The NJIT is quiet in the early hours of the morning, but inside the staff is already buzzing. The first attendees are trickling in and being handed their badges, the EXPO booths are silently glowing, and the organizers are pacing around double-checking every last detail.
By 10:30 AM, speakers, attendees and everyone in-between are checked in and either in their first sessions or curiously roaming the premises. Today is dedicated to pre-conference workshops, the Hackathon, and getting familiar with the wide-spread venue.
Over in the first workshops of the day, a full room of people sit quietly typing on their laptops and occasionally taking notes as CEO Maikel Van der Wouden explains the workings of voice-first audio branding.
Two floors below them, the Hackathon is underway in a large room lined with long tables and surrounded by booths from Samsung Bixby, VoiceHacks, and Twilio. Most of the hackers are at the tables, steadily typing within their own teams. "We're mostly figuring out ideas and planning what we're going to do today," says Patrick Tedeschi from Team Whisper. Next to him, Brandon Chan eagerly adds that he's really excited to learn more about development for Voice and become a better developer. Their faces then light up as an organizer from VoiceHacks swings by and places a pair of orange socks for each of them on the table.
As noon inches closer, a Modev organizer stands at the podium to announce that "lunch has been served," prompting various hackers to sidle towards the buffet-style lunch tables.
Those who aren't typing or perusing the lunch table have huddled into small groups, eagerly getting to know each other's companies, expertise, and where they flew in from. A steady hum of chattering flows around the room, with an occasional laugh or the sound of a can being opened.
A touring attendee, Andre Costa from Skilled Creative, cheerfully wanders around the room, stopping to share that he's especially looking forward to "seeing David Isbitski in person for the first time."
"It's exciting to see all the work going on behind-the-scenes and all the people in the Voice community integrating together. It's a good time to be in the space." - Andre Costa, Skilled Creative.
Andre then ambles off to explore another area of the building.
Over at the Google Conversation Design Workshop in a nearby building, attendees are beginning to disperse as the workshops ends. Some hang around, snapping photos of the informational posters stuck around the room. Others chat with other attendees they met during the workshop, discussing which sessions they're going to next and how long it took to drive down to Newark.
A small group begins to form around the leader of the workshop, Wally Brill, Google's Head of Conversational Design Advocacy & Education. They stand around him, patiently waiting their turn to ask for his insight or when his slide deck will be available online.
In the room next door, a similar scene unfolds as the second Google-focused workshop ends. As noon hits, most of the attendees slowly make their way out in search for lunch. On the ground floor of the Campus Center, the food hall steadily fills up with attendees, speakers, and students—perusing the different cafes. (Tomorrow the food trucks will roll in.)
And that concludes the first half of the day at VOICE! Keep your eye on the blog to read what happens this afternoon (and every day after that).
If you're on your way to Newark, excitement awaits! If you couldn't attend this year, don't worry, we'll be blogging and tweeting all the way through so you can feel like you're right here with us.
(A word to the wise: to make sure you don't miss out next year, reserve your ticket for VOICE2020!)