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Preparing for #data17

By: Preston Howell

 Enjoy Preston's #data17 playlist while you read his blog.

It’s easy to underestimate Tableau Conference. Since it’s a conference centered around data, let me explain what #data17 is with some numbers:
Every fall 15,000 Tableau users converge for a week of learning, fun and strategizing. My first conference was #data15 in Vegas, and I had no clue what to expect. I ended up learning a lot and enjoying that conference, but it was just a sliver of what I could have gotten out of it. This blog is my attempt to keep this from happening to others.


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Now that we understand the scope of the conference, let’s explore how we can best leverage it!


Learning Opportunities

Potentially the most obvious benefit of attending Tableau Conference are all the sessions that you can attend. These are generally 1 or 2 hours, and range from Beginner to Jedi in difficulty.

Pro tip #1: Sessions are recorded and available for consumption after conference!

Pro tip #2: Don’t overdo it. It is better to take a break and clear your head than to overwork yourself. Also, remember pro tip #1? They are recorded, so you won’t actually miss anything.

The majority of sessions are Breakout Sessions or Hands-On Trainings. The Hands-On Trainings that take place Tuesday-Thursday are included in your conference fees, and can be registered for on the app. Speaking of that app...

Pro tip #3: Download the app ASAP and register for hands-on trainings pronto


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The hands-on sessions have a limited number of seats, but if the session you are interested in is already full, you can always wait in the standby line to get in. Many people who are newer to Tableau see that these sessions are available, and try using the conference as a substitute for attending a Tableau training. This is a very easy way to become overwhelmed – I personally recommend limiting yourself to 1 Hands-On Training per day.

Many of the breakout sessions are customer-led. Go to these! These are where you can learn how other organizations are utilizing Tableau, and is a great place to get ideas for you to grow Tableau usage in your organization.

Pro tip #4: Don’t ignore the customer sessions 

Don't forget about the always popular and entertaining keynotes where Tableau presents the latest and greatest features and unveils where they will be going in the future. If you want to find out more about what might be announced at #data17 check out Zen Master Joshua Milligan's post What Will be Revealed at Tableau Conference 2017? Particularly, you will want to make it to Devs Onstage


Fun Events

I was blown away by how fun my first Tableau Conference was. Yes, you read that correctly: a conference filled with nerds talking about data is an absolute blast.

Welcome Reception

The first official conference event is the Welcome Reception that takes place from 5pm-7pm. There will be food, drinks and music. This is a great opportunity to walk through the expo hall, talk to some Tableau partners, meet a new person, and get some free stuff. Stop by the Teknion booth (#237) to get a chance to win a free consultation from one of our two Zen Masters!

Pro tip #5: Visit the Expo Hall to get free stuff and learn about Tableau’s many partners.


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Data Night Out

On Wednesday Tableau throws a VERY large party. Last year they had food trucks, plenty of beer and wine, 6 bands performing, a roller skating rink, a silent dance party and much much more. This year’s Data Night Out will surely not disappoint. If you’re interested in checking out the bands that will be performing, feel free to subscribe to either of these #tc17 playlists I created:


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Iron Viz

Before leaving for Data Night Out, be sure to check out the Iron Viz Championship. This competition will knock your socks off. Over the spring and summer Tableau has been holding feeder competitions on Tableau Public. The winner of each feeder will compete on stage to win $2,000. They are given a dataset, 20 minutes and a computer with Tableau. After the 20 minutes (with their screen being broadcast the entire time), they have beautiful dashboards created. Our very own Joshua Milligan is competing this year – check out his entry here: https://vizpainter.com/the-changing-shape-of-history-from-the-colonies-to-the-united-states/

Pro tip #6: Attend the Iron Viz championships to get great viz ideas and to be amazed at what Tableau can do


Interacting with and Meeting Others

While at Tableau Conference, you are surrounded by 15,000 fellow data lovers. Take advantage of that!

The best way to meet people with similar interests to you at conference is through meetups. These meetups are organized around job roles, industries, topics or an activity. I personally will be attending the Sunrise Yoga meetup on Tuesday, as well as the #Fanalytics meetup on Thursday. 

Another great means of meeting people is through Twitter. The Tableau community is extremely active on Twitter, and TC17 will create a dramatic spike in that activity. Do you want to explore the strip and don’t have anyone to go with? Tweet about it. Is there a specific Zen Master you hope to meet? Tweet at them. Do you want to meet me? Tweet at me: @phowell93

Pro tip #7: The Tableau community doesn’t bite.

If you are an introvert, this may all seem slightly overwhelming already. Check out this blog by Zen Master Bridget Cogley for a guide aimed at you:

Pro tip #8: Read Bridget’s blog if you are at all introverted http://www.tableaufit.com/data17-introverts-guide-tableau-conference/


Continuing Your Learning

After Tableau conference is done, continue your learning. Did you see something done in Iron Viz that intrigued you? Download their dashboard from Tableau Public, and try doing the same with your data. Did you miss a session that you wanted to attend? Watch the recording of that session.

Return to your regular job excited about Tableau, ready to apply what you have learned. This will enable your conference to be worth the money and time, and will be helpful when you try asking your boss for approval to attend #data18.


General Advice

  • Dress Code: people will be wearing everything from t-shirts to suits. I personally go the route of jeans and a polo with some comfortable shoes. 

Pro tip #9: Dress comfortably, and wear comfortable shoes. 

  • Wifi: The wifi might be slow and phone networks may be overloaded. Plan stuff out ahead of time if at all possible
  • If you’re lost on scheduling, feel free to email me at phowell@teknionusa.com, or visit one of the schedule scouts at Tableau Conference.
  • Again, sessions are recorded. If you are too exhausted to make one, just watch the recording after the fact.
  • They may take pictures of you and put your face on a wall.


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