides the discussion into new areas: how to be effective with your sales leadership, how to get sales buy-in for new product launches, how to end-of-life a product with sales, and so on.  Through the discussion you furiously type notes out on your laptop as you try to capture some of the great ideas that the team is generating.

The hour-long session feels like it is over as soon as it begins.  You wish it could continue, but you only have a few minutes to get to your next session.  You quickly introduce yourself to the facilitator and a few other people you were impressed with and exchange business cards.  You notice that they have their Twitter ID’s on their badges and quickly follow them on Twitter.

You go through two more sessions before lunch and meet several impressive people.  You think “I need to keep these people on file because they might be good if I’m hiring or looking for a job.”  You grab a plate of catered lunch and sit down with some of your new friends and talk about the sessions they attended so you can get the scoop on what you missed.

After lunch, you hit 4 more sessions.  By the end of the day, you are spent, physically and mentally.  As everyone filters out, people are already talking about the next ProductCamp and what sessions they plan to offer, and you think that maybe this isn’t so hard, and you’ll offer a session next time, too!  A group breaks off to do an official ProductCamp happy hour, and you join in few a few drinks.  The week after ProductCamp, you email some of your new connections to grab lunch – it’s great to keep the network fresh.

I hope that this gives you a taste of what to expect at ProductCamp.  After running one, I was very excited to lead another, and have high hopes for ProductCamp Austin Winter 2009.  I look forward to meeting you at ProductCamp!

Go Register for ProductCamp!

ProductCamp Wrap-Up

ProductCamp AustinProductCamp was this past Saturday, June 14th, and I’m happy to call it a complete success. In almost every way, it exceeded our goals for participation (130+ signed up, 80-90 showed up), sessions (over 20 presentations and roundtables), sponsors (11 great sponsors), volunteers, and feedback. Nearly everyone I talked to was extremely positive about the event, and was looking forward to the next PCA. The consensus of the group was that they would like to do ProductCamp twice yearly, so we’re going to do just that.

If you missed ProductCamp, first I’m sorry because you really missed out on a great day of teaching, learning, and networking. Second, we’ve capture many of the presentations and session notes on the ProductCamp page for you to review. Here are some highlights:

  • Charlie Ray won Best Overall Session for his presentation on “Navigating the Poltical Minefields of Product Management.” It was a really raucous and entertaining session, some choice quotes included:
    • “Product Management is the most visible position in the company. People see you hanging out with the CEO and glad handing the VP of Marketing, and they want you to fail!”
    • “You should be aware of which people are setting you up to fail so you can get them first. Always listen, and never give information, only take it.”
    • “The hardest thing I do in my job is fake sincerity and pretend like I’m interested in going to your meetings.”
  • John Milburn of Pragmatic Marketing and I hosted a standing-room only session on Startup Product Management, based on the webinar we did several weeks ago (based on the article we wrote for the Pragmatic Marketer). This fostered a really good discussion of the differences between PM in a BigCo and Startups. My favorite quote from the audience:
    • “Startups in the Valley are hipster-based. Startups in Austin are geek-based.” The commenter was making a point in reaction to John saying that if you asked VC’s they would say that the startups in Austin are less focused and driven than in the Valley.
  • Ben Phenix gave a User Experience session that people raved about on Twitter. Twitter was the surprise hit of the day to me – everyone was using it, and you could monitor the tweets as a backchannel discussion to gauge how the day was going. We set up a PCA twitter account that everyone could reply to.
  • Tal Boyd of Seilevel and Paul Sizemore went around a took lots of pictures, which are now on Flikr.
  • Graham Joyce of Pragmatic Marketing handed out their upcoming book entitled “Tuned In” (which I am almost done reading…topic of an upcoming post) during lunch to the person that had been in Product Management the longest (28 years, sorry Don), the shortest (1 week), and who traveled the furthest to get to PCA: Plano – we actually had several Dallas people make the trip, which was great.

I had lots of interest from PCA participants to help plan the next ProductCamp. If you’re interested in planning, please join the Google Group PCA-Planning. If you’re interested in participating in a future PCA and would like to be kept up-to-date, please join the general ProductCamp Austin Google Group.

My favorite memento was I had the PCA participants who lasted until the evening all sign one of the ProductCamp Austin sponsor boards that we had made. That will live in my office as a memory of a great day, and more great days to come.

