Arriving at your first Product Camp (pcamp) as a newbie can be overwhelming. You are greeted by a registration table, and then set out on your own. If you are lucky enough to have come with a friend or colleague so you are not standing there alone wondering what to do next. More than likely though, you did come by yourself and your feet are frozen with a strange combination of anxiety, anticipation, excitement and fear.
First, breathe. Then, take a step forward. There are plenty of other product professionals like you that have been just as frozen in the past, and a whole bunch that are sharing your feelings in the present. Seriously, relax. And, now it’s time to put your networking skills into play. Find a friendly face and introduce yourself.
After those first few moments, once you break the ice the first time, the rest of the day’s momentum will carry you forward. Expect to hear from smart people. These are your peers. By presenting, it doesn’t mean they are smarter or better than you. It simply means they have a story or some learnings to share. Listen carefully. And, here’s the great thing about pcamps, if you aren’t getting enough out of the session, simply go “vote with your feet” and leave. Presenters know this will happen and I promise you they will not be insulted.
The rest of the day will go smoothly and you will quickly make connections and no longer feel alone. But, to help you here are a few logistic notes to remember:
- Bring more business cards than you think you will need! (And, when you get home/office – don’t let them sit in a pile. Put them in your contact manager file. And, keep the connections living. Send a follow-up email, set up a coffee or lunch. These are almost always local people and easily accessible.)
- Pack a water bottle! While most events will serve coffee in the morning and have soda/water/juice at lunch, the drinks go fast. Having your own water bottle will be something you thank me for later.
- Bring a notepad, notebook, cards, etc. Yes, the electronic ball and chain you carry is great, but you will appreciate having some good old fashioned office instruments with you. And, don’t forget an extra pen or four – inevitably someone will “borrow” one and it will be lost forever (or until you schedule that coffee.)
- Don’t leave early if at all possible! The closing can be fun! It’s a chance to connect with someone you might have just missed all day, a chance to gain a last nugget of knowledge, a chance to join in one last joke.
Looking in from the outside, the only key to getting the most out of your first experience is to engage. Don’t sit on the sidelines – you are as much a participant as the lead organizer. Jump in with both feet – the water’s fine!