I spent the day yesterday at ProductCamp. While this was the fifth ProductCamp in Austin, it was the first one I had ever attended. I am careful not to commit my Saturdays away from home, as I travel during the week in my career as a professional speaker, but many friends encouraged me to participate.
This is an "Un-Conference" in that the speakers are not pre-determined. Over 50 people submitted proposals to speak, but there is no "speaker selection committee". Instead, the attendees show up and vote in the morning for the speakers and topics they want to hear. About 30 were chosen and a schedule was created. Once in a session, people vote with their feet, if they do not like the speaker, they walk out to go to a different room.
I was honored to be selected to present "Your Personal Brand Is Tied To Your Company". The participants in my session and I had a fun, informative and interactive discussion.
The flow of the presentation took its own direction as people asked a lot of questions and shared their thoughts. There was some division in opinions over the good and bad of being too transparent on social media, but I was impressed with the high level of respect that those with differing opinions showed to each other. There were lots of laughs.
While encouraging participants to look closely at the nuggets of information they got from all the speakers they saw at ProductCamp Austin I blurted out "Go home and look at your nuts" (yes, I meant "notes", but sometimes in a high energy presentation the wrong words gets out of a speakers mouth). It was funny, and the participants and I had continued chuckles with that line over and over and over.
One ongoing conversation in the hallway and on Twitter after the presentation was about generational differences in how much they share online. Some people thought I was too "old school" in my views, but I think we agreed more than we disagreed on the topic. The examples used were too superficial, but my point was that while making mistakes is part of life, sharing EVERY mishap could hurt your reputation. I did not mean never share anything, but why give people reasons NOT to hire you in the future.
Example above --- I am cool sharing things like the mistake of saying "nuts" instead of "notes". It was as mistake, but it did not hurt my personal or professional brand (did it?)... and it was really funny to everyone in the room! In fact, some could argue it makes one more human and approachable when you share harmless faux pas.
But there are other things people share on the internet (sex, drugs, politics, crime, dis-respect, hate-speech, etc....) that are hurting their chances at employment, client engagements, and other relationships. Plus if your employees are doing these things it can harm you company's brand. One participant shared that HR Departments conduct searches looking for reasons to eliminate people from contention for jobs over things online that could later embarrass the company.
My message was to think things through. I don't buy into the argument from younger professionals who say "it does not matter" to their generation, as in 20 years these types of things will make no difference to anyone. While society always gets more accepting over time, some things could come back to haunt you later in your career.... thus one should be cautious and careful.
When I was in college 25 years ago there were not cameras and video cameras on every cell phone (here is a shocker... nobody had cell phones!). Thus we were not recording each and every thing we did (THANK GOD). The times are different and the tools we use to communicate are different, but that does not mean people should not think about this topic of personal brand and the long term ramifications!
I think the organizers of Product Camp Austin did a great job. I will certainly attend again. The next ProductCamp in Austin will be January 15, 2011. If you live in Texas, save the date!
Have A Great Day.