What started as an interesting idea, then grew into a wave, has now become a tsunami: ProductCamp is changing product management and marketing everywhere. In just the first few months of 2011, there are ProductCamps scheduled in Austin, Vancouver, Atlanta, Boston, Silicon Valley, London, Dallas, and more. ProductCamp has now spread to four continents (S. America, Africa, and Antarctica, we’re waiting on you). If you live near a major metropolitan area, chances are there will be a ProductCamp near you. Anyone in a product management role is officially out of excuses for missing one of these events.
ProductCamp is winning because it solves a real problem for product managers: we have traditionally poor access to “our people:” people that do jobs like ours, think like us, and run into similar issues. Most product managers know their peer product managers at their current company, and the dozen or so people they’ve met throughout their career. If you’re lucky, your city has a local organizing group for product management and marketing, but these groups have spotty coverage and are of various quality. If you don’t have access to this group, you’re forced to look elsewhere to network and learn.
On the other hand, if you are highly experienced, or have recently done something unique and want to share that experience with the world, your options are also limited. You can start a blog – but writing isn’t everyone’s forte. You might get invited to speak at a local marketing meeting…only to find that the audience is made up of more traditional brand management or marketing communications people who aren’t interested in what you are doing in product management.
ProductCamp solves both the consumer and the producer problem by bringing both parties together under the same roof. Mixed in with solid networking and you get a volatile concoction of interesting people and insightful sessions that bubbles with energy for a day. The kicker: it’s 100% free to the participants (for most camps). ProductCamps around the world are now riding this formula to success. We’re on the precipice of a golden age for product management, where our luminaries will be uplifted by our peers and companies will have a chance to recruit from the clear cream of the crop.
The best product management and marketing talent tend to show up at ProductCamps, for a few simple reasons. First, the best people are interested in networking and learning from their peers. Second, great product managers are often great presenters, and rarely get a chance to show their stuff to people who “get it,” and care. You will find some amazing presentations from product managers and marketers at ProductCamp. Third, people who suck at their jobs or just want to skate by generally aren’t interested in burning up a Saturday (when most camps are held) talking with other people about their jobs. No one comes to ProductCamp because their boss made them do it.
Recently I had a chance to participate in both the inaugural Rocky Mountain ProductCamp and ProductCamp Austin 6. Both were great experiences and I made dozens of new contacts and learned a lot. Each camp brought new ideas to the table and showed how the ProductCamp template is evolving and changing. For example: ProductCamp Austin is now on it’s sixth edition. Rocky Mountain ProductCamp (RMPC) was on its first. The organizing committee for RMPC had traveled to Austin for PCA5 and borrowed heavily from the Austin template: in-person voting, best session award, sponsorship levels. RMPC also had new ideas, such as online streaming of certain sessions, which Austin duplicated. Each event had its own local flavor, and received rave reviews from their participants.
At both RMPC and PCA6 I was selected by the voters to present in a session I titled “The Product Management X-Factor: How to be a Rock Star Product Manager.” The idea behind this topic is that there is a set of personality traits and skills that are inherited and learned, which some product managers have figured out how to use in order to become more effective in their careers. I was fortunate enough to win “Best Session” in Denver and “Best Session Runner Up” in Austin. I will do some more in-depth posts on this topic later; what was interesting for this post was the level of engagement and involvement the crowds in both Austin and Denver. I have received dozens of requests for follow-up and additional information based on two presentations. If you are doing something interesting and want to interact with people on it, there is literally no where else you can go to hit such a targeted group of people.
The bottom line is: if you want to be a thought leader in product management today, you need to present in front of your peers at a ProductCamp. It will be one of the most intense, but rewarding experiences of your career. Hit me up in the comments or by email if you want some tips on how to make an effective ProductCamp presentation.