My First ProductCamp

by Beth White

First, lots of Background

I have had the fortune to work with Jason Brett at Silverpop and through our transition to IBM over the last 2.5 years.  When I first started at Silverpop, I saw ProductCamp marketing paraphernalia all over the office, I finally asked someone who immediately pointed me in Jason Brett's direction.  Jason gave me the quick nonchalant rundown of how it works.  Product people get together and pitch their presentations and dot vote which ones they'd like to sit through.  A total of 20 sessions are selected for the day’s agenda.  And that was pretty much what I knew for two years.  Always eager to go,  but one or another life event was in the way of my attendance.  But, this was the year- I was going to go to ProductCamp.  So I asked Jason how can I plug in and help?

Volunteering

Just a little taste on my inbox . . .filtered on ProductCamp

Low and behold ProductCamp had been scheduled to take place in 4 weeks. Perfect timing to ask to help out, huh? I was immediately invited to a volunteer gathering and signed up for ProductCamp email promotion execution.  Exposed to all the pre-event backend work that this event takes I am completely in awe at the sophisticated organized chaos that this volunteer team does in obtaining sponsors, content for blogs and email, website updates, social media updates, session proposals requests and speaker wrangling, dinner planning, board planning, communications, and much more.  After all the hard work by the volunteer team, the well planned ProductCamp Saturday morning had arrived.  

First Impressions

At Ponce City Market, I entered General Assembly, a fun industrial space for gatherings just like ours. A dedicated registration area, main hall, breakout rooms, and lots of AV equipment.  When I entered the registration area, I was surprised to learn what little I saw behind the scenes volunteering.  I saw a swarm of 20 people setting up and getting ready for the 350 registered attendees.  The main hall in General Assembly had chairs awaiting 350 butts, and by 9 am they were filled. The entire area was a buzz, speakers registering, writing in new sessions. Introductions to new people, and getting to know the vibe of lots of Product people in one room.  We are interesting and elusive creators and it was an amazing energy I've never quite experienced.  A feeling of excitement for the future.  

The Session Pitches

Jason kicked off the morning and the session pitches began.  Speakers where like circus leaders pitching the desire for you to attend their session in 30 secs.  If you timed out you got the horn. Otherwise known as Jason Brett’s sound toy from hell.  38 sessions, 38 passionate pitches.   I also pitched my write in session.  One of three women pitching.  3 session proposals, pitched by 3 women out of 38 session proposals. (Next year ladies I challenge you to speak up and speak out.  Women represented half of the attendee’s, we should represent half of the speaker session proposals, so bring it!).  I was up against some serious speaker veterans and  I was towards the end the 35th session pitch.  I attempted a short and sweet sell on release planning with an old wedding saying anecdote. We wrapped the pitches up and then the dot vote.  All 350 people dot voted on their 3 favorite sessions.  While I barely assisted the mad dash of volunteers creating the schedule on sessions selected, Jason kept the crowd going. Sponsors spoke and in an open mike night style real jobs where being pitched by attendees.

The Kick Off

The Kick Off

The Dot Vote

The Dot Vote

Sessions Gun Shot

Then we were off!  The 2016 session schedule was posted! Fueled by Sublime donuts and Jason's deli breakfast options and a ton of coffee we all broke out. The sessions and time matrix had been posted and all divided.  BTW, My session didn't make the dot vote cut, and now I know way more for next year's session proposal!

On the fly session agenda

On the fly session agenda

 

My Schedule

My schedule ended up as a haphazard selection, rooms were packed, and lots of networking in between:

8:00

10:35 - 11:30

  • Session # 21
  • Ideate, Improvise, and Iterate
  • Presenter: Brandy Nagel
Our company name SmoothTequilla, logo for bonus points, and some brainstorming on value props.

Our company name SmoothTequilla, logo for bonus points, and some brainstorming on value props.

11: 40 - 12:20

  • Session # 12

  • Session name: The Mom Test

  • Presenter: Jeff Costa

Jeff Costa

Jeff Costa

 

LUNCH! Man that took work above, more networking over a Blue Moon pizza lunch

1:15 - 1:55

  • Session #35

  • Session name: Purple Squirrels and other Lies

  • Presenter: Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

 

2:15 - 2:55

  • Session # 1

  • Session Name: I want to be a Product Manager!

  • Presenter: John Mansour

John Mansour

John Mansour

PHEW!

I was exhausted a saw an opportunity to exit stage left at 3:30, as I had a family prior family commitment.  I know next year, not to like my family so much ;) I highly suggest to go to all networking events before and after this event. So, I missed the finale, but I know that Steve Johnson won best session and David Eckoff won best presenter.

You'd think by the end of the event things would wind down.  Nope not for this chick.  The beat of the ProductCamp volunteer group keeps going.  Bringing this innovative group, us, together.  Lastly my parting words, IMO, this event not only accelerates your learning, empathy, increases your ability to change your life but also connects you on a whole new level in our product world.

What did you think? Was this your first year or have you been before?  What sessions did you go to and what did you think about them? What were your takeaways?