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How to Choose Classes by AU Advisory Council Member and Top Speaker Rick Ellis

Stephanie Wells
August 21, 2017

Now that registration is open for AU, it’s time to select your classes. But with so many to choose from, that can be easier said than done. Rick Ellis feels your pain. A leading CAD trainer, consultant, and member of the AU Advisory Council, he’s been at every AU since 1999, first as an attendee, then as an award-winning speaker. So he knows a thing or 2 about choosing classes. We asked him to share his thoughts. We’ll let Rick take it from here.

Selecting the classes you want to take at AU can be a daunting task. With literally hundreds of classes to choose from, you’re not alone if you feel a bit overwhelmed. I’ve even heard the suggestion that there should be a class at AU on selecting your classes for AU!

Your schedule is a personal thing and different people have their own preferences and goals for the conference. But here are a few things to consider:

Keep Your Goals in Mind, and Explore a Bit

Think about what you want to get out of AU. You may have a particular program you want to learn about or a project coming up you need to prepare for. Those are core things to keep in mind when picking classes. But also try to choose a class or 2 that might be outside your comfort zone. AU is a great place to learn something new. The 60 to 90 minutes you spend in that class might turn out to be very valuable.

 Choose the Right Class Format

Look at the class type and be aware of what each offers. Do you want to get your hands on the software during the session? Then sign up for hands-on labs. Would you rather sit and watch a demo? Then focus on the instructional demos. If you’d rather learn more about concepts and workflows, try an industry talk or even a panel, where you can listen to an expert or group of experts share their experiences. And if you would like to be a part of the discussion, pick a roundtable. Being aware of the format of classes you are selecting and setting your expectations accordingly is 1 of the biggest keys to having a great schedule.

Among the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make at AU is picking classes that have an interesting title and description without noting what type of class it is. If you’re not comfortable talking in a small group, you probably won’t like a roundtable. Don’t get upset that you went to an instructional demo and there was no computer there for you to use to follow along. And don’t go to an industry talk or a panel and expect to see a software demo with lots of step-by-step instructions. The bottom line is, if you pay attention to the type of class you are scheduling and set your expectations accordingly, you will probably enjoy it and get a lot more out of it.

 Follow Your Favorite People

If you’ve gone to AU several times, you may have some favorite speakers. You may want to see what classes they’re teaching this year. Or if you have an industry-related author whose books or videos you’ve enjoyed, look them up. They may very well be teaching a class or 2.

More Than Just Classes

Last, but certainly not least, keep in mind that there is more to your AU schedule than just classes. While classes are the main event at AU, there are also a growing list of other activities you want to be sure to save time to attend. The Exhibit Hall is a collection of vendors covering anything to do with CAD and design that you can imagine, and there’s often food there too!

Networking is a huge part of AU so be sure to make time for it. This has become the most important part of AU to me. There are people that I see at AU that I don’t see in person any other time of the year which is incredibly valuable. You might even skip a class for a meeting with someone and I think that’s a great part of the conference, so don’t be afraid to do that. If networking is something that is not necessarily in your comfort zone, you are not alone. But let me encourage you to make the effort, introduce yourself to the person you are sitting next to in class or at a meal. I’ve made some valuable contacts and great friends at AU by doing this.

AU can be a long and hectic week. Don’t forget to schedule a little down time as well. Make time to do something that you find relaxing each day. It will help you stay focused, learn more, and get the most out of the conference.

Rick’s AU Class Picks

I’ve had a chance to look through the current schedule and have created a curated list of my recommended classes this year. Timing and availability are always a challenge when putting your schedule together, so some of these classes may happen at the same time, conflict with something else on your schedule, or even fill up quickly and not be available.  Also, since I work in the civil/survey industry, these selections are mainly focused on that area, with some CAD management and a few other interesting topics thrown in. If you take some of these classes, you might even see me there attending, assisting in a lab, or even teaching. If you do, be sure to say hello.

I hope this helps as you begin the scheduling process.

Rick Ellis is the president of CADapult Software Solutions, Inc., where he provides training and consulting services to clients around the country. He specializes in AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Raster Design, and Autodesk InfraWorks. He is a member of the Autodesk Developer Network, and author of several critically acclaimed books on AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Map 3D, including the Practical Guide series.

Stephanie Wells

Social Media and Program Manager for Autodesk University.