There are likely several different people blogging about their experiences at Autodesk University 2009, but I decided to go ahead and throw my thoughts into the mix. However, since I am an Architect and part of the Architecture and Building Design track, I admit that my comments will be a bit skewed toward that aspect.
Attendance was down this year due to the economy, but there seemed to be no less excitement among the attendees. There were many there for whom it was the very first time to attend AU and I believe they found it an amazing time of learning. With class sessions running from 8:00am to 6:30pm, attendees had plenty of opportunities to find topics that would enhance their learning experience. After talking with many different people, it seems everyone always wants to return next year, regardless of the number of times they have attended.
With this being my 14th consecutive year to attend Autodesk University, I have seen many changes throughout the years. One of the changes I see occurring is the move from AutoCAD Architecture classes to Revit classes. Everyone knows that Autodesk has been pushing Revit since they purchased it, but Autodesk has been careful to offer approximately the same number of AutoCAD Architecture classes each year as Revit classes since purchasing Revit. The change that I have noticed is the number of attendees going to Revit classes versus AutoCAD Architecture classes. The number of attendees going to AutoCAD Architecture classes has dramatically decreased in recent times while the attendees at Revit classes have dramatically increased. ACA classes are having fewer and fewer attendees with some classes that have always been popular now barely having any attendees. That trend makes it difficult for Autodesk to continue to offer ACA classes, so we shouldn’t be surprised if Autodesk scales back the number of ACA classes in the future.
Another change this year was scaling the conference back from 3-1/2 days to 3 days by eliminating the Friday classes. I always attended the Friday classes, but many people skipped out on the Friday sessions, whether to return home or to just skip. Autodesk tried to offer the same number of classes as in the past, so they tended to add classes at the 5:00-6:30 time frame. I was not a fan of this as that made several classes clash with other functions. For instance, one of the classes that I taught was Wednesday in the 5:00-6:30 time slot and was up against the AUGI Meeting and the Technology Main Stage event. 40% of the people that were signed up for my class decided not to show up to class. I like to think that was due to people attending class all day and wanting to do something else at the end of the day. Regardless, attendees should not be required to choose between going to a class and going to one of the major functions of AU. I hope Autodesk does not do this next year to everyone.
The Mandalay Bay seemed to be a decent location for the conference. We had to use the escalators too much to go between classes on different floors, but the hallways were large and easily accommodated the number of attendees. Events in the arena seemed to be a long ways from other functions, but it was easy to see in the arena versus previous venues where the major events were held in a large level room. I give the facility a thumbs up.
I was pleased to see so many exhibitors displaying their wares even with the economic situation that exists. There was a good mix of disciplines and applications represented in the exhibit hall and exhibitors were very friendly and helpful. Being on the Architectural side, I enjoyed my discussion with Dennis Neeley, AIA at the SmartBIM (www.smartbim.com) booth and seeing what they are doing in the world of BIM. I hope that the exhibitors felt that it was a productive time for them as I like to see them come and enhance the learning experiences of users being at Autodesk University. Also, congratulations to any attendees who happened to win a prize from an exhibitor.
The biggest complaints from attendees seemed to be the lack of an actual breakfast each day and the really lame “party” on Thursday evening. Having karaoke by attendees being the main entertainment just didn’t cut it and it was amazing how many people were leaving the “party” within a short time after arriving at it. Attendees have come to expect more from the final night at AU. I felt sorry for attendees who actually paid to have a guest attend it.
The roller backpack that was provided to attendees was a nice bag and served me well during the week so that I didn’t have to pack my laptop around in my shoulder laptop bag. The roller backpack just barely fit in my carry-on suitcase, so I was able to take it home without having to check luggage. A word of advice to those attending AU for the first time next year – there will be many other bags just like yours on the plane as other attendees head home, so mark your AU bag very well. I have never had a problem, but it isn’t unusual to see the plane’s overhead bins full of AU bags.
In summary, it was another good Autodesk University. While there were some negative aspects, there were many great classes with extremely knowledgeable instructors. With so many attendees there, there were plenty of opportunities to meet new people and exchange business cards. I have friends that are a direct result of meeting them at AU and I look forward to talking with them in person each year at AU. I always highly recommend people attend Autodesk University whenever they get the opportunity. Maybe I’ll see you there next year.