JAMming online with 180 product people
What I learned at my first virtual conference
I’ve been working remotely for nearly 15 years. First as a software developer and later building large remote teams at a hyper-growth startup. I’m very comfortable working with people from the other side of a camera. And yet, my finger hesitated for more than a moment before I clicked the big “Get started” button in the middle of the page.
The Remote PM, the first virtual conference from JAM, had just started for real and I was about to start the first of several speed networking sessions. If you’ve ever heard of speed dating, then you get the concept. You’re paired at random with another attendee for a 5-minute chat; no agenda, no bias towards selecting familiar faces. I took a deep breath and mashed down on the trackpad.
Let’s take this online
As the COVID crisis deepened in early March, Mathilde and Seb, the creators of JAM, had an excruciating call to make. They’d planned a full year’s worth of events, both large and small, all across Europe. Now it looked like most, if not all, of those events would have to be postponed or cancelled. As experienced product builders themselves however, they and their team started looking for workarounds and weighing the tradeoffs. Clearly, they’d have to postpone the in-person events. But that didn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t be able to do anything. For the first time, they started to seriously consider what a virtual event would look like.
The Remote PM is the first virtual conference that JAM has organized but they are no strangers to organizing in-person conferences. JAM London has been running for 6 years now, drawing upwards of 700 PMs, designers, and engineers. JAM Barcelona is in its second year and last year the JAM team ran their first Product Leaders Weekend–an intimate gathering of seasoned product leaders at a secret rural location in Wales. But, as so many of us have realized over the last two months, remote is different. While some of that experience would be applicable, much of it would be useless.
The decision to host a virtual event might have been a tough one but settling on the premise of the conference was an easy call. With so much of the world being thrown into working from home, many people and companies have struggled to translate their processes and rituals into remote-friendly alternatives. The Remote PM would be focused entirely on giving product folks tactical tips and tools they could use immediately to hopefully ease the pain of the transition and help their teams find a new rhythm working remotely. In addition to more traditional speaking slots, practical workshops (one of which was run live in Miro with 50+ attendees!) helped to give small groups space to explore their own specific challenges and several speed networking breaks reminded everyone that we’re all in this together.
With the exception of my first speed networking pairing (my partner didn’t realize he was actually in a call) the pairings were surprisingly fun. A five minute time limit means that you are forced to dive immediately into asking questions and telling your own story. The limit also means that you’re never afraid of getting trapped in any single conversation for too long. After four great conversations with four completely different people the session was finished and it was time to switch to the main stage content.
While we sat there waiting for the speakers to come up on the screen, I thought to myself that this is what early broadcast television must have been like; before 24 hour programming and endless ads. The screen came alive and Matt LeMay, a lanky, endearingly earnest man with a wild shock of dark curly hair, sat facing us from his basement office that doubles as a recording studio. Guitars lined one entire wall, a drum kit was barely visible behind him. I’d met Matt last autumn speaking at JAM London but in an instant I learned something new and more personal about him. This theme would be repeated with speaker after speaker. The Hopin platform made it feel as though you were on a direct video call with each speaker. The fact that you could clearly see their facial expressions and body language made the content more engaging. You could also see their houses in the background, which made the entire experience feel more personal. Given the attendees and speakers were scattered all over the planet, this intimacy and immediacy was surprising and delightful.
So, did The Remote PM deliver?
To be quite honest, even after 15 years of working remotely, I was skeptical that a virtual conference could be useful, much less enjoyable. I love the in-person experience and personality of conferences and live events. The idea that a virtual event could recreate even a small portion of that magic felt too far fetched to me. But I’ll go on record as converted after The Remote PM. The speakers and other attendees were top notch, the content was inspiring and helpful, the energy was palpable, and the technology–while not without it’s hiccups–mostly took a backseat and let all of us humans interact in a natural, personal, and authentic way.
42 days ago
New date confirmed for Product Leaders Weekend 2020
Nobody knows what the world will look like in a few months. What we know, however, is that we'll all be craving to reconnect. And when social distancing ends, we'll be there for you!
With that in mind, we're excited to announce our new date for the 2020 edition of the Product Leaders Weekend.
📅 The event will now take place on:
Monday September 28 - Thursday October 1
Here's the schedule:
- Monday: arrive at the venue with fellow attendees. You can either get there by your own means, or get on the JAM coach from London or Cardiff.
- Tuesday & Wednesday: talks, activities, campfires and dinners.
- Thursday: goodbye breakfast and departure.
