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Not Just a Twitter Community
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Robert Kelly, one of the co-founders of PMChat – a relatively new discussion group for project managers that takes place on Fridays from 12:00-1:00 PM EST on Twitter. I say “relatively new" as the first PMChat session was held on August 19, but the audience continues to grow dramatically with the October 7 tweetup having a reach of over 34,000. (That’s up from the reach of around 21,000 from the week before.)
I feel a little like I’m putting the cart before the horse, but before explaining more about what PMChat is, I do want to mention that it has grown into much more than just a weekly Twitter chat. So, even if you’re not a big fan of Twitter, you can still participate in and/or learn from this community – whether it’s through the LinkedIn discussion group, the Friday “pre-game" radio show, the PMChat website or other related venues. For links to all of these sources, check out the references at the bottom of this page.
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So, What Is PMChat?
The core of PMChat is an hour-long “drop-in" Twitter chat, co-founded by Rob Prinzo and Robert Kelly, that focuses on discussions relevant to project managers. Past topics have been centered on areas such as scope management, requirements gathering and managing vendor relationships. You can check out the recaps of these discussions at pmchat.net.
Each week, the Friday discussion is preceded by a 15-minute PMChat Pre-Game Show on BlogTalkRadio at 11:30 PM EST. If you miss the radio show, don’t worry – while it’s a great lead-in to the current week’s topic, you’ll still be able to follow the discussion without it and many of the prior recordings have been posted at the PMChat website.
The Twitter chat itself, while casual and friendly, does follow a set structure – just formal enough to keep everyone on topic while still promoting an atmosphere that invites all to contribute to the discussion. As facilitators, Kelly and Prinzo deserve a huge amount of credit for being able to achieve this balance, and to do so in a manner that is virtually transparent to the other participants.
When I asked Kelly how they managed this, he explained that Prinzo and he stayed on the phone with each other during the entire PMChat with one person leading the discussion points and the other mostly focusing on the incoming comments and welcoming new faces. But, Kelly also pointed out that the regular participants in the chat were a terrific group, and he was always impressed with their natural self-moderation.
In addition to the Twitter discussions, Dennis Hull made the suggestion to start a PMChat group on LinkedIn. This is an open group, so if you’re in the camp that prefers threaded posts and not being limited to 140 characters at a time, you may want to check out this community as well.
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A Little Bit About Twitter Chats
I have to admit, when I first heard about the concept of Twitter chats, I was a bit skeptical. Basically, I’ve always thought that Twitter’s format was a bit unwieldy for in-depth discussions – especially when compared to other social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and the newer Google Plus. While hashtags do make it easier to follow conversations on Twitter, it’s not uncommon for those same hashtags to be picked up by others and used for posts that really don’t fit in with the tag’s original intention.
Still, I was very interested in hearing the thoughts of this group, so I pushed away these pre-conceived notions to follow the Friday chats. That’s actually a big point in favor of the Twitter format – you can watch and read what’s going on without actually jumping into the conversation until you feel comfortable doing so. In fact, there’s a free application called Twebevent that makes this even easier. If you click here, you’ll be taken to the Twebevent that follows the #PMChat hashtag.
Of course, if you’re a Twitter pro, you won’t be worried about any of this. But, if you are a little apprehensive about getting started, try going to the Twebevent link on PMChat day and following the conversation anonymously for a bit.
Although our entire conversation was great, I was particularly struck by one statement Kelly made: “I think I learned more in the last year through social media outlets than I did in all of my project management classes." Nowadays, we all keep hearing how important social media is for professional development – maybe even to the point that we’re sick of listening to that same message. No matter what your stance is, however, traditional books and coursework are really only teaching the lessons of yesterday.
Yes, those lessons are still important, but they need to be combined with the lessons of today – the ones we can only get from experience and discussions with others in our field. Even if you have a strong local network, there’s a huge advantage to tapping into the global communities which are so easily accessible today via avenues like Twitter and LinkedIn.
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You Can Even Earn PDUs
While the biggest draw of getting involved in the PMChat community is the great collaborative learning environment it offers, there’s also a notable bonus. If you’re maintaining a project management credential through PMI, taking part in the weekly Twitter chat qualifies as a self-directed learning activity for which you can earn PDUs. For more details on how this works, see this page at the PMChat website. If you plan to go this route, make sure you save your own chat archives just in case one of those ugly audits comes your way.
Thanks again to Robert Kelly for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me a little more in-depth about PMChat – and thanks to both Kelly and Rob Prinzo for all the effort they put into this initiative. Kelly estimates that he spends about 10 hours a week working on PMChat-related activities, but I suspect both he and Prinzo may spend even more time than that. :)
If you’ve participated in PMChat, what are your impressions? Do you have any advice to give to others (especially Twitter newbies) who may be thinking of taking part? Leave us a note in the Comments!