Whether this is your first, third or tenth camping trip, you should ask yourself the same question – how do you prepare for a ProductCamp? Should you volunteer? Should you create a presentation? Will any of my colleagues be there?
Recent blogs have suggested that we don’t have a lot of places to go as Product Marketing and Product Management professionals. Places where we can develop, share and learn about our profession. When we do get out of the office professionally usually we are so far behind in office work when we get back to work, we forget much of what we have learned and we don’t keep in contact with our new professional network connections.
I propose you invest in yourself before you make the trip to a ProductCamp:
- Revisit Networking Basics
Networking is all about meeting new people and building relationships. Learn to ask each new contact who you else should you meet? Introduce someone you are speaking with to someone you just met. By connecting them, you become the trusted hub. Follow up after the event with your favorite choice of communication (email, twitter, linkedin, etc)
- Appear Prepared
Have a very brief opening line prepared to describe yourself in a positive light. Relate your introduction to your personal distinctive competence. Of course have business cards with you and a note pad. Ask for your new contact’s business card and continue the discussion until you have established a bit of repoire and some sort of future follow up action.
- Set a Goal
Walk in to the event having set a personal goal (ie. meet 5 new people in my industry or job function that I can turn to).
I met a product peer through the community on Twitter. She was planning to attend ProductCamp Seattle as was I. She saw a tweet about several of us out of towners gathering for dinner the night before PCamp, and we invited her. We met in person, established some common ground and found we had personal interests too. After the ProductCamp, she was on a business trip to where I was working, and we met for dinner. Periodically we share experiences and ask each other professional questions. Now, she is on the planning team for a ProductCamp in her hometown. I’m advising her on some Pcamp best practices, and we are talking about possibly co-presenting a session. (And, she has become a social friend on Facebook.)
Just like we set metrics for our products and launches, we needs to set goals with our Pcamp attendance. How do we know if we succeed at the event without the goals? Measure, don’t guess. – the goals could be 2 job leads, 4 peeps like me that I can form relationships with, 3 thought leaders I can turn to for advice and assistance. Whatever goals you choose, write them down. (Hey! Here’s an idea – use the comments section below to share yours.) If you go to a ProductCamp and come away not having met at least 3 people with whom you have formed a professional relationships, contact me I will be one of them for you.
And, remember the awesome movie, Pay It Forward. For everything that you take from a PCamp, pay it forward and give as much as you take.
Looking in from the outside, any product camp is only as good an experience as you prepare and make it.