Revit Technology Conference Crosses the Pacific

14 Jun, 2011 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

The "by users, for users" event arrives in North America — and brings some Australian traditions along with it.

After seven years in the Australasia region, the Revit Technology Conference (RTC) has expanded to the United States. The inaugural North American event will be held June 23–25 in Orange County, California; online registration is available until June 20. Chris Needham, partnerships manager for the RTC Committee, told Cadalyst about the evolution of the event.

Cadalyst: Tell us about the background of the Revit Technology Conference — how and why did it get started? How has it developed over the years?

Needham: Its origins were in the Sydney Revit User Group, founded and chaired at the time by Wesley Benn. The first event had only 89 people, a single stream of classes, and 6 speakers, and was held as a weekend getaway for Revit "enthusiasts." Since then, it's grown every year, been held in a different city each year, and has become the premier opportunity for AECO/FM industry participants in the region to discuss, learn, and share about best-of-breed technology, processes, and workflows. It seems to have hit a nerve as BIM (building information management) takes a stronger hold on the industry, as this year we had 450 people attend the Australasian event.

It's run by a group of dedicated volunteers, all of whom are active industry participants respected in their own areas of expertise. As a result, although the conference is centered on a particular product — Autodesk Revit — it remains independent of the developer and therefore a source of unvarnished teaching, networking, and advice on the best integration of new technologies into the AEC industry.

What is the purpose of the conference? What type of information is presented?

RTC is essentially a tribe, as defined by Seth Godin: a group of people with a shared interest and a way to communicate. That we learn great stuff and drink copious amounts of beer is a bonus!

RTC has been, and remains, both a learning and a networking event. The conference is intended to cater to the needs of the entire Revit community, including experienced users, recent arrivals, and tire-kickers. We seek to provide advice not only on how to use the product, but how to integrate it within a workflow, how to recognize and consider other products and technologies that enhance that workflow (regardless of their provenance), and how to leverage the experience — both positive and negative — of the committee, speakers, and other attendees in maximizing efficiency, value, and return from "going BIM."

This year the Australasian conference had 6 streams running concurrently, catering to a variety of attendees with 100 classes and 60 speakers. Most of the presentations historically have been technical in nature, but in recent years we have introduced a group of less technical, management- and strategic directions–focused classes, designed specifically for principals and senior decision makers. On Principals' Day, none of the streams are tech-focused, but instead are geared toward the business-related aspects of BIM (financial, operational, strategic, contractual, etc.).

For further information, please have a look at the RTC web site, where you can read speaker biographies, class schedules and descriptions, and other material related to the running of the conferences. You can also access the newsletters that we produce to provide information about upcoming conferences and related events.

How has the event been received by attendees and other participants?

The growth of the event in Australasia (30% year-on-year, and 50% in 2011) has shown us that RTC was providing something that attendees couldn't get elsewhere. The relaxed, intimate atmosphere and the ability to share a drink or two with some of their favorite speakers and peers is definitely part of the appeal. Through the adherence to hosting the event in venues with a more intimate environment, and where the accommodation and conference spaces are closely tied, we have managed to keep attendees together well beyond the conference sessions, and so fostered a strong sense of camaraderie, and an open and sharing atmosphere. Those who have attended multiple RTC events typically come away enthused and invigorated — energized after not just hearing great talks and participating in great discussions, but also learning how much they have in common with the industry experts.

The timing of the event represents greater value to some of our attendees, given how closely it follows new product releases in Autodesk's array of products. In our technical sessions, our speakers typically use the latest software, and have been using it pre-release for some months by the time the conference rolls around.

We are also very open and active with regards to attendee feedback, and every year we strive to make the next event better. That sounds like a cliché, but we do — and the feedback from some of our attendees has reflected this sentiment and our attention to detail.

Why did you decide to expand to the United States?

As far as bringing the event to the U.S., we had several influential organizations and individuals asking us about doing so, given its unique value to attendees. We're conscious of a growing demand in North America for high-level BIM-related issues to be addressed.

While it did take a couple of years before we agreed, we are very excited to finally be bringing the event to North America! There are certain aspects of the event that are Australian in nature, and we think some of our North American friends might enjoy that. We've also had similar interest from India, Europe, and Asia, so we'll see where that takes us — one step at a time.

What exactly is planned for the U.S. event? Is anything different here, compared with the Australian version?

We're all set for this first U.S. event at Hyatt Huntington Beach. I've been to the venue before, and it's a cracker. Overlooking the water, it exudes a relaxed and intimate ambience. About the fastest thing we do is throw back a stubby, so it's pretty chilled. There will be some "Australianisms" we bring across, but the attendees will have to be there to learn what they are.

We have had a great deal of interest from Autodesk, and several of their key personnel will be attending the U.S. event. Attendees will have a chance to chat with these guys over a beer or two: keynote speaker Carl Bass, David Conant, Anthony Hauck, Harlan Brumm, Scott Davis, Scott Latch, and more! We'll also have some well-known names from the RTC U.S. committee, including Jim Balding, Steve Stafford, Phil Read, David Harrington, and Bob Bell (who's an amazing dancer, as we learned at RTC Australasia!). There will also be a number of speakers from Australia and New Zealand, including Chris Price, Simon Whitbread, Melanie Tristram, and others. And as if that weren't enough, we've got Paul Doherty of Screampoint as our closing speaker.

What has been the response to the U.S. event? How many participants do you expect?

So far, the response has been positive. We're starting out in the Los Angeles Basin area to ease our entry into the North American community, but as with the Australasian events, the conference will change venues (and regions) on a yearly basis.

For this inaugural event, we're expecting 250–300 attendees. It's quite deliberately a much smaller event than AU, because we seek to foster a sense of intimacy and connection between all of the participants. Even in the long term we don't want to grow too large, as it's easy to lose the sense of intimacy — which is a key distinguishing characteristic of this conference series. Once we begin to cap numbers in another year or two, it'll be a case of getting in quick to learn from the best and brightest!

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