Los Angeles hosted its first ProductCamp this month and by all accounts the event was a success! Despite being held on the rainiest weekend in 3 years, we had a full house 200 digital product managers and entrepreneurs join us. The event was jointly hosted by Shopzilla and Fandango who share a floor in West LA and organized by the Product Managers Association of Los Angeles (PMA.LA), the local professional organization for digital product professionals.
What is ProductCamp?
ProductCamp is an “unconference” event modeled after Bar Camps that have become popular in the Silicon Valley tech community. The concept with a bar camp is to bring interested professionals together for a day of networking, and knowledge sharing. Consistent with other unconferences, ProductCamp is a free event for interested professionals who come together for a Saturday to share what they know. The format has become rather popular and has spread to just about every major market in North America and Europe. That’s why it is so surprising that Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, still didn’t have a ProductCamp, until now!
How Does it Work?
Unconferences are intended to be an event “of the people, for the people”, meaning members of the community propose topics and the community votes on who is going to speak.
In many of the events such as ProductCamp Silicon Valley, an attendee is given a page of stickers at morning registration and asked to vote on the proposed session wall. During morning general session, the team quickly counts the votes and schedules the remainder of the day based on vote count. The result is something of a hybrid between a casual meetup and a formal conference.
Why it Worked?
There are a few reasons why ProductCamp.LA worked well. First, the PMALA is a free professional network of 900 digital product professionals and was able to leverage these connections to both get the word out as well as to attract quality speakers for the day. We also made a conscious effort to pre-plan as much of the event as possible. We proactively invited people we knew would be great speakers. We used online voting a couple weeks prior to the event to cut down on day-of chaos and also to ensure every speaker had sometime to prepare their session, knowing they were going to speak. We also took an added effort to stream as much of the event as we could, which allowed us to reach many of the folks on our waitlist.
The PMA.LA plans quarterly meetup events around Los Angeles, which are hosted by digital product companies around town and the next one will be in early June. Anyone interested in joining our community should signup at www.pma.la to be notified about the next event; this is also the best way to learn about next year’s ProductCamp which we’ll begin planning this Fall. Anyone interested in volunteering or hosting a PMALA meetup event can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much to the digital product community of Los Angeles for helping us make ProductCamp.LA a success. In just a single event, we’ve put LA on the digital product. It is our hope that this is the beginning of many positive steps toward a more product centric approach to digital technology and media here in Southern California.