The 7 Most Unmissable Product Management Conferences
Fun fact: even though apes can be taught sign language to help them communicate a pretty wide array of concepts, they don’t ever use it to ask questions.
What does that mean? Well, that one of the key things separating us from our ancestral cousins is an understanding that other people might be able to teach us stuff we don’t know.
And that’s a pretty powerful concept.
Generally speaking, we work better in teams and groups, where we can share knowledge and learn from those with experiences different from our own. It’s why we’re drawn to industry gatherings and meeting-of-the-minds.
That’s as true in the world of product management as it is in any other field, where tons of annual conferences – both virtual and physical – bring people together to network, learn and share industry expertise. So let’s talk about them.
Because, you know, none of us is an island. And we’re not apes, either.
What even are product management conferences?
Ok, so you probably don’t need us to tell you what a conference is – they’re those things people in movies pretend to be at while they have extramarital affairs.
But what might be useful is to understand what makes product management get-togethers different from more general industry ones. And the answer, really, is all about relevancy.
Sometimes conference themes and itineraries will cast a pretty wide net as a means to appeal to a really broad audience across a certain sector. CES, for example, started out being all about the TV industry but is now a general technology expo for pretty much anything to do with tech.
But sometimes there are benefits in being a bit more specific. Product-centered conferences tend to have a laser-like focus on what makes products tick, how you can fold the latest technology into your offering, and how learnings from other managers can help define your roadmap.
Any product management conference worth its salt will feature keynotes, panels, and workshops from people just like you. That is to say, people who spend their day-to-day lives neck-deep in rollouts and roadmaps for SaaS, cloud, and product-leg growth businesses.
Sometimes these events are days-long gatherings, and sometimes (especially in a post-COVID world) they’re virtual events with a range of talks to tune into from home. And sometimes they’re a hybrid of both.
Whatever the case, the purpose is to learn from people walking the same road as you.
Why go to product management conferences?
Conferences can be intensive and full-on experiences, but they’re usually worth your time. If you go in with your eyes and mind open, you’ll probably come away with new knowledge, new ideas, and new relationships that will only serve to boost your productivity and prospects.
To explain how, let’s break the key benefits into two key areas:
If your role is a battleground, you can think of a conference as an armory full of weapons and gear that you can tool up with. You’ll get to hear from people working at a huge range of companies – many of whom might work or think in a completely different way to your usual style – and that can offer a unique perspective on how product management is fundamentally done. Beyond this, you’ll learn from industry leaders and gain insights that might completely transform your product’s roadmap and priorities.
What’s your next career move? Where are you headed? We only ask because conferences have always been a great way to network, make new contacts, and sell yourself. You don’t need to make a fool of yourself at the post-even shindig to connect with people in your industry who might be keen to hear what you have to say. Every industry is a bit incestuous, after all – and conferences are a great way to build your profile as someone who knows their stuff.
How to pick the right product management conference?
There are three main things you’ll want to keep in mind when determining whether a conference is worth your precious time:
Seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. While we’d say most conferences are beneficial experiences in general, you can probably plot a fairly clean line graph that correlates distance from your house with how worthwhile any given conference is. Which is to say: go if it’s feasible without breaking the (company) bank, but probably don’t rush halfway around the world on a whim.
If you’re eyeing up a specific conference, it’s a good idea to see who the keynote speakers are and give them a quick lookup on LinkedIn to understand their roles and background. Doing so will give you an overview of how relevant the talks are going to be to your field.
Is this actually a product management-specific conference, or something broader? Obviously, you can learn a whole lot from widening your horizons every now and then, but if you’re looking to network with, and learn from, people who deal with the same problems you do, it’s best to stick to conferences that hone in on product management in particular.
The 7 best product management conferences
Where: June and October 2023
When: San Fransisco and London
Full disclosure: Prodpad CEO Janna Bastow is one of the co-founders of Mind the Product (named in homage to the London Underground ‘mind the gap’ announcement), so we’re pretty biased here. That said, we’d still be in attendance regardless. #mtpcon is a two-day hybrid event, which means you can join online or in person, featuring world-class speakers, digital breakout rooms, and multiple international venues throughout the year.
From the site: “Mind the Product is the world’s largest product management conference with annual flagship conferences, attracting thousands of attendees each from all over the world.”
If you’re operating in the field of product-led growth, then all eyes are on you to deliver customer value and revenue alike. You can learn from the very best here, with 30 speakers from the likes of Microsoft, Monzo, and Skyscanner delivering talks on everything from evaluating frameworks to building teams that can help your product fly.
