Conferences are great opportunities for product managers to learn from their peers, network, and — perhaps most importantly — gain the fresh perspective that comes along with a few days away from the office. In recent years, a handful of great, product-focused conferences have cropped up to fill the growing demand. To help you choose an event that’s right for you, we’ve compiled a list of our five favorite conferences for product managers (along with links to their websites for more information).
“Conferences are great opportunities to learn from your peers, network, and gain a fresh perspective.”
This list would be incomplete if we didn’t also mention ProductCamp and other local product management meetups, which are excellent opportunities for product managers to mingle. However, we chose to focus on larger conferences that attract attendees from all over the world, so that PMs can make informed decisions about whether or not to invest in attending these events.
San Francisco: June 13, 2017
London: September 8, 2017
Mind the Product is an annual product management conference that takes place on both sides of the Atlantic, with one event in London and one in San Francisco. A play on the British railway warning “mind the gap”, Mind the Product started in England, but has since expanded to become a global community of product managers. In addition to the annual MTP conference, the community also organizes smaller Product Tanks in cities all over the world. (There is most likely one coming up in your city!)
We attended MTP San Francisco last year and shared our thoughts in this blog post. One of our favorite speakers from last year was Ken Norton, a former Google product manager and a current partner at Google Ventures, who talked about the importance of making yourself uncomfortable and giving your team space to take risks — because that’s how innovation truly takes place. Another fan-favorite was Des Traynor, one of the founders of Intercom, whose presentation focused on outpacing disruption by thinking about products as systems, rather than as isolated applications.
Although it’s not necessarily the best place to find concrete product management advice, Mind the Product promises to be a congregation of some of the most forward-thinking, cutting edge voices in product management. Their ideas will leave you feeling inspired — and will certainly break you out of your day-to-day putting out fires/backlog management mindset.
So far, organizers have announced just a handful of headliners for this year’s conference. The San Francisco headliners include Aparna Chennapragada, Product Director at Google, and Melissa Perri, author and Founder of ProdUX Labs. Speakers for the London conference include Lea Hickman, Partner at SVPG, and Scott Burken, a bestselling author.
Barcelona: May 2-5, 2017
San Jose, CA: September 12-14, 2017
Summit is Atlassian’s annual user conference that brings together teams from all over the world to share best practices for building products — both in general and with Atlassian software specifically. The conference kicks off with training sessions on Atlassian products and then transitions into a series of keynotes from product leaders and innovators. Company and industry updates from Atlassian executives are also thrown into the mix.
The focus of the conference is on how teams can work together to build great things (which is no surprise since Atlassian makes software for teams, like JIRA, Confluence, and their most recent addition, Trello). Attendees are therefore less homogenous than Mind the Product, which is specifically designed for product managers. At Atlassian Summit, you are likely to encounter a variety of job titles — developers, designers, scrum masters, and the like. There are nevertheless plenty of keynotes that product managers will find valuable, with topics ranging from story mapping and roadmap planning to building a culture of innovation.
Like Mind the Product, Atlassian Summit has two sister events, one in Europe and one in Silicon Valley. Unlike MTP, Summit takes place over three full days and has multiple sessions running in parallel, so attendees can customize their schedules. With lots of speakers and breakout sessions to choose from, product managers of all experience levels are certain to find talks they’re interested in. And if the educational and professional development opportunities aren’t enough to convince you, the conference also ends with a big party, the “Atlassian Bash.”
Cleveland, OH: September 14-15, 2017
Industry is a two-day product conference in Cleveland, Ohio that bills itself as a way for product managers to “get out of execution mode and get inspired.” Most attendees are product managers, but the conference also attracts startup founders, CEOs, and “intraprenuers.” Industry is organized by The Product Collective, an organization founded in 2014 to bring product managers together and build community — especially outside of Silicon Valley.
The event includes presentations by featured speakers as well as working sessions focused on achieving specific goals. In past years, speakers have come from companies like Uber, Square, and Google. Some of this year’s highlighted speakers include Jason Fried, Co-Founder and CEO of Basecamp, and Megan Quinn, General Partner at Spark Capital — which supports companies like Oculus, Slack, and Twitter. Work session topics include achieving product-market fit, questioning your assumptions, and the jobs-to-be-done framework.
Industry promises to be a gathering of the world’s best product managers, and in that regard it bears a lot of resemblance to Mind the Product, including some overlap between speakers (Melissa Perri, for example, will speak at both conferences this year). Industry, however, is a longer conference and its organizers are headquartered in Cleveland rather than London, making it more convenient for most PMs in the eastern United States.
Las Vegas, NV: May 16-19, 2017
London: October 4-5, 2017
SiriusDecisions Summit is a conference for B2B professionals in product, marketing, and sales. The conference takes place over four days and features several keynote speakers as well as track sessions where attendees can seek help implementing the frameworks presented into their own business practices.
Although not specifically tailored to product managers, SiriusDecisions Summit a unique opportunity for those working at B2B companies. Apart from the educational sessions, it’s also a great opportunity for product managers to network and observe market trends.
Salt Lake City, UT: May 9-10, 2017
Front is a conference for designers and product managers that takes place annually in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s distinct from the conferences we’ve mentioned so far in that it’s focused on in-depth case studies from peers in product management and UX — case studies that showcase the good and the bad. In fact, there is no call for speakers; instead, presenters are invited based on the their body of work. This year’s lineup includes folks like Amelie Lamont, Product Designer at The New York Times, and Kendall Hulet, SVP of Product at Ancestry.
Front is organized by the Product Design Association, a group that also organizes smaller meetups for the product management community in Utah. The conference promises to offer an in-depth look at how product managers and UX designers at diverse companies solve problems. Front differentiates itself from other conferences by erring on the side of tactical advice rather than inspirational rhetoric. In fact, their website advertises no after-party and no alcohol, just “extraordinary content.”
Other Great Conferences
A few other conferences product managers should consider attending:
Chicago: November 11-15, 2017
Sydney, Australia: October 24, 2017
Zurich, Switzerland: November 15-16, 2017
Lisbon, Portugal: October 25-27, 2017
Do you know of other great conferences for product managers? Please share them in the comments below.