What if I can't make the new date?
We understand that these are unprecedented times, and we'll do our best to find solutions. If you have previous commitments, we can offer the following options:
- Swap your ticket to one of our other events
- Credit for a future Product Leaders Weekend event
- Transfer your ticket to a friend or colleague
Will the speakers be the same?
Yes, and as a bonus, with the event taking place a little later in the year, you'll get to learn from 3 additional speakers and participate in some additional activities! More prep time means a better programme for you!
What other event can I attend in the meantime?
We've been busy over the last couple of weeks, and are pleased to announce our very first virtual event – The Remote Product Manager. A place to help you navigate the remote transition with fellow product leaders – fully online, with the same high-quality content, with an extra dose of interactivity.
To thank you for your patience and continuous support, we'd like to offer you a free ticket – just send us an email for more information (this offer is only valid for existing Product Leaders Weekend 2020 ticket holders).
Stay safe, take care, and see you in September! 😊
48 days ago
Announcing, The Remote PM – a new event centered around helping transition your team to remote.
Like most product teams, you've probably gone remote overnight. We know it's not easy, but the show must got on, right?
After 3 weeks of hard work, we're pleased to announce our very first virtual event: The Remote Product Manager.
It's not a webinar. It's not a Zoom call. It's a new format that blends carefully-curated sessions, fireside chats and guided discussions with remote product leaders.
You will learn how to:
- adapt your product practices in times of crisis
- implement remote-first communication rituals
- fine-tune your habits and leadership skills
- facilitate ideation workshops remotely
And of course, non-awkward speed networking to help you connect with those who're in the same boat. You can talk about product, remote work, or just vent!
May 14th, 2020
Wherever you are
👙 Dress code
From suits to onesies!
63 days ago
It's (still) the year of growth
Our plan for this year was to invest in growth. Last month, we announced four new events, lined up incredible speakers, and revamped our website. Q1 was going amazingly, until the pandemic hit. Like everyone else, we had to adapt quickly. As creators of real-life experiences for makers, we'd be lying if we said we didn't have a few low days.
We turned to our community for input, and we heard you loud and clear: JAM must go on.
Here's what we've been discussing behind the scenes, and how we see the future of JAM in these difficult times.
We'll keep jamming IRL
Ever since 2015, our mission has been to bring makers together in real life. We see incredible value in connecting people away from their screens. Now more than ever, we believe in this mission.
When social distancing ends and everyone is craving to reconnect, we'll be there for you. We'll welcome you with a big smile (and plenty of hugs) 🤗 at JAM Barcelona and JAM London.
We're launching Remote tickets
The current crisis got us to roll up our sleeves and work on something we've had on our backlog for a while: Remote tickets! We designed this as a more affordable option to join our events from anywhere in the world. After several weeks of discussions and research, we're excited to open the bookings today!
Grow with us!
Our plan for this year was to invest in growth. This plan hasn't changed – only the path means have. Booking your ticket today will help us continue organising the events we all love so much – we can't do it without you.
70 days ago
How we're dealing with COVID-19
During these unprecedented times, everyone is dealing with a lot of change and uncertainty. Now, more than ever, our goal is to provide makers with a place to connect, learn and grow together.
It goes without saying that our number one priority is ensuring the safety of everyone involved in our events, and do everything we can to help contain the spread of the virus. This is what we're going to be moving forwards:
We're postponing the Product Leaders Weekend
Whilst still 2 months away, we've decided to postpone this event to later in the year. This decision comes with a heavy heart, but we know it's the right thing to do. We're currently discussing options with the venue and will be using the additional time we have to put together an even better programme than originally planned.
All other events will be proceeding as planned, with some adjustments
We've been working hard to bring you 7 carefully-curated events in 2020. These events are still taking place and we're putting measures in places to ensure they all meet the highest possible standard for Health & Safety.
You can read more about our approach here.
Should the situation evolve such that we can't host a physical event, we have contingency plans in place to enable all events to happen 100% online.
We're launching 'Remote Tickets'
This has been in our backlog for a while, and now seems like the perfect time to make it happen.
Both of our flagship conferences JAM London and JAM Barcelona will offer a remote ticket option which will allow you to take part in the experience, from the comfort of your home.
In-person or online, we're committed to continue doing our best to enable you to share stories, meet and connect with your peers and learn together.
We'll continue monitoring any guidelines published by the WHO and local authorities, and will adjust our plans accordingly.
Thank you for all your support to date (and for your patience), as we navigate unchartered territory.