VOICE 2020 Moves to Washington, DC to Get Bigger and Better. Kicks Off Year with New VOICE Live From CES Event
Many voice professionals will attend at least one industry event this coming year and there is a good chance a lot will choose VOICE 2020 organized by Pete Erickson and the team at Modev. VOICE 2019 was the largest voice industry event of the past year with over 4,000 attendees and it is moving cities to Washington, DC to better accommodate growth.
Another change for Modev is an expansion to multiple events in 2020 with the first kicking off next week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. VOICE Live From CES will be a one-day event on Wednesday, January 8th at the Aria hotel as an official CES program. It is focused on the intersection of voice and marketing and has limited seating. Voicebot caught up with Peter Erickson for an email interview about how he sees the events shaping up in 2020.
1) Some big news for VOICE 20 is that you are moving venues from Newark to the Washington, D.C. area. What prompted the move?
Pete Erickson, CEO of Modev: Growth. VOICE is at the point where we need a Tier 1 market to support our 2020 event and beyond. The D.C. market ended up winning out from a national search and we’re excited to host the event in the nation’s capital.
2) How was VOICE 19 different from the 2018 edition and how will it be different again in 2020?
Erickson: I think the biggest difference was the number of brands who were able to speak publicly about their efforts with voice. While the major platforms all shared and presented in 2018, in 2019 we had many great case studies and announcements shared across industries including but not limited to Mercedes Benz, KLM Airlines, NPR, Pandora, 1-800-Flowers, Merck, U.S. Bank, VISA, NY Times, and many more.
In 2020, we’re going to see exponential growth in our brand participants and how many companies have solidified their voice-tech strategies from media incumbents to well-funded startups. We’ll also see a tighter program for developers and designers seeking to get into the space and take advantage of the opportunities. Developers are seeking a clear path to monetization and designers are looking for tools to meet their most difficult multimodal challenges. Our job as an event is to ensure the content aligns with these goals. Our EXPO will more than double to 150 companies presenting solutions and business opportunities for our more than 5,000 attendees.
3) From the beginning, I recall you wanted to create VOICE as the largest gathering of voice technology community worldwide. The first two installations met that objective. Is that still the goal with 2020 or have your objectives evolved?
Erickson: Bigger isn’t always better. So, our primary goal is to be the best event for moving the industry forward for developers, designers, technology decision-makers, investors and buyers seeking to make investment decisions. If we meet this objective, we’ll likely remain the largest event globally as we have built up an audience in our first two years. Given where things are sitting right now, we’re highly confident of exceeding our goals.
4) How has your thinking about the voice communities of developers, platforms, enterprises, agencies, and other organizations changed over the past three years?
Erickson: We held our first Alexa workshop in 2016 and then completed a 10 city tour in 2017. Those were the early days of voice development and conversational design and there was a lot of curiosity and excitement. In looking at the more than 2,000 attendees to these workshops, it was clear that interest was wide and included all industries. This is what led us to create VOICE, to give all of these personas a place to meet and learn the latest.
I’ve since watched the industry evolve in 2018 and 2019 and the biggest change I see is the rapid evolution of voice as an interface and a must-have for most brands from an engagement standpoint. It’s become a selling point for luxury cars and banks. The business opportunities are strong for an ecosystem between brands, platforms, agencies, and third-party platforms. I also see enterprises adopting voice capabilities to improve operational efficiencies and speed of data for knowledge workers.
However, voice applications as a market like the app stores for smartphones haven’t emerged at the same pace. I believe this is mostly due to a lack of clear monetization opportunities. The way consumers are using voice assistants probably needs to evolve before this market really takes hold. It will happen, just not as quickly as the business market.
5) What topic or presentation broke out as unexpectedly popular at VOICE 19? What do you think that sleeper topic or presentation will be in 2020?
Erickson: In 2019, I think “Strategy” as a topic such as covered in the Voicebot pre-conference workshop was a runaway topic of interest. In hindsight, this would align with what we’re observing. The business leaders and decision-makers are looking for guidance to build out their roadmaps. We’re going to incorporate this into our overall plans for 2020. If there’s a topic I think may rise to the top of the heap at VOICE 2020 it may be around commerce and monetization.
6) The past couple of years, Modev has run VOICE as its single event dedicated to the voice technology community. This year you have the VOICE Live From CES event and the 24-Hour online VOICE Global Livestream in May. How will having this complement of events around voice change how VOICE 20 is organized?
VOICE is a now an industry platform event and we see it as our mission to ensure we’re meeting our community where they are. Fortunately, we were hand-selected by The Consumer Technology Association to produce a day of programming on-site at CES on January 8th at the Aria Hotel. This will be a day of executive-level thought leadership sponsored by the Actions on Google team but will also feature Amazon Alexa and leading brands such as Whirlpool, GE Lighting, KLM Airlines, NPR, Pandora, and many others.
VOICE Global is our first live stream event that will run for 24 hours and allow us to connect with all those in the community across the far reaches of the globe. We’re excited to produce this event and hope it becomes our largest event of the year in terms of individuals participating. It will be 100% free for all which includes hosting a viewing party. It should be a lot of fun.
7) What do you think was the biggest announcement or trend in the voice industry in 2019?
This is a great question, but I would probably have to go with the Apple Airpod Pro release coupled with the fact that they will sell more than $12B worth of Airpods this year. This is an always-on voice assistant that will integrate with existing apps and services and pave the way for developers to build custom tools for this new kind of interface. It will disrupt some existing incumbents who won’t be able to make the jump from tap and swipe to audio. We’ve also seen the Amazon Echo Buds on the market which will only further drive this industry forward. Expect new entrants such as Sentien to start to squeeze in as the sheer size of this hearables market is big enough to drive innovation. This is all good for the industry.
You can learn more about voice events hosted by Modev in 2020 at VoiceSummit.ai.