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Jason Grant: #bizarreselectionprocess by @AutodeskU for #AU2011 not a jab at speakers

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    Jason Grant: #bizarreselectionprocess by @AutodeskU for #AU2011 not a jab at speakers

    I had some responses to this Tweet over the weekend:
    Interesting talking point, does the #bizarreselectionprocess of #AU2011 sessions affect the quality and experience of the attendees?

    Some felt offended and others supportive bringing up some interesting points. What I meant to do was to elicit some discussion on the topic, not to offend. I along with others have felt that if we challenge Autodesk then we will be blacklisted (Like Phil Read temporarily was in the UI debate) but I already feel that way so what do I have to lose? There are some wonderful speakers that were selected for this year’s #AU2011 with interesting topics but there is always room for improvement, right? I hope you don't feel like I am attacking but I think with some changes AU could be as exciting as it once was for me. This does not just apply to #AU2011 but to at least the last few years and if it continues I will recommend our firm sending individuals to Revit Technology Conference and/or the BIM Forum instead of AU. So here are a few thoughts that I have that I think should be discussed:
    • It is only human nature that one cannot evenly split the focus of tasks. So if a speaker has three sessions then there is always one that the speaker is more passionate about and one that is either easier to put together or they are not as passionate about. Therefore they may spend 60% of effort on one session, 25% on the second session and 15% on the third session. This only gets worse as speakers have more sessions. In fact even with two sessions, one session will always take a hit in focus and attention.
    • Problem: Attendees will setup a schedule of sessions that had the least focus for those speakers. How are the attendees to know and they walk away thinking what a waste of my time. I have had numerous times where I walked out of one session since the speaker did not seem to care about the topic, would skip another one from the same speaker that was later in my schedule only to find out it was an awesome presentation. If they did not have multiple sessions then they may have been more passionate / prepared for the one I walked out on or not had it to begin with.
    • Since the selection process is a mystery, we are all left to think that the reason is because they want to give less conference passes by having speakers with multiple sessions, less paperwork, less management or something else but we may never know what happens behind closed doors.
    • There were 750 class slots and guess what, the proposals came from 647 companies. That means you could actually have participation from all the companies. From what I have seen in the past and currently on tweets, many individuals have multiple sessions and also multiple presenters from the same firms. So let’s say that at the most 250 companies are represented.
    • Problem: Without a speaker from a company to spur on excitement over the conference you may have just lost attendees. Last year when I was speaking (not by selection but by dropout) I got others in the firm excited over attending and ended up bringing 5 other (Paying Attendees) with me. This year there has been no discussion on sending anyone since nobody from the firm is speaking. So, even though they lost 5 perhaps there are even more of the same stories with the possible 400 companies not represented. Could this affect a possible 400, 800, 1200 more attendees just by the selection process by AU?
    • Many have surmised that the selection of sessions has to do with focus of the convention as a whole. If that is the case, perhaps they should announce what the emphasis of the conference will be for that year so that proposals can be written to encourage that focus. Having sessions though on “What’s New” is pretty useless since the software has been out for 8 months and with the blogs and forums this is old news. Limiting sessions to marketing initiatives limits the out-of-the-box thinking that is more critical to daily use then the predefined workflows.
    • Perhaps I am wrong about this and there is a greater percentage of people who don’t know the software who attend the conference as Phil Burnstein described:
    “where AU was once the exclusive province of the “end user” community searching for tips and tricks, it’s increasingly attended by project managers and firm leaders looking to understand not just the use of new technologies, but also their implications for practice. This has changed both the material presented in the classrooms but also the conversations in the hallways over coffee (and, later in the day, martinis).”
    If this is truly the case perhaps other conference venues are best for the “Experts”.
    • Instead of learning how to get a stair to work within the confines of how Autodesk expects the tool to be used, I would rather have more sessions like this: but they are few and far between. I would have to believe there are more out there but they don’t align with the marketing objectives.
    • The focus on marketing leads many to talk about the past (8 month old release) based on the session selections while the keynotes talk primarily on the vision of the future.
    • Marketing initiatives force the what it does and not where it can go.
    • More sessions need to be on how people are pushing the limits of Revit beyond it’s expected use to achieve greatness, not on how to do XYZ to get tool ABC to work as expected.
    • There is a core group of speakers that have been presenting the same topics for multiple years with hardly a change to their handout. Attendees can watch and download the information from a previous year so why have them do the same topic year after year? Last year this core group even had sessions at the same exact time as other presenters with the same exact topic. Why?
    • It appears to many on the outside looking in that we don’t quite know how to get in that inner circle where your session is selected no matter what you submit. Is this even the right way to do it since they may be a good speaker but the topic is now old, not progressive as it once was and there are many others in the wings trying to help advance BIM through progressive topics.
    • Who actually makes selections, what is the process, why are certain decisions made and why not ask submitters if they are willing to adjust proposals to align with marketing instead of rejection?
    • When users could vote on sessions did it make 1% difference or 50%? Shouldn’t users get more of a voice or does it become a “my blog has more followers than yours” issue for getting votes?
    • Most believe it is who you or your company knows that gets one selected which is probably the case. If someone else submitted the same proposals as I, then they would probably be selected. Not a great system.
    Don't be afraid to voice your opinion for fear of being blacklisted... it is us who buy their software and there are plenty of other venues to be heard from local user groups to RTC and BIM Forum.
    Listen to your fear but don't obey it. - Seth Godin

    Click here to view the entire blog post.

    So based on your post LINK this actually worked and Autodesk let you in =) .. I'm gonna have to try that. jk .. congrats, look forward to attending!
    bim cad tech com


      I did not intend it to get me into AU but to point out what so many have been frustrated about but too scared to voice. Hope to see you there.

      BIM Manager
      Adaptive Practice Blog
      [email protected]


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