VoiceCon: Tuesday keynote afterthoughts – the James Cameron connection

For a play-by-play live coverage of the Tuesday keynote session see here.

This was a much anticipated keynote well represented by executives from Avaya, Siemens, and Cisco. If I were to score the effectiveness of the presentations from highest to lowest, it’s Cisco, Avaya, and Siemens.

But first, a public service announcement: starting in 2011 VoiceCon will lose its voice and sing again as EnterpriseConnect.

Cisco kicked off its keynote with a hip video emphasizing global collaboration and its latest “human network” mantra. In the video were shots of worldwide locations, but also people of various ethnicity and cultures.  The theme was clear: Cisco empowers individuals from anywhere to collaborate effectively (and video is the medium).

Whoever created the presentation slides for Tony Bates deserves a raise. If Bates had donned a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and sneakers, then I would’ve been in Presentation Heaven (a serene place that exists once a year at Macworld, when Apple and CEO Steve Jobs used to keynote). The presentations had coverflow-like effects and smooth video clips to highlight the points Bates was making throughout his speech — no abuse of bullet points, charts and graphs, or anything that’ll clutter the slide. Even the live demo by “Chief Demo Officer” Jim Grubb was concise and comprehensively showcased Cisco’s Quad, Pulse, and Intercompany Media Engine (IME) technologies. Quad and Pulse were sort of yawn inducing, but IME warranted a second (and perhaps third) look — after all it’s one of the finalists in the Best of VoiceCon 2010 awards.

IME is an intelligent network that learns new paths to establish communications between companies to cut costs without sacrificing security. In other words, it is the communications foundation for the human-hating SkyNet which creates killer Terminator robots. The “human” network? Not for long!

Speaking of Terminator, the epic sci-fi movie franchise from James Cameron, who recently brought us the immersive 3D film, Avatar, which gave Siemens the bright idea that it’d be cool to present slides in 3D, with blue lasers, and some smoke effects. Unfortunately for Avaya’s Kevin Kennedy, the smoke machine prematurely fired off to his chagrin during the Q&A session. Enough smoke appeared to send some folks running (okay, fast-walking) for their lives suspecting it was from a real fire.

And that was only Siemens’ fail #1. Hopefully, Siemens’ Mark Straton already sent Kennedy an email of apology for the mishap.

Fail #2 — the awful slides. Do you remember the first handful of Websites we’d once surfed in the dawn of the World Wide Web using the Mosaic browser? Yes, those Siemens presentation slides looked like they were made in PowerPoint 1.0 by an accountant wearing thick glasses.

The redeeming presentation segment for Straton was having actual happy Siemens customers join on stage for some rehearsed Q&A. It’s always powerful to invite customers to share the spotlight. But really — do something about those slides! Oh, and congratulations on OpenScape being a contender in the Best of VoiceCon 2010 selection.

Avaya’s President and CEO Kevin Kennedy braved as the first keynote speaker today. Did you think he was the opening act or the main event? There was so much talk about SIP that I thought he was selling coffee. Y’know, Avaya — exponentially caffeinated. But to (sip) his credit (sip), he tried to (sip) illustrate the importance of SIP within the Avaya (sip) portfolio as well as (sip) across industries. I think most people in the audience were already tired of hearing SIP, SIP, SIP… We got it, let’s move on.

Of course, Kennedy had to demonstrate the value it gained from the Nortel acquisition. So what did he pick to showcase? SecondLife for business, aka web.alive. Seriously, didn’t SecondLife drop off the face of the Earth? In the age of HD video conferencing, Avaya wants business users to use a SecondLife-esque virtual environment to collaborate? Instead of seeing real facial expressions, Avaya thinks it’s better to interact using avatars?

(And thus I complete the James Cameron connection from today’s keynote…)


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