Some final notes, in the post-PCA survey we sent out, we asked “Would you recommend ProductCamp to your peers?” 100% said yes (n=26). That says enough for me!

Thanks to everyone who made ProductCamp Austin a reality, and let’s get started on the next one!

Why ProductCamp Will Help Push Austin Over the Tipping Point

I have been asked a lot over the last two weeks about where the idea for ProductCamp Austin came from and why we are putting this event on. I wish I could say I came up with the idea – but that credit goes to EDIT: Luke Hohmann and Rick Mirinov at Enthiosys Brian Lawley from the 280 Group in California, who coordinated P-Camp Silicon Valley in March. But it goes deeper, because I believe Austin is at a tipping point, both for startups and for Product Management and Product Marketing.

GeekAustin got wind of ProductCamp and interviewed me about why Austin, why now, and why ProductCamp. Here is a sample:

Lynn Bender: Youre a local guy. Where did you get the idea to host a ProductCamp Austin. Have you previously attended one in another city? Have you attended a BarCamp?

Paul Young: Ive been in Austin for 10 years, and had several opportunities to move out to the Valley, but always turned them down because we love Austin. One aspect of the Bay Area that Ive always had a jealous eye towards is that their critical mass of technical and marketing people really lends itself to organization of great events.

Aside from the various BarCamps, the first ProductCamp (called P-Camp) was held in the Valley back in March. I looked at what they did and thought we need that in Austin. I sent out some feelers to people Ive met through my Product Management blog (Product Beautiful) and away we went.

Austin just feels right at this point in time: the economic downturn hasn’t hit us as hard as the rest of the U.S., our housing never got mega overinflated like everywhere else, Californians still move here in droves because it’s so cheap, and we have lots of creative, technical, and marketing talent doing really cool things.

I had the opportunity to attend a marketing roundtable hosted by Austin Ventures last week where they showed off a new job site (site name and link redacted) they are working on. The really interesting tidbit was that they mentioned that the #1 reason that talent hesitates to relo to Austin is fear that if their startup fails, that there won’t be enough going on in Austin to keep a vibrant market for their skills.

ProductCamp is another cog in that machine; the fact that in a few short weeks we have a bunch of great sponsors, some exciting sessions, and dozens of participants already signed up validates that there is both an audience and an appetite for knowledge exchange about Product Management in Austin.

East of the Sierra Nevada, you can make a very strong argument that Austin is the center of the tech world. You don’t have to look hard for new about Austin startups. The time to step up is now Product Managers – are you ready to shape the future of Product Management?

ProductCamp Austin Announces Location and Austin Ventures as a Sponsor!

ProductCamp AustinI’m happy to announce that we’ve secured a venue for ProductCamp Austin! ProductCamp will be held at St. Edward’s University Professional Education Center (PEC) on June 14, 2008 from 8AM – 6PM. Follow the link to add yourself as a participant, and to sign up as a speaker or volunteer. Everyone is welcome, and cost is FREE.

I’m also delighted to announce that Austin Ventures will be sponsoring ProductCamp! We’re looking forward to working with the premiere venture group in Austin to get the word out.

If you’re unfamiliar with what ProductCamp is, first read the primer on BarCamp, which the model on which ProductCamp is based. Then go to the official ProductCamp Austin wiki and add yourself to the participant page, and take on a topic as a speaker!

Announcing ProductCamp Austin!

ProductCamp AustinI’m happy to announce that we are going to be running Austin’s first ProductCamp. Much like BarCamp, ProductCamp is a collaborative, user run event, except where BarCamp is often focused around topics interesting to Developers, ProductCamp will be focused Product Management and Marketing topics.

ProductCamp Austin will happen on Saturday June 14th. Right now we are lining up sponsors and venues, and are focused on planning and execution. We need your help. No ProductCamp or BarCamp can be planned by one person. Thankfully I already have several people who have raised their hands as willing to step in and help shoulder the load, like John Milburn, Roger Cauvin and Rob Grady. If you’re interested in being on the planning team, please sign up for the Google Group. Developing…

Updated: ProductCamp is proud to be sponsored by: Austin Ventures, Pragmatic Marketing, NetStreams, St. Edwards University Professional Education Center, and the Association of International Product Marketing and Management.