Why voice will win: VoiceCon in NY – review


By Daniel Penton

I attended VoiceCon in New York last month, a first of its kind conference dedicated to all things voice. From podcasts to smart assistants – think Amazon Alexa and Google Home – and everything in between, the conference aimed to give a state of the nation on this topic that’s increasingly becoming part of people’s lives, whether it’s at home or in the workplace.

It’s the potential for voice in the enterprise that took me to the conference. This year, 69 million people in the US are expected to use voice-enabled digital assistants at least once a month and 42 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly — making it imperative that brands get into the space before getting crowded out.

With 19 million Amazon Alexa units sold so far (currently the most dominant voice-enabled digital assistant and counting – it just launched in France), chances are that you’ve either got one or tried one. It’s this prevalence of smart AI that means that the leap to the workplace is closer than many think. Amazon launched Alexa for Business last year to focus on the more functional uses of voice within the enterprise.

With speakers from both corporates and technology companies – including the big two of Google and Amazon – perhaps not surprisingly mentions of voices use in the enterprise were few and far between.

The conference was held by a company called Vayner Media, which is run by the infamous Gary Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee, a man that has gone from growing his father’s then small liquor store business to a $60 million a year company to being an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Uber to now running an 850 person full service marketing agency that’s shaking up any preconceptions Maddison Avenue still had left, winning blue chip clients like Anheuser-Busch, GE, Unilever and PepsiCo.

Gary Vee kicked off the conference giving a state of the nation on voice, likening it to 1996 when the internet was on few people’s radars. He’s in no doubt about the importance of voice though, saying: “It’s very likely that voice will have the biggest impact on your life.”

Internal comms – one of the first places that voice has an impact

We caught up with Vanerchuk later on in the conference to get his thoughts on the potential for voice in internal comms. He said: “I’m a huge fan of voice for that. Vayner Media is going to build a voice app internally that answers every question.”

He went on to say that employees will be able to ask things like: “Hey Vayner, what’s the vacation policy,” and get responses to the common questions on employees minds.

Vaynerchuk concluded: “Internal comms is going to be one of the first places that voice has an impact on.”

A new way to engage customers and prospects

What also came through loud and clear is that companies – mainly in the marketing department right now – are starting to take this platform very seriously as a way to engage customers and prospects, whether that be by creating podcasts, flash briefings or skills.

Investment bank JP Morgan Chase & Co is one such company, with three audio skills. One of these is a skill where clients can say for example: “Alexa, ask JPMorgan what the price target for Apple is,” and have it quickly answered through the voice-activated assistant. Alexa is also able to send analysts’ reports and related queries.

Like Gary Vee said however, it’s only a matter of time before voice, in the guise of smart AI, enters the enterprise as a new channel for internal communications.

Amazon Alexa is increasingly being added into cars, laptops and bathroom mirrors, it won’t be long before you’re asking what meetings you’ve got that day, before jumping in the car and listening to the latest CEO townhall or VoiceCon keynote. For now however, you can just click below.

Daniel Penton is a Change Communications Specialist and Lead Consultant at www.ICPlan.com