Just finished PCamp Austin 2010. What an experience!
I heard several people comment that it was as good as any traditional conference, but the price was right: free. However, it is not free, it just does not have a fee. The conference depends on sponsors and volunteers. The facility at the AT&T center is as good as you will get. While the facility at Yahoo was great, the AT&T conference center has a main hall that is a room separated from the building entrance and registration area. With less distractions from passers by, the quality of the presentation in the main area was better.
PCamp Austin started under Bar Camp, but they are now a 501(c) and will hold elections. As a non-profit they can now run donations through the organization's accounts instead of personal bank accounts. The committee behind the event is very well organized.
This PCamp was run a little differently that Silicon Valley PCamp. All the voting occurred on site, as opposed to pre-voting online. From an organizational point of view this means the team had to very quickly take the vote tally and then organize the schedule near real time. The final meeting where feedback was taken made clear that how the sessions are categorized and scheduled matters, because people had trouble deciding what sessions to attend and the possibility for disappointment if the "hot" sessions all occur at the same time.
PCamp now wants to grow. It is already over 200 attendees, so they have a large community to draw on for volunteers. They are planning a two in a box method of brining in new volunteers. PCamp also has PCamp Potlucks where they run a 3 hour evening event. When talking to one of the presenters about how to get PCamp started in Denver, they suggested starting with the smaller Potluck event with 6 sessions and two rooms. The reduced scale would provide an opportunity to learn at a smaller scale. I think it could even run at a smaller scale of three sessions in one room. The take away is that even though an un-conference is simple to understand, it still requires a fair amount of organization to pull it off, and to pull off a big event the first time carries a lot of risk, or a very dedicated team of 4-8 people.
There was less interest in Agile and more focus on strategy, pricing, and traditional PM issues, compared to Silicon Valley PCamp. There were also far less techies. This changed the dynamics, giving the conference a more business feeling, in a traditional sense. Like the Silicon Valley PCamp, there were plenty of consultants at hand, many giving presentations. However, the presentation that won best presenter was not a polished consultant, he worked for Dell.
The sessions I attended where:
- Value in Use Analysis for Product Pricing and Marketing
- Total Vision
- How to Get Buy In for Strategic Product Decisions
- Sizing, Segmenting, and Forecasting Markets
- Product Management - Start With the Story
- PM Becomes Strategic Asset, and What It Means For You
I posted my session notes HERE.
I took video of the morning kick off and the closing meeting. The kick off was about introducing how things would run, what the values of the conference where, logistics, etc. The last meeting was for voting on best presenter and best presentation and feedback. Following the event, everyone wandered to the bar across the street to socialize and network. The videos are a very useful learning tool. Anyone interested in viewing them should let me know. Perhaps I can post them to YouTube at some point.