Autodesk University 2010 in Review

Another Autodesk University is over and part of history, so I will once again write some of my thoughts about this latest AU conference centered around Autodesk software.  This year it was held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the 2nd consecutive year.

While I have not seen any official attendance information, preliminary numbers indicated that there was going to be over 6000 attendess from more than 70 countries.  I consider that very good attendance considering the poor economic situation in which we currently find ourselves.  My kudos to any company that sent employees to AU as I am a big advocate for attending AU.

While AU continually changes in various ways, this year was different in 2 major ways.  First, the Friday morning classes were eliminated, which made this a 3-day conference instead of a 3-1/2 day conference.  Friday morning classes have notoriously been underattended since many people would start heading home, so I don’t consider this a bad change.

The 2nd major change was classes being shortened from 90 minute classes to 60 minutes classes.  If a class needed to be longer, AU still fit it into the 60 minutes timeframe so a 2 hour class ended up having a 30 minute break in the middle of the class.  This change in class length enabled more classes to be offered in the 3-day length of the conference and allowed for exposure to more topics by attendees.  I heard a lot of comments about the revised time schedule, both good and bad.  With shortened classes, it was necessary that classses not contain either as much information or as detailed information as in the past.  Speakers were told to have 45 minutes of presentation and allow 15 minutes for questions from the audience.  45 minutes is not a lot of time to go into much detail on most topics.  I believe that this led to sessions where the speaker just could not cover as much as they felt necessary on the topic, so they either tried to cover a lot of material with minimal detail or just covered less material.   Many speakers are repeat speakers on topics from previous years and have 75 minutes of material from the past that they need/want to put into the 45 minutes.  In those cases, something had to give.  Sometimes, “experienced” attendees walked away feeling that the class didn’t meet full expectations since they had gotten accustomied to getting “more” from a class than could be delivered in a shortened class.

I am not stating that the 60 minutes class lengths are a bad idea, but that attendees and speakers all have to get accustomed to less time for a class and thus less knowledge coming out of that class.  It is about finding a balance.  If the shortened classes are utilized next year, maybe both speakers and attendees will be adjusted to the new balance.

I heard one person comment that it seemed like AU was “busier” , and they thought it was since they were always on the go with the shorter classes.  AU did seem to be busy, which is a good thing for a conference.  I was pleased with the exhibit hall, and space around the exhibitors.  During the busy times, it didn’t seem like attendees were packed together as in many years past.  It costs a lot for exhibitors to attend, so it is great when you see attendees visiting with the exhibitors.  The only time all week that I felt “overwhelmed” with the crowd was Tuesday morning in trying to get from the Welcome event in the arena to the classes held in the convention center.

This year, there was no big AU Party on Thursday night, which had become an AU mainstay.  Instead, each attendee was given a $75 gift card to use as they desired around the Mandalay Bay.  That was an interesting idea and I think attendees enjoyed having that gift card, although almost everyone I talked to used it for meals.  Attendess seemed to miss the traditional AU Party, but at least it wasn’t like like 2009’s disappointing “party”, and the gift card tempered feelings about the party.

Autodesk once again offered free certification exams to attendees who wanted to get certified in some of the Autodesk products.  This is a nice plus since there is typically a charge to take the exam, and you get a free t-shirt. 🙂

Tesla Motors had their new “Model S” electric car in the exhibit hall so we could see it up close.  While it was discussed and displayed onstage during Tuesday morning’s welcome and main stage event, it was nice seeing it close.    It is one nice vehicle.

As always, AU was a great time to see old acquaintances, associates, and friends.  After attending 15 consecutive years, I have developed many friendships based upon meeting people at AU.  This is a great networking opportunity for people, so I hope attendees branched out and met new people while they were at AU.

I also want to note that I very much appreciated each person that decided to attend one of my classes!

Next year, Autodesk University will return to The Venetian resort in Las Vegas November 29–December 1, 2011 .  I encourage you to put this on your agenda to attend if at all possible.


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