Eat beforehand. Get there early. Bring a notebook. Don’t forget your business cards.
There are a lot of suggestions out there about best practices for attending a product conference. Events like these can be really valuable for everything from making connections to learning about new tools to expanding your professional horizons. However, they’re also a big commitment, both in terms of your time and in terms of expense (especially if you’re traveling). So we highly recommend following all the advice you can get about maximizing your conference experience.
This week, we’ll be attending Pendomonium with our colleagues from Pendo and are currently preparing to make the most out of every second. Here are five pieces of conference-going advice we’ll be taking to heart as we attend sessions, listen to speakers, and network with other product pros.
Move Outside Your Product Bubble
We don’t blame you for seeking out people in your own industry circle to chat and network with at events. It’s human nature to gravitate toward groups with similar interests — we’ve done it ourselves. But while most product events do tend to attract attendees from the B2B SaaS world, we can pretty much guarantee that PMs from other industries and verticals are there, too. Do your best to network with product practitioners from outside your own area of expertise. If you work in B2B, try to spend some time talking to people from the B2C world. If you work in tech, take a minute to talk shop with someone from the manufacturing, biomedical, or transportation sector. You might learn about creative approaches to PM that you hadn’t considered before.
Just because someone with product experience is standing on a stage and talking doesn’t mean they have all of the answers. Don’t take every opinion shared by a speaker as absolute truth. Some of the product-related absolutisms you might hear might not be relevant to your particular market or user segment. Or they could even be straight-up wrong. Be willing to think critically and disregard any advice or suggestions that don’t seem useful to you or your product. After all, you know your product best.
Live in the Moment
Yes, note-taking can be helpful, but it can also be a distraction. Don’t let writing everything down take away from the actual experience of listening to a talk or taking part in an interactive activity or lab. We recommend setting a “writing limit” like one notebook page per session. If you hit that limit, spend the rest of the time just sitting, listening, and absorbing. You may even inquire about whether or not speaker presentations or slide decks will be available after the event. That way, you can rest assured that you’ll have a recap of the session whether or not you take notes yourself.
Go Straight to the Source
If you’re attending a user conference, you may get the chance to meet the very people who create the product that you engage with as part of your day-to-day job. Having the opportunity to “meet the makers” is something you should never pass up. It can be really illuminating to get an inside like into how your favorite tool is built, managed, and continuously improved. And if nothing else, you can put a face to the product!
Don’t Forget the Human Element
It can be easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of the conference environment. You might be discovering awesome new tools and frameworks left and right, and thinking ahead to implementing all of these ideas as soon as you get back to your office. But don’t forget why you come to these conferences in the first place — to learn how to build a better product and deliver value to your users. In fact, your users and customers should be top-of-mind as you attend sessions, network, and interact with other product people. How can you use the knowledge you’ve gained to make their lives easier and improve their experience with your product? Can you use what you’ve learned to make your product more inclusive?
Product conferences are awesome opportunities to learn best practices, hear different perspectives, and meet with like-minded product professionals. Keep the above advice in mind and you’ll be sure to have a great time AND come away with some useful tidbits to apply to your own job. And if you’re in Raleigh this week, come visit us at Pendomonium.