I led a session on Universal Value Proposition this time, since I’m developing a class around that and wanted the opportunity to practice on people. Having learned from last month, I’d done absolutely no special session preparation whatsoever. This proved to be a good thing since (a) word had spread, (b) there were twice as many attendees and (c) there were likewise twice as many interesting sessions, gave me FOMO almost immediately. So much so that I was halfway hoping I would get upstaged and could spend the whole time participating instead of leading, but apparently I’m getting a reputation or something.

Because about half the attendees decided to attend my session, it was very, very crowded and I probably should have done something a bit more lecture-heavy. Also, I forgot to pass around my sign-up sheet (again). But I did remember to do the #2 item from my post-event retro last month: start the class by making everyone introduce themselves so that they’ll participate. (In case you’re ever feeling like a loser for forgetting something basic about your own profession – this introduction trick is basically Facilitation 101 – take heart in knowing people do that all the time.) And it went pretty well (I think) with everybody getting a chance to talk and learning things, which is one of my favorite things about unconferences.

I’ll be teaching an online version of this session “How to Craft a Unique Value Proposition” on March 21 at Noon (Pacific), and you can sign up here. There will be a recording available for those who aren’t free that day or get overtaken by events.

David Bland showed up, and I spent the second session in his Experiment Pairing discussion. I wasn’t sure what “Experiment Pairing” meant, but I didn’t care because it was David Bland and fortunately hardly anyone else recognized him so there were still seats by the time I made my way over there. Here’s the two tips that and made me pull out my notebook:

  • One good workflow for customer conversations goes like this:
    Landing page —> Traffic —> Sign-ups —> Do user interviews with people who sign up
    Because (a) this is way cheaper than hiring a market research firm, (b) you already know they’re interested and (c) they probably actually do want to talk to you.

  • Using the learning/quotes/vocabulary from these interviews to update the copy on your landing page often increases conversions (who knew?)

It is not impossible that I have misremembered some of this, if so, hopefully David will chime in with clarification 🙂 You can read his post on this topic for more info, and he’s collecting stories on this topic for his upcoming book, so be sure to get in touch with him if you have one!

The third session “How to Launch a Startup Without Quitting Your Day Job” was led by Mahad. It was attended exclusively by people with day jobs hoping to be told how to do just that. Given that nobody left after I raised my hand and checked that this was actually so, I might try doing this one next time. Although I haven’t done it either, I could teach the basics and could always lead with a disclaimer. Also, since I can remember exactly how many people showed up for this session, it would be a reasonably good experiment to run to see if actually am getting a reputation. (Stay tooned!) It was a pretty good group, with some good suggestions none of which I remember because I was brain-fried from leading the first session. But Mahad is the kind of guy who notices that his guests need nice couches to sit on and relocated to such. I remember that very vividly. Thank you Mahad!

One of the nicest things about getting out again is discovering tools and organizations that you really only hear about from people who are using them. Zee Spencer had two of these for me: Gumroad (which he uses to share his mob programming sessions) and TechTonica which provides both education AND a yearlong apprenticeship for Bay Area women (ditto non-binary adults) with low incomes.

Having worked with Bridgefoundry and other “Tech Inclusion” organizations for the past two decades, I can’t begin to emphasize how important the second part is. It is fairly easy (by this point) to learn how to code, but getting that first job (especially if you don’t have a family who can afford to float you for however long that takes) is far, far more difficult.

I really must write another “quality” article, since I’ve only been indirectly writing about my ideas on this blog for the past couple months, but these “dispatches” practically write themselves. I have an extra week this month though, so stay tuned!

Dispatch from the Feb 2019 Lean Startup Circle