A Wow! Event – ProductCamp St. Louis A Big Success

By on April 3, 2013
ProductCamp St. Louis 2014

Wow,” seemed to be a frequent comment heard at St. Louis Community College’s Corporate College on Saturday, March 23. First, I will admit it, I was secretly skeptical that we would actually get a large turnout for a free weekend event that the attendees did not even see the “agenda” for before arriving at 8 a.m. Yes, the event received 250 pre-event registrations but we all know the how that “if you build it, they will come” scenario sometimes turns out. So I let me be the first to say “Wow!”

The second annual ProductCamp St. Louis, which was hosted by the Workforce Solutions Group, was a huge success-from start to finish. The opening session was standing room only with 160 attendees. I was also had another “Wow” moment when I noticed that the attendees throughout the day were actively engaged in the event-and with each other. The feedback during the event from live tweets and in formal post surveys has been fantastic. I guess this “unconference” idea really works.

Dan Rues, ProductCamp St. Louis co-organizer and founder of Openly Disruptive LLC, shared this observation about this year’s event, “The difference between renting a venue in our first year of ProductCamp STL and having a host in the Workforce Solutions Group that understands how to help people and companies successfully innovate our second year was clear. Our participants stayed longer and were more engaged in content, our presenters felt more effective, we had richer conversations, and more people wanted to talk year three.” Examples of live tweets from attendees during the event (#pcstl13) included comments such as:

  • “Thanks to everyone at #pcstl13 it was a fun and inspiring day.” (Chris Tysh)
  • “Rockin’ it out at stlprodmgmt this morning. I’m impressed. It’s very well-run and example of class and execution.” (Kai Ganser)

Feedback from the event surveys included comments such as:

  • Wow! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up but what I got was a great selection of valuable content presented in an engaging manner by smart people. I couldn’t ask for a better experience!” (Hilary Lewis)
  • “It was time well spent as a product manager, and the opportunity to trade more information and network was priceless.” (Ashley Eckhoff, Siemens PLM Software)
  • “This was a huge surprise, brought one person this year, will encourage many more to attend next year.” (Laurie Bluestone, Intigo Social)
  • Wow! What a facility.” (Dave Milonski, Hudson Management Systems)
  • Wow! Thank You” (Liz Roewe Ungerboeck Software)

So what is this ProductCamp all about? And exactly what is an unconference? ProductCamp, a global movement with an estimated 75 events being held around the world in the past four years, is a free, user-driven, collaborative unconference for product development, manufacturing and marketing professionals.

Is the event called an “unconference” because business professionals give up a Saturday to attend? No, put maybe that should be added to the movement’s description. It is called an “unconference” because it is the antidote to the typical conference. In ProductCamp events, all the sessions are interactive and the attendees actually decide what topics actually make the agenda for the event.

So instead of the typical conference formula where you register then get the agenda with the list of the different tracks and the long list of session within these tracks that will be presented; attendees of ProductCamp events do not see the agenda beforehand. The agenda is literally built at the opening session by the attendees voting on a wide selection of topics. Those topics getting the most votes are then put on the agenda and then off go the “happy campers” to attend interactive breakout sessions for the rest of day. Kind of like an island reality show, where topics are voted off, not people! This might directly have a lot to do with my early on observation that attendees seemed engaged, even energetic. Essentially, they come and build their own conference, um “unconference.” An event that has sessions they want to attend (as opposed to finding ways to “skip out” on, just saying); that will provide meaning and value to them.

The sessions winning the most votes and making the cut for the agenda, some with very intriguing titles, were:

  • Products and Ideas: Lean Works
  • Psychographic Selling
  • Workplace Violence Prevention and Legal Defense Strategies
  • Voted off the Island: Deciding which projects make the grade
  • Using the New Brain Science to Lead Change
  • Agile Development and Product Management
  • Disrupt or Be Disrupted
  • Six Sigma to Reduce Product/Service Variation
  • 3D Printing
  • Positioning? What is it and how do you really develop a value proposition?
  • Market/Competitive Intelligence for Product Managers
  • Ask Me Anything-UX Edition
  • Making Lean Stick: A Five Stage Process of Organizational Transformation
  • Winning in the Information Age
  • Automation
  • Pricing New Offerings
  • Product Management vs. Product Marketing
  • Missouri Customized Training Grants
  • Inspiration for Innovators
  • What to Do Before You Quit Your Job

What a great list. Do you see any that you would have voted for and attend? Yes? Then put “attend ProductCamp” down as a must do for 2014. You will not be disappointed. Event organizers have already started on the plans for next year’s event. The Workforce Solutions Group has also already agreed to host the event again. Visit www.stlpm.org/productcamp to learn more about this global movement and how to get involved in the local event being planned for 2014. Happy Camping!

About Shayna Howell

Shayna was the Client Development Manager in the Workforce Solutions Group of St Louis Community College. She has over 20 years of experience in the Community College system in training and development, project management, program/course development, grant writing/administration and marketing.


  1. George Friesen

    April 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    A really terrific experience…sharing ideas…getting to know people with similar interests…making business contacts…learning. The style of the event was perfectly suited to making these kinds of things happen. And, perhaps most important, it was just plain fun!

  2. Kathie Chambers

    April 5, 2013 at 11:01 am

    It was amazing to see so many talented and energized people at our Corporate College by 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday! The training sessions were under an hour but a lot of information was packed into these short sessions. I’d have to agree with those in attendance that you learned even more by just talking to other ProductCamp participants. Can’t wait for 2014!

You must be logged in to post a comment Login