From the site: “We are bringing together the world’s fastest-growing community of product-led pros, growth gurus, founders, and thought leaders to hear from world-renowned businesses and industry leaders. So, whether you are new to product-led growth or an established OG, our summit has something for you.”
Describing itself as a conference for the curious, Product at Heart is the German arm of Mind the Product. It’s a three-day affair, this year with a dedicated product director event, a conference, and a pair of workshops about OKRs and product discovery. 2023’s confirmed speakers include Toast’s John Cutler, author Teresa Torres, and product coach Jeff Gothelf.
From the site: “In addition to the general networking opportunities that arise when spending the day and the breaks with a group of like-minded, curious people we will also offer special format such as (optional) Blind Date Dinners the evening before the conference.”
Where: Salt Lake City
Front is keen to explore the human side of product management, with a series of talks that it describes as ‘real-world, from-the-trenches case studies’. This will be the event’s seventh year, and it boasts an impressive roster of speakers from across the product management landscape.
From the site: “Together with over 800 other professionals, you’ll learn from extremely talented people influencing the organizations they work for and changing the way our industry looks at digital products and the way people use them.”
Are you based in Asia? As the region’s largest event of its kind, PDC is probably your go-to conference. This year will be the show’s first physical event since before the pandemic and regularly boasts 5,000 attendees and more than 20 speakers from the likes of Google, Visa, and Stripe. Don’t worry if you can’t make it there in person; everything will available online, either live or on-demand.
From the site: “Explore and learn best practices and inspirational tips from peers, and deep-dive into technology and solutions. Connect with industry leaders. Learn from thought leaders. Grow together with like-minded product owners.”
Where: Dublin, New York, Virtual, Cleveland
When: March, May, October
Helmed by the Product Collective, Industry’s slogan is ‘know you’re doing things right’, which speaks to an ethos of collective reassurance. There are global and more local events, as well as a virtual conference each year – all with a focus on sharing frameworks and best practices in what its organizers refer to as a field that ‘few of us went to school for.’
From the site: “Don’t waste your time and resources. You’ve worked too hard not to become the best Product Manager you can be. Use Industry to learn the latest methods, tools, and frameworks used to build, launch and scale world-class software products.”
Where: San Fransisco and virtual
ProductWorld shares a venue and date with DeveloperWeek, which means it’s part conference, part trade show, and offers to let you rub shoulders with some 8,000 other industry professionals. Topics covered include agile management, rapid prototyping, and even how to hire the best product managers. That’s while there are also roundtables with product managers from enterprise giants, mobile pioneers, and startups alike.
From the site: “Come hear the product success stories from tech product professionals at Silicon Valley’s top tech companies! Past speakers at our events include executives from Google, Facebook, IBM, Square, Uber, Linkedin, Slack, Microsoft, Atlassian, and 500+ more.”
Where: 200+ cities around the world
An offshoot of Mind the Product, ProductTank is a catalog of mini get-togethers happening all the time, all over the world. They’re where product managers can discuss the industry’s hot topics, find inspiration, and learn about best practices – all in informal settings and without the need for a lanyard around your neck.
From the site: “ProductTank is an informal meetup that brings together the local product community in each of those cities – whatever your role in Product, you are welcome! ProductTanks are always free to attend, organized by volunteers from the local product community, and supported by our generous sponsors.”
Don’t stop there…
If you’re looking to quench that insatiable knowledge thirst of yours, there are plenty of other ways to learn from like-minded product managers. And as luck would have it, we’ve got roundup blogs on four extra ways to top up your networking and know-how:
1. Product management Slack groups
Did you know there are hundreds of product management Slack communities out there? They’re free to join and an easy way to stay in the loop with the latest from the industry – as well as an awesome resource when it comes to getting your questions answered.
To get started, check out our blog on the top 17 Slack groups for product managers.
2. Product management certifications
They say every day’s a school day. But what if they actually were? There’s a raft of incredibly empowering certifications available to product managers who want to level up their learning and skills.
We’ve narrowed down 6 product management certifications that are worth the hype.
3. Product management books
Ever heard of books? They’re kinda like content, but without share buttons. Wild. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a bunch of bestsellers out there designed to help product managers master the art of lean product development.
We’ve read (and recommend) these 14 books on lean product development.
4. Product management podcasts
If you can’t make it to a conference, maybe you can have some of the industry’s greatest minds come to you. Or, more specifically, your ears – all while you cook, commute, or work out. There are dozens of in-depth product management podcasts out there, all of which are free for you to scoop information from on a regular basis. And, yep, you guessed it…
…We’ve listed out the 10 best product management podcasts for you.