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Tips on speaking at AU from CAD expert Chris Benner

autodesk university
April 15, 2015

With the AU 2015 Call for Proposals opening in just over a week, what better way to show some of the great reasons you should speak at AU than by asking a real live AU speaker and member of the Autodesk Expert Elite, Chris Benner, to give it to us straight.

As the CAD department supervisor at Powell Fabrication & Manufacturing in St. Louis, Michigan, Chris knows his stuff. A mechanical designer and drafter for more than 20 years, Chris has been using Autodesk products for most of his career, and not only AutoCAD but also Inventor.

He’s a treasure trove of CAD wisdom, and thankfully he doesn’t keep it to himself. He shares frequently on Autodesk discussion forums and social media, and he publishes his own CAD Tips, Tricks & Workarounds blog. Design & Motion has also published his articles. Chris attended AU for 6 years and taught his first class last year: Going with the Flow with Inventor Tube & Pipe. Here’s what he had to say about the experience.

AU: Why do you contribute to AU?

CB: AU is a great place to find out what other software users are doing in circumstances similar to your own. If you’ve had to get creative in solving a particular problem related to an Autodesk product, other users out there may benefit from what you have learned.

AU: What surprised you about speaking at AU?

CB: The amount of time it took to get everything prepared for 1 class. It gave me new respect for anyone who teaches multiple classes every year.

What I liked least was my own trepidation about speaking in front of a large group.

AU: What would you have done differently, knowing what you know now?

CB: I would not have relied on “live” demos for my class. This year, I will prerecord my demos!

AU: What’s your most memorable moment from AU?

CB: I was surprised how approachable most Autodesk employees and execs are during the conference, right up to CEO Carl Bass. I just stopped and chatted with him several years ago about the quality of breakfast, as if he were just another attendee like myself. I like that.

AU: What advice would you give someone speaking at AU for the first time?

CB: Give yourself plenty of time to work on handouts and presentations; don’t wait until the last minute. Spell check! Rehearse often, in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Test your slides, videos, etc. Something will go wrong, so leave extra time in your presentation—if you’re already racing the clock, you’ll be in trouble. And relax at presentation time. Most likely the room is filled with people just like you who are looking for 1 good tip to make them more productive, and you just might have that tip. 

AU: How has your participation in AU impacted you professionally?

CB: 2015 will be my seventh AU in a row, counting AU Russia last fall, and I have been with the Expert Elites since the program started at AU 2012. This involvement has helped me get promoted to department supervisor, and has given my employer some bragging rights with customers.

AU: Any other tips for attendees?

CB: Talk to people. Introduce yourself. My first AU, I had a terrible time because all I did was go to classes. I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t make much effort to change that. After coming home I decided to make an effort to get to know some people. The Autodesk Community, AUGI, and other online communities are a great place to get started. At AU, however, don’t be afraid to approach anyone at all and say hi. You might just meet your new best friend.

Thanks Chris, we'll see you in Las Vegas.

autodesk university