My First Conference – Project Voice

2019 was a year of firsts for me. I published my first Alexa skill, attended my first hackathon, and went to my first Alexa Meetup. Now that we’re in 2020, I kicked off the year (and the decade) by attending and speaking at my first conference, Project Voice in Chattanooga, Tennessee! It was an amazing experience. I met so many inspiring people and attended very informative sessions. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for Monday and Tuesday because of school, but during my two days, I was amazed by everything! I’ll tell you about everything.

On Monday, the first session I attended at Project Voice was hosted by Kane Simms, and the topic was International VUX Design Best Practices. I learned so many awesome principles from him.

Next, I went to Alexa Champion Mark Tucker’s workshop on Speech Markdown. Speech Markdown is a much simpler version of SSML, reducing the characters by about half. It was a very insightful workshop, and I will definitely try out Speech Markdown in my next Alexa skill.

My final session for the day was a Bixby workshop. I met so many new people like Tim Kahle, Roger Kibbe, and John Alioto. I also learned how to develop a Bixby capsule. I had always assumed that Bixby was much more complex than Alexa, but after creating my own capsule, I realized how simple it was! Sadly, I had to leave early, but I can’t wait to start developing for Bixby. This was my favorite session by far.

On Tuesday, the day started with a welcome note from Bradley Metrock and a speech by the mayor of Chattanooga. After that was the Amazon Alexa keynote by Jeff Blankenburg followed by Nick Schwab’s keynote on how Alexa skills paid for his Tesla.

Throughout the day, I went to so many awesome presentations like Tom Hewitson’s 10 hot takes from developing for Alexa. I also liked Arte Merritt’s presentation about why data is important as well as Julie Daniel Davis’s talk. I visited a few other talks, and then it was time for my presentation.

My talk was on my learnings throughout my year-long journey with Alexa. While I had practiced my presentation maybe 50 times, I was still really nervous. However, as soon as I went on the stage, the butterflies in my stomach disappeared. Once I got past the first few sentences, I felt extremely comfortable with my talk.

Once I was done, I was very satisfied with how I had presented and very happy that I had done it! A month of hard work had finally paid off. I’d say that was one of the happiest times of my life.

Besides the presentations, I also met so many cool people like Adva Levin, Teri Fisher, Bradley Metrock, Nick Schwab, and Jeff Blankenburg. I hope I can be like them someday!

And so that’s Project Voice for me! I’m hoping to attend more conferences in 2020 because I loved this one!

Thanks to Bradley Metrock, Peggy Kilburn and the Project Voice team for an amazing event. And many thanks to everyone I met for being super nice and encouraging.

Written by

Aariv Modi

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Aariv Modi is a blogger, programmer, Alexa skill developer, and AI enthusiast. He is in 9th grade at Round Rock High School and has created several Alexa skills and mobile apps. Aariv was recognized as the Voice/AI Pioneer of the Year by Project Voice in 2021 for his contributions to the conversational artificial intelligence industry. He is also the youngest AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder and AWS Certified Machine Learning professional. Aariv has contributed much of his learning with the Alexa and voice community through his blog and social media channels such as LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he taught hundreds of kids how to develop Alexa skills through webinars, camps, and posts on his website. He was the youngest presenter at several international voice and AI conferences, such as Project Voice 2020, VOICE Global 2020, and VOICE Summit 2020.
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