Product Camp is a free, user-driven, collaborative “unconference” for Product Managers and Marketers. It’s in a few cities now. This weekend was the 2016 Silicon Valley edition. I usually go every other year.
This year seemed to have diminished in attendance from previous ones. Accordingly, the number of sessions was also diminished. One of the problems is that the conference is free. “Free” possibly boosts attendance, but it also has some negative side-effects.
One piece of wisdom from my boss said is “People don’t value free things.”
I have seen it in many forms. Free trials don’t get as much attention within the organization as a paid trial. Free software doesn’t have the same commitment.
The freeness of Product Camp has two negative effects. First, it makes people feel overall that the event is less valuable. And second, it robs the event organizers of resources to make the event go well. They do the best they can and certainly pulled off a reasonable event, but without professional resources, you can only take it so far.
The sessions themselves felt kinda boring to me. Some were clearly designed to sell books from the speaker/author. Others had monotone speakers with low energy. I actually found the most value outside the sessions in conversations with people in the hallway or outside.
Here are my suggestions to the organizers of P-Camp.
- Have more panels. I would have loved to be on a panel. (Someone just needs to ask)
- Have time in between sessions. The talking in the hallway is part of the experience. Don’t cram sessions so tightly.
- More sponsors. I know this is easier said than done, but their money can help fund improvements.
- Better directions. This is specific to this year. “Leavey” should have said “Lucas”. Google was little help here.
- Have session liasons. It’s hard to put your own session together. Have a few people who help. They can recruit speakers and possibly pair people together.
- More sessions with fewer people per session. These things are better when they are small and intimate.
I wanted to do a session about the last 6 months of my life. I worked on product market fit for a new product, did research, gathered requirements and designed the whole thing. We are almost finished building it. It’s right up P-Camp’s alley. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to put together the presentation.
Maybe next year.