Event spotlight: Mind the Product

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing James Mayes, CEO and co-founder at Mind the Product. You can follow James on Twitter to get insights on Product Management and how to build products that people love.

Mind the Product started in 2010 in London and now consists of more than 50 000 members and the event traveled the world, being hosted in more than 100 cities.

Let’s see what are the secret ingredients in building such a great community for Product Managers.

James Mayes - Mind the Product

How did Mind The Product start? What helped you decide on the topic and vision?

Three product managers at London startups were looking to meet others – to share war stories, learn more about approaches and generally get some therapy from other professionals facing similar challenges at work.  Nothing much was available, so two events emerged – ProductCamp London, from Simon Cast and Janna Bastow, and ProductTank from Martin Eriksson. The three teamed up, and Mind the Product was born. The vision then was very much as it is now – to further the craft of product management by bringing together product people of all stripes.

What makes the events and community so vibrant?

I think the accessibility goes a long way.  The free meetups under the ProductTank banner continue every month, now in 140 cities; videos from the larger meetups are posted on our media site (no paywall), and we have a slack community with north of 10,000 members around the globe.  When we talk about conferences and training, there are obviously budget and location constraints – but there’s so much we support that’s free and location-independent. The diversity that has attracted is certainly high impact.

 

What do visitors love most about the Mind The Product events?

We keep a strong line between commercial and content decisions.  Anyone on a stage of ours is there because they were invited on merit alone, we don’t sell stage time for marketing activity. So many conferences use that as a hook to fill out the budgets, but it’s almost always a substandard experience for the delegate. We also have a high number of Product Managers on the team here – we don’t just know our audience, we are our audience.  There’s a relentless focus on the delegate experience. Of course, things go awry occasionally, but the effort we put in does show through, and we hear a lot of appreciation for that.

 

How do digital communities (the website / Slack channel) improve the event experience?

There’s a definite sense of community in the Slack channel, and you can see excitement for the conferences building weeks or months ahead, as people start discussing speaker announcements, places to stay and so on.  It continues long after too, as we release the videos – people coming back together online to break down certain talks or messages.  Many conferences are a one or two day event, with a pile of marketing email before and nothing after.  We’re aiming for a wider experience.

 

What were the greatest challenges in scaling Mind The Product internationally?

Navigating timezones and international tax laws is always a challenge!  Aside from that, the problems faced by Product Managers are remarkably similar around the world.  That helps the content travel well, which builds our reputation ahead of us.  That said, much of our content has come from the main firms of Europe and the US so far, so I think our next challenge will be unearthing the stories behind some of the tech giants or rising stars in the East.

 

What are your plans for the future?

We want to keep a tight focus on the conferences and work more on that delegate experience, there’s plenty more we can do! We also launched a formal training business in 2017, expanding our operations into developing bespoke product management training for delivery to major corporate clients.  We closed out the year with some amazing feedback from clients around Europe and across the US, so I’ll be looking to ensure that has the support it needs to attack 2018 with vigor!

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