Autodesk University 2020 was unlike any other Autodesk University event before it. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, what usually is an in-person conference for 10,000 professionals became a worldwide online event for over 100,000 professionals!
Last week, Autodesk announced the Best of Autodesk University 2020 Speaker Awards. To my delight, my “AutoCAD Tips, Tricks, and Dazzling Drafting Techniques” session was named the Top On-Demand Video Session in the Americas.
Although practically everything about the conference was different this year, the Autodesk University team made a point of keeping the event’s cornerstone of learning intact. For more than two-decades, Autodesk University has been the place to go for some of the highest caliber presentations on design technology.
Preparing for Autodesk University 2020
Since 2007, I’ve had the privilege of both attending and being among the conference’s speakers. Though there was no in-person event to travel to, I was excited to receive an invitation to present at the conference for a fourteenth consecutive year.
Among the more than 750 classes presented at Autodesk University was my class “AutoCAD Tips, Tricks, and Dazzling Drafting Techniques.”
Despite my vast experience speaking at Autodesk University, this year challenged my presentation skills in many new ways. I put my best foot forward but submitted my session with a great deal of apprehension of whether my session would be good enough to rise to the occasion.
Challenges Building an On-Demand Video Session
So much of delivering an outstanding Autodesk University session is connecting with your audience. As an online event, my audience wasn’t a crowd of people, but instead a microphone in an empty room several weeks before the conference. How would I break through the digital wall and connect with my audience?
Finding ways to deliver a dynamic presentation to a faceless audience was a challenge for me. My quest to overcome that challenge brought me right to the deadline for speakers to upload their final class recordings. At that moment, my session wasn’t what I considered perfect, but it’s what I had, and there was no time to make it any better.
Virtually Experiencing Autodesk University 2020
When the week of Autodesk University 2020 arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my session. To my delight, my course page had quite a bit of activity on it. Fast forward to my live Q&A, and over 800 people dialed in to ask questions about my session. Thankfully, Autodesk assigned a moderator to my live Q&A session who managed the queue of questions while I focused on providing answers.
Suffice to say, despite my apprehensions before the conference about the quality of the session I was able to construct, I was impressed by the response I received from attendees during the week of Autodesk University 2020 itself. I still wasn’t sure if my session was above average, below average, or somewhere in between, but I was satisfied with the positive impact it seemed I had provided to those who attended.
Decades into my professional career, I still maintain an immense appreciation for my high school drafting teachers who first taught me AutoCAD. As such, I’ve always viewed speaking at Autodesk University as a way to pay forward what those teachers provided me all those years ago. Even if my session wasn’t perfect, it seemed to provide real value to those who attended, and that was all the validation I needed.
Best of Autodesk University 2020 Speaker Award
Of course, little did I know the forthcoming announcement that would come last week. My session, “AutoCAD Tips, Tricks, and Dazzling Drafting Techniques,” was named the conference’s Top On-Demand Video Session – Americas.
Although I have won top-speaker honors in past years, the 2020 conference stands above the rest because of the challenges I had to overcome to build my session. While I remain optimistic Autodesk University 2021 can be in-person once again this fall, I am grateful for the many ways Autodesk University 2020 forced me to grow and improve as a presenter.
Thank You to the Speaker Team
Finally, in closing, I’d be remiss to ignore the many challenges the Autodesk University team themselves faced in 2020. My success as a speaker in 2020 would not have been possible if not for the incredible ability of Janice Miller-Kellerman, Matt Murphy, and the rest of the AU speaker team to masterfully overcome the many challenges associated with pivoting to an online format. They and dozens of others on the speaker team worked incredibly hard in the background to make sure Autodesk University 2020 delivered the same high-caliber learning experience of past conferences. So, to them. Thank you!