Ultan O’Brion | Chatbots Magazine
ConverCon, billed as “Europe’s First Conversational Interface Conference” was held in the Science Gallery in Dublin on the 4th of May, 2017.
I attended and presented at the event and for a first-time outing, I was very impressed by the depth, breadth, and diversity of the content and people there. I am also very optimistic about where the puck is going with this whole shebang!
I’d thoroughly recommend ConverCon to anyone who wants to explore, learn, and share about conversational computing (be it voice, SMS, messaging, chatbots, and so on) and its possibilities
I loved the event’s location in the Science Gallery (as a Trinity College Dublin alum I know it very well). It was easy to get to, just the right size, had a cool theatre, a convenient exhibition space, and a speakers’ meeting room provided in the heart of the action.
I really liked the audience mix too. It was diverse; not that “male, pale and stale” crowd we often see swapping their “bro, beer, and beards” stories at tech events, but lots of women and participants from an age cohort who were er, pre-Sgt Peppers era, shall we say!
I enjoyed mixing it with a great mashup of design, technical, functional, media, marketing types, and more.
The schedule topics were a broad range of engaging subjects, and depending on your conversational interface interests were enough to keep you busy throughout the day. Sessions were cleverly no longer than 45 minutes in duration and the speaker panels were shared between different vendors. There was an energy and focus to the discussions around topics that other event organizers could learn from.
Lots, but as my passion is in the enterprise conversational user interface and chatbot space I was interested in finding out more about work-related user experiences and use cases, as well as about the challenges and solutions related to the enterprise context of use.
I was there to share and learn about enterprise conversational interface considerations and opportunities, and ways to make amazing conversational experiences to come to life. In particular, I found the “pre-conference topic” on The Privacy, Security and Compliance Implications of Conversational Interfaces very valuable, and then the Why is Conversational Interaction a Problem Worth Solving?, Conversational Design – Great Conversations Require Different Thinking, Practical Lessons from Building Conversational Interfaces for Utility Customers – The Journey of a Start-Up (despite being billed as a speaker I was actually the audience!), and Conversational Implementations-Delivering Amazing Experiences in the Real World topics all yielding useful learning points.
This latter sesh was very insightful; mixing the often dull and uninspiring world of financial services and the bureaucratic, restrictive world of enterprise IT with flashes of those “magical moments” we get every now and then when we come across something awesome like Apple AirPods, Hailo (now subsumed into MyTaxi), Amazon Echo, and so on.
I discovered that killer conversational interface solutions are about providing solutions to those user requirements that are frequent, repeatable, simple self-service in orientation yet previously requiring much effort, or ones that could be done easily were it not for the need to procure special devices or apps.
Fundamentally conversational interfaces are about making that human-machine dialog magical in nature and NOT about automating away human activity.
For example, if 80% of your service requests are password reset queries, then a chatbot is a good solution for handling them. If you want to re-order merchandising supplies for the retail space and not go through a clunky approval process or CRUDdy EPR UI then conversational UI is your solution. If you want to apply for a loan, submit an expense report on the go, find out what vacation time you have, or simply ask for information in a natural way without entering loads of data then the conversational UI is probably what you need to design for.
But, really, a great conversational experience accompanies you naturally throughout the task journey until your problem is solved or question is answered. Time and time again, the KLM Messenger experience was called out as an example of one of those totally amazing journeys; one we all aspire to design and implement as UX pros and to use as weary consumers!
I brought along some chatbot enablement for developers and functional people who needed to find a suitable chatbot use case and then to design and build one of those amazing experiences without spending years at UX school. I wanted to get some feedback to augment what we offer and to validate the fit with the needs of those building chatbots.
I also wanted to take the pulse of the thriving tech scene in Dublin and get the latest on what’s happening in the local innovation and startup space, as well as check in on what the big players and smart monied are up to when it comes to conversational interfaces.
My take from the Oracle exhibition stand was how chatbots can solve problems in the cloud for developers and users alike, how integration with SaaS from voice or messenger conversational interactions might be done, and talk about a jobs-to-be-done methodology for building a conversational UI using wireframing tools, design principles, and re-usable conversational patterns. The approach was well received.
I made some great new contacts too.
And, of course, the boogie bots swag went down a storm as usual!
For the next time, I would like to see more conversational interface aspects such as internationalization, localization, accessibility, and extensibility covered, as these dimensions are critical for the enterprise user experience generally.
The role of the conversational UI writer would also be a really valuable (and fascinating) topic.
Logistically, vegans should be catered for a bit better, and in terms of audience diversity I’d like to see more engagement with the LGBT tech community and with those of us who have to use the accessibility features in technology.
A noisier social media effort before, during, and after the event would be welcome too!
Oh, and why not make it a full day (a 9:00 AM start) with a 5km run at lunch option?!
In all, ConverCon was super value for money, providing access to a great melting pot of conversational interace stakeholders from all walks of life. It was an event that had direction and energy, and it was a great spot for those casual collisions between experience, innovation, ideas, and utter unpredictability that inspires you to pursue your passion for conversational interfaces even further!
I cannot wait for ConverCon next year (here’s hoping there is one!). And, please keep that amazing price point. The return on investment in attending is off the hook!
Kudos to all who organized this great event. Thank you to Oracle for supporting it.