Last Saturday was gorgeous in Boston, so I spent most of the day at the Microsoft NERD Center with a bunch of product managers, product marketers, and product developers for ProductCamp Boston. It was fantastic.
Like ~70% of the other attendees, this was my first ProductCamp. I have to say, it’s exactly what I expected from a conference created by and for product people: democratic, efficient, well-communicated, and nothing extravagant. ProductCamp Boston follows the unconference model. Any participant can volunteer to lead a session, and every participant is allotted an equal number of votes, which helps determine which sessions get larger meeting spaces. The calendar is distributed the night before the event so people have time to plan accordingly. I got a long, detailed email several days in advance that outlined everything you’d hope to know (including alternative driving directions due to a last-minute closure of Memorial Drive).
Registration was quick, and I was pleasantly surprised when ProductCamp gave me the choice of a rebate on my registration or a donation to the One Fund Boston (I donated). Wifi was reliable and passwords were easily found. Volunteers were stationed where they needed to be so no one was roaming around the NERD Center. Ample food was made available for breakfast and lunch, and they fed all 300 of us with startling efficiency. I’m relatively new to product, so a lot of what I heard was an affirmation of previous thoughts and conversations.
The morning keynote session was all about big data, a topic I’ve grown increasingly familiar with at MyEnergy. The speaker, Dr. Leslie Ament of Hypatia Research Group, was clearly an authority on the matter, and a good public speaker, but I do wish she knew more about incorporating design into big data (and presentation design).
In my first breakout session, I was handed a 48-point checklist by Alyssa Dver of the responsibilities and skills required of a product manager. It’s that rare combination of effective communications, financial acumen, market knowledge, process development, interpersonal skills, and technical prowess. Small wonder there aren’t more product managers.
Following that, I heard about the dismal state of B2B product marketing and got a great batch of tips from eZuce’s Christina Inge (slides here). She advocated a shift from the old “features vs. benefits” discussion to one of “you-centered” vs. “other-centered.” Her general thinking—and I agree—is that your marketing must be directed at and made relevant to your customers and other stakeholders, instead of marketing to yourself. It’s okay to talk about features so long as you frame it in a way that puts the user/customer at the center of the message. “We added screensharing because you asked.” “Our new infrastructure keep your data more secure and let you access information twice as fast as before.”
After lunch, I found myself captivated by Neil Baron, who shared his experiences bringing a successful chemical product to market. He explained how Chekhov’s gun applies to product marketing: essentially, if you promise to deliver value, do it. Whether that value refers to the product itself, or an informational webinar, deliver the benefits and information you promise.
I had to leave early, so unfortunately I missed a late addition focused on product management in startups. Overall, it was a morning (and part of the afternoon) very well spent. It was a great way to learn and network, and I’m sure I’ll be attending next year.