Reviews

11 Must-Attend Conferences for Product Leaders in 2018

I’m really glad I wasn’t compiling a list of product management conferences 10 years ago. The learning and collaboration opportunities for product managers were so minimal, it would have been limited to a handful of events.

And yet, even with the growth of the field, there’s still no clear path into product management and few traditional options for education. A growing number of conferences and meetup events are evidence of a yearning among product practitioners for more knowledge sharing,  networking, and tools to do their jobs better.

The list below provides product leaders and teams learning opportunities in almost monthly increments. They’re becoming more dispersed too—besides San Francisco and New York, product people will gather in Cleveland, Zurich, London, Paris, and Raleigh this year. And in addition to these large-scale events, nearly 140 cities around the world now have ProductTank chapters and at least 20 host ProductCamps each year. The open-source ProductCamp community makes it easy to assemble your own such event.

But for those eager for a conference experience alongside knowledge sharing, here’s our list of 2018 events:

Product Leader Summit

When & Where: January 18 in New York City; May 18 in San Francisco

It’s too late to get in on this January’s summit, but I’m throwing this one in because it seems worthy of any serious product manager’s radar. Founded by a handful of product management experts, including Dan Olsen, author of The Lean Startup Playbook and Ashita Acuthan, also a founder of Women in Product (more on that below), the summit includes one day of fireside chats, panels, keynote addresses, networking and peer learning discussions.

Speakers include Olsen, Hooked author Nir Eyal, Etsy Founder Chad Dickerson, HotelTonight’s Amanda Richardson and Gib Biddle of Netflix and Chegg fame.

The goal here is to build community in an intimate setting—only 100 people are chosen to attend after an application process that ended December 31, 2017. The inaugural summit was held in San Francisco in May 2017 and there appears to will be a follow up this coming May.

Pendomonium

When & Where: March 20-21 in Raleigh

If you couldn’t snag an invite for the Product Leader Summit, you can catch Nir Eyal on the main stage of Pendomonium in March. We started Pendomonium in 2017 as a user conference for Pendo customers, but have since broadened its reach to provide content to product teams anywhere in the world.

Four tracks of talks, discussions, and panels cover customer insight and user experience; the art and science of product management; product strategy, design and innovation; and Pendo best practices. A second keynote speaker is Dan Heath, a bestselling author out with a new book called The Power of Moments. And a cool new addition is an optional third day for a team offsite experience curated by our team at Pendo.

The setting is Raleigh, Pendo’s home base, meaning you can expect a healthy dose of southern hospitality.

INDUSTRY

When & Where: April 23-24 in Dublin; October 1-3 in Cleveland

The folks at Product Collective are behind this three-year-old conference series with global and European versions—co-founder Mike Belsito tells the story behind the conference for product people here.

The Dublin version, notably held at Dublin Castle, includes Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni of mockup tool Balsamiq and Bob Moesta, co-architect of the Jobs to be Done theory.

Featured speakers in Cleveland include Women in Product founder Merci Victoria Grace and Lean Canvas creator Ash Maurya. Interactive working sessions with product practitioners are highlights of day one. Day two covers the themes build and launch. And day three is all about scaling, with the afternoon dedicated to breakout sessions on leadership, road mapping, data, design thinking and working with engineering.

Enterprise UX

When & Where: June 13-15 in San Francisco

It’s a different experience working on a technology product within a large corporation, and Enterprise UX recognizes the need for product people in those settings (or building product for people in enterprises) to inspire each other and share their own best practices.

In its fourth year, the conference’s producer is Rosenfeld Media, which also offers training and publishes books on user experience. Speakers announced so far are author, consultant and digital governance expert Lisa Welchman and Case Western Reserve University Professor Richard Buchanan, an interaction design guru who has helped redesign the Australian Taxation System and restructure products and systems within the U.S. Postal Service.

La Product Conference

When & Where: June 21 in Paris

Organized by Product Guys, a nonprofit organization spreading product management knowledge in France, La Product is back for year three after doubling attendance in 2017.

