I’ve used Twitter to find project management articles and ask the occasional question; however, those interactions were ad hoc at best and had limited engagement. It wasn’t until I started participating in #PMChat, a weekly Twitter chat every Friday at 12:00 PM ET that I understood how useful Twitter can be to actively engage in a community and obtain relevant feedback and opinions.

Figure A is a snapshot of a recent TweetChat event for #PMChat.
Figure A

Participating in #PMChat using Twebevent.com (Click the image to enlarge.)

#PMChat is an innovative way to connect with other project managers, get answers to specific project management questions, and obtain different perspectives from IT pros across the globe. Project managers can also earn professional development units (PDUs) for their PMI certifications by participating in the chat.

#PMChat was created by Rob Prinzo and Robert Kelly. I interviewed Robert Kelly to learn more about the history of #PMChat and how it has become a beneficial resource to project managers.

TechRepublic: What inspired #PMChat?
Robert Kelly: Rob Prinzo came up with the idea and contacted me. The social media movement has been undeniable over the past few years, and the project management community had really taken to the medium. In a field that depends on lessons learned and best practices to deliver repeatable results, the pool of resources you can tap into via social media is very powerful. Unfortunately, the idea of personal branding also gained traction and the two collided. Twitter became a virtual commercial stream with everyone announcing their virtual classes, speaking engagements, and new books. True collaboration, bi-directional discussions were more difficult to find. It was right about this time of my frustration that Rob contacted me and asked if I would be interested in starting a Twitter chat for project managers. He had participated in a few [chats] for other disciplines, and thought the project management community could benefit from this sort of platform.
TechRepublic: How should project managers use #PMChat as a resource given the limitations of 140 characters?
Robert Kelly: The 140 characters force the community to keep their thoughts concise and to the point. You would be amazed at how much we cover and learn in the 1 hour session with only 140 character snippets.  The platform forces us to develop crisp thoughts and concise communication skills, as we learn about PM and Leadership. Beyond the Tweetup, #PMChat has really developed a full social media ecosystem that extends beyond the 140 character limitations of Twitter. While the weekly Tweetup is the core of our community, we have a full website (http://www.pmchat.net), a LinkedIn group, and a live radio show called #PMChat PreGame show. It is this ‘ecosystem’ that allows project managers from around the world to truly engage beyond the 140 characters. Business analysts and leaders are also welcome.

The website has a schedule of upcoming speakers and topics, and it includes an aggregated feed of PM blogs from some of the brightest PMs from around the world. The LinkedIn group is used for folks to continue the discussing the topic of the week in further depth or start up a new topic. Prior to the 12:00 kick off, we host a live Pre-Game radio show, in which our weekly guest expert comes on to discuss the topic and prep everyone for the Tweetup. There are a lot of webinars out there, but people are stuck in so many meetings and don’t have an hour or even 30 minutes to listen to some sessions. This pre-game show is only 15-minutes. It is fast, but packed with information from some of the best thought leaders in project management, career development, and leadership.

TechRepublic: You recently completed the #PMChat Olympics. What was the result from hosting an online PM Twitter Scavenger Hunt?
Robert Kelly: The Scavenger hunt was a lot fun! We were able to create some buzz about the community, while also introducing a little competition that assisted in developing the relationship of the community members. Having members tweet a picture of themselves with a paper saying “#PMChat is…” was a great way for folks to put a face to a name (or Twitter handle). Asking folks to have a friend or colleague tweet “I was invited to #PMChat by @…” was a great way to encourage the members to spread the word. Another part of the scavenger hunt was to have the participants go to the website and submit a topic they would like covered in an upcoming session. Lastly, #PMChat is a vendor neutral community, so you don’t hear/see much in the way of promotional items. The #PMChat Olympics did allow us to recognize some of our key contributors that have supported us throughout the year. They provided some amazing prizes worth over $2,000! During the celebration we did thank them, tweet about their businesses, etc. At the end of the day, we were able to create some buzz, gain some new community members, and have some fun as a ‘virtual team.’
TechRepublic: What is the role of the weekly guest expert? Are they the facilitator of the #PMChat?
Robert Kelly: We recognize that everyone is tremendously busy and grateful for the expert contributions, so we try to be as flexible as possible with our ‘requirements.’ Ideally, we ask the Guest Expert to provide a blog post about the topic, join the #PMChat Pre-Game Show, and then participate in the hour-long Tweetup on Fridays. Some folks have sent us a link to a previous blog and we simply re-post it, while others provide original content. While Rob and I handle facilitating the activities, we have had someone actually run the Tweetup before and look for others interested in that piece.
TechRepublic: How has engaging with #PMOT (Project Managers on Twitter) and #PMChat helped you become a better PM? How does it help your clients and your company?
Robert Kelly: As long as we are open to constructive criticism, then #pmot and #PMChat will be a valuable tool in a PM’s tool box. Most social media experts will tell you that social media is more about listening and less about speaking. While that is geared towards sales and marketing folks, the same can be said for PMs looking to truly develop themselves. Personally, I have been able to develop my skill-set by leaps and bounds via #PMOT and #PMChat collaboration. Being able to discuss challenges with other PMs and hear from folks in different sectors provides an on-going roundtable that fosters continuous improvement. If there is a challenge facing one of my clients, we can post that (the scenario, not the client) to the global community and get feedback in real-time vs. waiting months for an upcoming seminar. In turn, my clients can be sure they are working with consultants that are truly up to speed on best practices and have a knowledge base of thousands behind them.

Join me on #PMChat

PMChat is a lot of fun at 140 characters or less at a time. Here’s how to get started with #PMChat:

  1. Create an account on Twitter.
  2. Visit http://www.pmchat.net for specific topics.
  3. Use a free Twitter Meetup tool like http://twebevent.com/PMChat or participate directly using Twitter.com.
  4. Show up on Fridays at 12:00 ET and engage in the community.
  5. Connect with your favorite project managers (@rkelly976, @robprinzo, and @andymakar, just to name a few) via Twitter.

Special thanks to Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo for contributing to the article and making #PMChat a useful resource for project managers.