Realizing that this Autodesk university is a special milestone for me. It will be my tenth conference. I started attending these in 2004, missing only one in 2006 – oddly, the years I joined Autodesk. Since then, many new things have happened in my work and home life. Today, I would like to share with you my top 10 tips for surviving the week. These should be helpful to veterans and newbies alike. This is really just a list for myself so I don’t forget anything. See you next week!

Tip # 1

How many business cards should you bring?


IMG_2300-0.JPGNo matter how hard I have tried to remember in the last few conferences, I always seem to forget this and am telling people in the middle of breakfast on day one that I’m out, because all I had was three or four in the paltry card holder already in my bag. Grab your cards now. Like, right now.

It’s likely that you won’t be coming back to the office between Thanksgiving and the conference. If you are in the United States and have to work this weekend, I will pray for your soul.


Tip #2

You don’t really need to bring your laptop.

1004981_662667670432848_1981346585_n_by_kakasasu4eva-d6sdku0Yes, you should have some way to communicate. Bring your phone or other lightweight mobile device. There is little desk space to open your 21″ mega workstation replacement laptop lid, and if you think you’ll be doing real work remotely, you should ask why you are at the conference in the first place. This is a place to learn, network and share ideas. Designate someone else to cover the help desk while you are away. Reward them handsomely when you return, perhaps with a nice bonus or free software for them to play. Ask the boss if they can go to AU or some other event next year as a thank you for saving your back. If you must bring a laptop, because you are presenting and haven’t’ finished putting together your presentation, join the club and prepare for some very sore shoulders. Also, check out the spa at The Hotel. I hear the hot stone massage is very relaxing.

Tip #3

Its gotta be the shoes

pTBL1-14087926enh-z6While at the conference, and if you are me, you will find that you will walk more than any other time in your life. Things of it like spending an entire week trying to find the giant jar of whatever at Costco. Wear comfortable shoes, and hey while you are at it – get those things polished. You want to look casual, but sharp. If you really want to wear your Jordan’s from 1991, just do it.


Tip #4

Need a bag, take a bag

DRBPR1As we learned in Florida, rollerbags are a terrible idea at a crowded conference, leave yours at home. More importantly, don’t trip those around you. Put it on your back if you decide you like it.

After realizing I had four AU bags of all configurations still kicking around at home, it was time to make a conscious decision to carry the one I know works for me, holds everything I need and will be comfortable carrying around for 10-18 hours at a time. I have opted out of the gift bag when registering for AU this year – just in case that rollerbag returns. Messenger bags work well, however they tend to be bulky. The vendors at the exhibit hall will have lots of books, brochures, and tchotchkes. You’ll need a place to stow these.

Tip #5

Register early

Calendar_0Save this one for next year. Register early, like in the first two days. No one likes staying at a distant hotel where it would take an hour to get to your room and back. This is one thing I do not look forward to, given my late acceptance to register – I am in the MGM Grand 1.4 miles the way the crow flies, and certainly much further given the need to walk through casinos and down long corridors.

Tip #6

Walking outside

racetrack__blue_jaguar-wallpaper-1680x1050Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Las Vegas. Watch the signs, and always pay attention to the speed demons racing up and down the strip. Also, be aware that while the average city block is between 250-300 feet approximately 20 blocks per mile, the distance between hotels is about 1300 feet, or 1/4 mile. It may be the desert, however it gets really cold at night. Dress appropriately.

Tip #7

Backup battery packs

$_57No matter how efficient your device’s battery, this is no regular day at the office. You will run out of juice. Finding a free outlet for the unseasoned traveler means hanging out in the back hall somewhere sitting on the floor.

We like staying connected, and even more so when there are 10,000 people that need to coordinate ad hoc meetings, check office email, find where the heck you have to go next, and the all important in-class tweckle (v. conjugation of “Twitter” + “heckle”).

Backup batteries are your best bet. I don’t recommend the BioLite CampStove for indoor use, however get one for your next camping trip unless you want to use human energy.

Tip #8


Front image_drinking-waterThere is a significant amount of moisture vacuum everywhere, indoors and out. Unless your classes are at the pool, you might want to bring a family pack of lip balm and a refillable water bottle. There’s also a significant amount of free flowing alcohol at this conference (shhh, don’t tell the boss). Drink responsibly – 7:00am comes around faster than you might imagine.

Tip #9

Meet new people

make-friendsSit at a table with strangers. Go to a class that’s outside your normal area of expertise. You never know who you’ll meet or how fascinating their work is. It might lead to new ideas and a radically different approach to how you solve problems at the office. You might meet someone who becomes a life long friend. I have met so many people at AU, and will spend hours chatting with someone I’ve never met before, all because of a common purpose and our profession. AU is how I recharge my batteries. It is here, in the middle of an artificial desert oasis, that I and thousands others complete their annual pilgrimage in order to find and renew my passions for this amazing intersection of art and technology that we at NBBJ like to call Digital Practice.

Tip #10

Have fun!


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