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Not many people are around who remember first-hand (including even me), but back in 1990, when our organization put on the first-ever version of what became Enterprise Connect, the event was called, “PBX in the 90s.” That name worked great for…oh…nine years. Then we changed the name to “PBX2000.” Within a couple of years, it became clear that the industry was moving beyond the PBX, so we changed the name to VoiceCon. When the industry moved beyond just voice, the show became Enterprise Connect.

A year ago, when Beth, Michelle, and I were planning the program for Enterprise Connect 2017, we decided it was important to put a focus on the new technologies that were starting to impact our industry. We decided that our annual Monday conference-within-a-conference slot was the ideal place to do this, since the previous focus of this day—WebRTC—was starting to lose its buzz. But we didn’t want to do a technology-for-technology’s sake focus, so we planned a day of sessions that corresponded to the major technology streams that we already cover—Unified Communications, Contact Centers, Video, Mobility, and Cloud. But while our regular tracks on these topics have a more immediate focus—what do I do about this technology or business challenge today or in the next 12 months or so—the new conference-within-a-conference would deliberately take a longer view: What’s likely to be the state of this technology three years from now, and how do I prepare?

Three years was a good time window, because it let us focus the sessions on realistic prospects for technology change, versus the kind of overly-optimistic thinking you tend to get when you focus on a longer time horizon. We didn’t think there was much appetite for pie in the sky.

Since three years from 2017 is 2020, we called the conference-within-a-conference, “Communications & Collaboration 2020.” It gave us a nice play on the idea of clear (20/20) vision, and also told the audience, in three words and an ampersand, what this thing was about.

The sessions were a hit. Since we had no idea, going in, whether interest would be niche-y or broad, we put the sessions in a medium-sized room. Big mistake. The room was overflowing all day, and four of our top 10 best-attended sessions last year were “2020” sessions. Clearly a lot of folks want this longer view, and want to understand how technologies like team collaboration, Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging trends, may affect strategic planning.

So we knew we needed to bring the conference-within-a-conference back at Enterprise Connect 2018, and the three-years-out focus seemed right. We racked our brains for some kind of name that would be as succinct as the “2020” formulation, preferably a name we could re-use indefinitely. In the end, we couldn’t come up with anything we felt worked as well at conveying the idea. So this year’s conference-within-a-conference will be called “Communications & Collaboration 2021.”

We’re covering the same core topics, with a vision for each session updated as the trends affecting that area have progressed over the past year. We have an awesome lineup of session leaders again: Tim Banting of Global Data on Core Communications; Sheila McGee-Smith on Contact Centers; Ira Weinstein of Wainhouse Resesarch on Video; Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research on Cloud; and Michael Finneran of dBrn Associates on Mobility.

One important thing will change: We’re going to have a bigger room.