With the annual Tableau Conference fast approaching I thought I would write a quick post of conference tips. I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert when it comes to conferences; I only attended my first Tableau Conference in 2016. However, this time last year I remember I had a lot of questions about conference that weren’t answered in the blog posts I came across. 

Hopefully this list of practical tips will help those who are in the same boat.
(in no particular order)

What to pack:

  • Comfy shoes. You will do a lot of walking at conference. Days are long and you will be on the go from morning until night. Wear sensible footwear with this in mind.
  • A fully-charged battery pack and charging cable for your phone/tablet. The likelyhood is you’ll be using your devices at lot to reference the conference app, check your Twitter feed, take photos, etc. The last thing you want is a dead phone battery mid-afternoon. There will be places to charge your devices in the conference venue but if you bring your own you won’t have to worry about trying to find one.
  • Something to use for writing notes; if you’re anything like me you’ll want to take notes during the sessions you attend.
  • Your best Tableau / data viz t-shirts; what better opportunity to show them off! 
  • International visitors: don’t forget the obvious (travel plugs, passport, US visa, etc).

Before you arrive:

  • Download the conference app (this will be available a few weeks before conference is due to start).
  • Once the app has been released familiarise yourself with the schedule, what’s on when & where, etc.
  • Plan your sessions. I can’t emphasise this enough. There are hundreds of sessions run over the course of the conference. I guarantee you won’t have time to plan once you arrive. When planning  ensure you take into account travelling time between sessions (walking down crowded corridors with 1,000 ‘s of other people takes longer than you might think). For some sessions (mainly hands-on training sessions) you’ll need to register in advance. Do this ASAP to secure your space as they are popular.
  • Remember all sessions (except hands-on training) and Tableau Keynotes are recorded with the videos made available online shortly after conference. With so many sessions during the course of the conference it’s impossible to attend everything that interests you. Consider which sessions would be better to attend in person (for instance a Matt Francis style session is a lot more fun when attended in person, while you’ll probably gain just as much from a customer session by watching online than you would if you attended at the conference). 
  • Change your Twitter/LinkedIn profile picture to a photo of yourself. Trying to identify your social media friends at conference is way more difficult if your friends identify themselves as a cat / dog / scenic place / logo, etc on Twitter. 
  • Fill in this form so you can be part of Jeremy Poole’s annual conference viz.

Before conference is in full swing:

  • Register & collect your conference pass. Do this early to avoid the queues.
  • Familiarise yourself with the venue so you know where you’re going when conference begins (including planning the route from your hotel).
  • Attend a pre-conference event like Data+Women. This is a great way to network with people beforehand. You can register for this years’ event here.
  • Attend the Tableau shop early! This is where you can buy Tableau-branded clothing, etc. Last year the shop sold out of everything very quickly. Get there early, especially if you have your heart set on getting something in particular. Remember you can buy the same products online but it’s not the same as buying them at conference. 

While you’re there:

  • Attend the Tableau Vision keynote and Devs on Stage. Last year these were awesome! If you need anymore convincing you can watch them online here. Whatever you do, don’t miss these.
  • Visit the Tableau Labs. Here you can participate in exciting studies to help shape the Tableau of the future.  
  • Watch IronViz live. It’s incredible!
  • Take a photo (or two) in the photobooths.
  • Get involved as much as possible – arrive early and attend the breakfast meetups that are relevant to you, attend the welcome reception, Data Night Out and any other conference events taking place. Conference only lasts a few days…..make the most of it! 
  • Following on from the above, let go of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). With so much going on its inevitable that you will miss out on something. With a conference of this scale it simply can’t be helped.
  • Arrive at sessions and keynotes early. They fill up fast so if you want to get the best seats (or secure a seat at all for that matter) you’ll need to arrive with plenty of time to spare. Have a back-up plan in case you can’t make it to your chosen session.
  • Get a #picwiththepauls 
  • Visit the Expo Hall. This is where Tableau partners have stands to exhibit their products. Walk around, talk to people, learn about the products and pick up some swag. 
  • Attend #MakeoverMonday live. It’s a whole different experience taking part in the live session.
  • Tweet! Use the unique session hashtags if you attended a great session and want to shout about it. Tweet photos & they might even get featured on the big screen in the keynote hall!  
  • Plan in some downtime. Don’t feel you have to attend EVERYTHING. You can always miss a session. Conference can be quite overwhelming & exhausting so you might feel like you need some time out at some point during the week.

After conference:

  • Don’t cry when it’s all over! 
  • Try to plan some downtime to catch up on sleep; you’ll be tired after an extremely busy few days.
  • Reflect on your conference experience. Maybe even write a blog post about it. 
  • Review the sessions you attended & be honest with your feedback. Tableau love to receive feedback to help them plan for future conferences. 
  • You’ll likely leave conference re-energised with lots of exciting ideas to put into practice or new skills to utilise. Just don’t try and do everything at once! It’s not a competition.
  • Keep in touch with your new friends & follow up on any connections you made.
  • Start counting down the days to your next Tableau conference!

I hope you found these tips useful. See you at #data17!

Thanks for reading.