Behind the Scenes at Productfest!

Jun 17, 2024

This past weekend, several members of our team brought their product communication expertise to ProductFest in Richmond, Virginia. Upstream360 CEO Mike Thomas gave a talk about our process and philosophy, and we sat down with him to discuss his experience.

So what exactly is ProductFest? What do you think Upstream360 brought to the table?

ProductFest is a conference we got involved with due to our relationship with Virginia Commonwealth University; they're a big sponsor of it. It's mostly in the Richmond area, and they bring a bunch of innovators together and talk about different ways that they do product development. Where we brought unique value is we're much more about how you communicate the product, more so than how you design it. I think both those things go hand-in-hand, but we brought a different perspective about product communication.

Besides speaking, what else did you do while you were there?

It was a cool event. They had it very well organized. There were speakers on stage, so I got a chance to learn about all kinds of stuff, and there were also vendors set up around. A big part of what I did was just meeting smart people from various different industries. I think that's one of the things that makes our company unique; we work with so many different industries, which informs the kinds of ideas we have and the ways we communicate. I mean, I talked to somebody that works on credit cards, which gave us ideas about how we might talk about soap later. It was just meeting lots of different people and being inspired by them.

They really had the audience in mind. I think it was more about providing sparks to the audience and less about just downloading information.

How did you feel about the talk?

The audience was awesome. I've never felt as good after a talk as I felt coming off that stage. It was in this big old theater, with the high ceilings and the balconies, so it just it felt cool. It was a completely open stage so I could just roam free. And the energy coming back from the crowd was amazing; it was lots of laughs and high engagement and cameras flashing on slides. I think people legitimately wanted to learn. Even as I walked off the stage, people weren’t like, “Hi, I'd like to work with you on some projects,” they were more like, “Hey I geeked out over that story! Like that's super cool. Can you tell me more about it?” I think people learned something more so than found a tool.

What seemed to resonate with people?

I think people liked a lot of the holistic design stuff, like the fact that like the color of pudding can make it taste differently or the color of an odor molecule can make it be connoted differently.

People also seemed to like the storytelling in general. People get lost sometimes in selling a product, and you're not. You're selling a story.

What does Upstream360 take away from doing events like this?

I wish everybody in our company got a chance to stand on stage and do these things, not that they want to, but it’s good because it's just a reminder…any job becomes a drudgery of a job over time, but whenever we share what we do as a company, everybody’s like, “That's the most freakin’ cool thing I've ever heard! How do I how do I get a job there? You guys are telling stories about like every kind of product! You guys are just making stuff up and you're drawing things and you put all these things together… what you guys do is freakin’ cool.”

It's always a nice re-energizer for me, when you have a bad week and it just feels like work sucks (because we all think work sucks sometimes), it’s nice to take a step back and realize what we do is actually really cool.