Few details have been revealed about the 2018 iteration, but last year’s 16 speakers included Paulin Dementhon of on-demand car rental service Drivy and Teddy Pellerin and Mathieu Jacob, co-founders of the controversial French ride share app Heetch.

Mind the Product

When & Where: July 16-17 in San Francisco; October 18-19 in London

This truly global-in-scope conference series is among the longest running for product managers, launched by industry legend and ProductTank founder Martin Erikkson in 2012. People from 52 countries will attend the legacy event in London, with thousands of product managers expected at the San Francisco version. For a mini-conference experience, Mind the Product is also planning a regional event in Hamburg in April.

Mind the Product is a single-track experience, meaning everyone hears the same speakers and discussions. There’s an optional second day for more tactical workshops. A key strategy is to invite visionaries for the future of product as its speakers.

2018 speaker announcements are yet to come, but expect the caliber of 2017: Blade Kotelly, Experience Strategy Lead at Sonos; Sarah Nelson, Program Architect from IBM Studios, MIT visiting researcher Amber Case and Silicon Valley Product Group Partner Lea Hickman.

Women in Product

When & Where: September in San Francisco

Women in Product started as a dinner series for female product managers at Facebook. Now it’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to women in product management anywhere, with an annual conference that attracts more than 5,000 attendees each year and local chapters meeting regularly in San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.

The speaker list in 2017 included a who’s who of Silicon Valley women. Women in Product is typically held in September, though details haven’t been announced for 2018.

Join the WIP Facebook group for ongoing engagement and check out the WIP website for a rolling list of workshops and meetups for product leaders.

Product Management Festival

When & Where: November 14-15 in Zurich

The Product Management Festival is five years old and now commands an audience of 750 people from 38 countries for its annual event in November.

Details are to come on the 2018 conference, but the 2017 iteration included speakers from many of the most notable product companies, with keynote addresses by Mina Radhakrishnan, a former head of product at Uber turned startup founder and product management advisor at Cowboy Ventures, and Mark Hull, director of product management at Facebook.

There are a few other conferences that aren’t exactly geared toward PMs but worth considering for a different sort of experience. After all, product inspiration can come from anywhere. Think about these options too:

Gainsight Pulse

When & Where: April 10-11 in San Mateo

Customer success and product teams are working closer than ever, with the relationships and data of customer success helping to guide product decisions. This conference brags more than 5,000 customer success professionals in attendance for networking, deep learning, and a data/trend dump. No speaker details yet, but last year included the CMO of GE Digital, The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin and Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta.

TED

When & Where: April 10-14 in Vancouver

Themed The Age of Amazement, the annual TED conference continues to be one of the hottest tickets for product visionaries, entrepreneurs, entertainers and world leaders. Besides tours and cultural experiences in Vancouver, parties, and dinners, talks will cover the reinvention of politics, globalization, technology, health, science and work, with critics, skeptics and heroes represented on stage.

There are more ways than ever to experience TED, from Radio Hour on NPR to local TEDx events in hundreds of communities around the world, but the roughly $10,000 invite-only conference continues to be the place to hear from the brightest minds and get inspired.

Aspen Ideas Festival

When & Where: June 21-30 in Aspen, Colorado

This inclusion fits ProductCraft’s mission of supporting the thinking product manager. This annual festival, held in partnership with The Atlantic, draws thousands of attendees from across disciplines with the common goal of sharing ideas, thinking about the future and addressing today’s biggest challenges.

A few tracks this year may be especially interesting to product managers: Design for the New Normal, Seismic Shifts, Staying Human in a High-Tech World, and for those building healthcare products or services, Disrupting Health Systems. Expect talks and sessions led by writers, economists, artists, business leaders, teachers and a variety of other “provocative thinkers.”

About the Author

Laura Baverman is the director of communications at Pendo. She spent a decade in business journalism, writing for publications like USA Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer, News & Observer and American City Business Journals. Prior to Pendo, she served as editor of ExitEvent, an online publication covering startups across North Carolina. A Cincinnati native and Raleigh resident, Laura is learning to love the South.