AU2011 in Review

Autodesk University 2011 is now in the history books and I thought that I would summarize my thoughts on this year’s conference.  Held last week in Las Vegas, NV at the Venetian resort, it was attended by over 8000 people from around the world.  This was my 16th consecutive year to attend AU and I found this year’s AU to be one of the good ones.

AU was again 3 days long (Tuesday through Thursday) for the main conference, but also had a leadership conference held on Monday for a few hundred managers of design software.  The main AU conference had classes start at 8:00 am each day and run until 6:30 pm, so days were full for attendees.  After 6:30, the exhibit hall was open, so attendees were able to completely fill their day with learning.  Since the conference is held in Las Vegas, sometimes it is difficult for people to get approval of their management to attend the conference.  While I am sure that there are some people who skip classes for Vegas activities, the vast majority seem to attend the majority of classes.

Classes were again 1-1/2 hours long after only being an hour long for AU2010, which did not work well.  As usual, I sat in on some great classes that were very informative and well taught.  I won’t do an analysis of the various classes, but I do suggest that people go to au.autodesk.com and download class materials for classes even you did not attend the class.  It is not as good as being there, but is still helpful.

I was disappointed with the quantity of presenters that neglected to post class materials.  AU requires all presenters to post class handouts to the website a few weeks before the conference so that attendees can print out the materials and bring it to the conference.  I was surprised at how many presenters did not have materials available for download on Sunday, which was just 2 days before the conference started.  This is a problem that Autodesk needs to address with those presenters as it hampered the learning experience for those classes.

The hot topic this year was the “cloud”.  That was the subject of various classes, as well as discussed at various times during Autodesk presentations and having exhibitors specializing in cloud functionality.  Autodesk appears to be pushing many of its applications toward more utilization of cloud technology.

While the cost of attending AU increased dramatically this year, the venue was excellent.  The Venetian easily handles the size of the conference and has wonderful hotel rooms for attendees.  (Late registering attendees did need to stay at surrounding hotels.)  The food was excellent this week, and it is amazing to watch them feed over 8000 people in under 90 minutes during lunch.

This year, I enjoyed having the AU mobile access on my smartphone.  While they had maps and other information available, I used it to track my schedule and to complete the class surveys.  It was easy to complete my survey of the class I just attended while I was sitting and waiting for the next class to begin.

I was pleased with the number of exhibitors this year in the exhibit hall.  Given the poor state of our economy, I applaud each one of them for coming and setting up booths for us to see their wares.  The exhibit hall is never as large as other conferences, but AU is geared toward education versus sales which is different than most conferences.  I did notice that some vendors were missing from the exhibit hall that I have gotten accustomed to seeing there.

I cannot talk about AU without mentioning networking.  Since I have been attending AU so long, there are people that I only get to see once a year (at AU) but correspond with throughout the year.  I also get to meet new people every year.  I love to talk to attendees and learn where they are from and what they do.  Some responses this week from people include Montreal Canada, Monterrey Mexico, Dublin Ireland, London, and Sweden to name a few.

Autodesk University 2012 will be held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas November 27-29, 2012.  I highly suggest that Autodesk software users and managers attend!  See you there.

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