Presenting the VoiceCon Disconnects

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Movies have Oscars, Music has Grammys – I am launching the VoiceCon Disconnects. These are my awards for the disconnects between reality and the show. This is a less crowded topic as so many (including myself) have written about the great parts of VoiceCon.

Worst Keynote: Five VoiceCon keynotes were delivered by Avaya, Siemens, Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft. All of them were delivered professionally by polished executives. There were no disaster’s like IBM’s demo failure of VoiceCon Fall (2009) – though the premature ejaculation of the Siemens smoke machine will be remembered (especially by Avaya). So with no ringers, I had to search deeper…as in a blown opportunity. The keynotes are a fairly major event – there is no concurrent programming, and the captive audience of competitors, employees, media, analysts, and customers is in the thousands. The keynotes are a time to set the brand apart.

So with that in mind, I present the Disconnect for Worst Keynote to Kevin Kennedy of Avaya. Kevin took most of his keynote time to discuss the benefits of SIP. The presentation was excellent, but would have been more appropriate five years ago. To be fair, it started nicely, but quickly fell apart after discussing entropy.

The lost opportunity of the presentation was it missed what the audience really wanted to hear – about the synergies of Avaya and Nortel, about the surviving technologies and the methods behind the new road map. About what it is like for the #3 market share leader to acquire the #2 leader via bankruptcy auction. What Avaya learned from Nortel’s employees, customers, and dealers. About the inner workings of private equity. About the synergies and complexities of Skype being under the same parent ownership. About the human challenges of integrating fierce competitors into a single organization. About how Avaya, a traditional telecom equipment maker, will compete against IBM and Microsoft on IT terms.

There was some optimism in Kennedy leaving the end open for Q&A.; It was considered a unique move showing his willingness and desire to connect to the audience. But I think it was more that he ran out of things to say about SIP.

Keynotes should be more about vision than product demos and technical tutorials. Kennedy had a great opportunity to truly unveil a vision on the audience, but instead delivered the depth of a motivational poster – on SIP.

Worst Banner: Signage isn’t limited to the exhibit hall. The Gaylord Palms was adorned with voice related banners and signs throughout. Avaya clearly dominated the signage category in general – so much that the Gaylord Atrium was in perpetual shade. The Disconnect for Worst (non-booth) Signage goes to Microsoft. I don’t know what this sign was supposed to suggest, but I found it frightening. Don’t let the cut and paste graphics fool you, it was actually designed and printed that way.

Worst Panel: To be fair, one would have to attend all panels to be qualified to pick the worst. I didn’t. But in this case, I think I will award one of my panels the Disconnect. Eric Krapf and myself were co-moderators for a cloud panel. It included guests from Verizon, Skype, IBM, Cisco, and Avaya. I knew it was headed the wrong way after the first question from Eric “What is your definition of the cloud?” Verizon went with “it’s what we have always done” followed by Skype with “it’s what we have always done” followed by Cisco with “it’s hosted email”.

I realized we were in Larry Ellison’s cloud hell

Dave Michels