The annual Tableau Conference was reimagined this year. Unlike previous years where the global Tableau Community have descended upon exciting locations such as New Orleans or Las Vegas, this year we attended the conference from the comfort of our own homes. The Coronavirus pandemic left Tableau with no choice but to rethink their conference plans and so, Tableau Conference-ish was born.

Make no mistake, Tableau Conference-ish was never going to match the experience of an in-person Tableau Conference; hence the ‘ish’. The overall sensory and social experience of conference is impossible to recreate virtually and I think we all accepted that. However, I personally think Tableau, and the wider community, did an excellent job in making the virtual conference an engaging, fun and fulfilling experience. It was the best virtual event I have added by some margin. An added benefit of the (free) virtual conference was that many people who had never had the opportunity to attend an in-person Tableau Conference previously were able to experience conference for the first time. This was great to see too.

Just like a regular conference I wore Tableau swag every day, I caught up with Tableau friends from across the globe, I had a crammed schedule from morning until night and I felt exhausted at the end of the week! The only differences were my feet didn’t hurt and I didn’t have to fly thousands of miles across the Atlantic to enjoy the conference experience!

Here are my highlights (in no particular order):

The Sessions

The conference schedule was jam-packed with inspiring talks, educational content and guest speakers. With over 300 sessions, it was impossible to catch everything live. Thankfully, the majority sessions are now available on demand on the conference website and will be made available on YouTube soon.

Below are some sessions I would highly recommend watching back if you missed them live:

Klaus Schulte & Sarah Bartlett – Zen Mastering Financial Data

I had the pleasure of speaking alongside my good friend, Klaus Schulte at Tableau Conference-ish. Klaus is a Professor, a Tableau Zen Master and an expert in the fields of financial accounting and management accounting. He frequently shares innovative solutions for visualising finance data in Tableau on his blog, co-data.de. We had originally planned to talk at Tableau Conference Europe earlier this year but when the in-person event was cancelled due to the pandemic, our plans were put on hold. Fortunately, Tableau invited us back to talk at the global event!

In our talk ‘Zen Mastering Financal Data‘, we discuss the challenges we commonly face when visualising finance data and Klaus shares some of the innovative solutions he has come up with. It was a honour to speak alongside Klaus and I hope everyone enjoyed our session.

Heidi KalbeSet It Up: When to use Sets vs. Parameter Actions

Since this session was part of the #DataFamCommunityJam track, I had the pleasure of introducing Heidi at the beginning of this talk. Heidi is a fantastic speaker and does an excellent job of explaining complex topics and making them easier to understand. I highly recommend this talk if (like me) you get confused between sets and parameter actions in Tableau! I know I’ll be referring back to this talk frequently!

Fireside Chat with Francois Ajenstat

In this session, Emily Kund sat down with Tableau’s Chief Product Officer, Francois Ajenstat to discuss the all things Tableau and the community. It was an engaging chat and it was great to hear Francois’s perspective. I highly recommend watching it back if you missed it.

Katie Wagner & Mark BradbourneAnatomy of a Dashboard – Financial Services

In this session, Mark sat down with Katie to talk through Katie’s People Analytics dashboard. Katie is my go-to expert in the community for any People Analytics question and in this dashboard, she visualised HR data in an easy to use, innovative way. In her talk with Mark, she explains her design choices and shares some tips and tricks which you can apply in your own work. This session was a joy to watch and left me feeling inspired and eager to put some of these tips into practice.

I highly recommend you check out Katie’s dashboard on Tableau Public here.

Speed Tipping Favourites with Lorna Brown and Jeffrey Shaffer

Tableau Speed Tipping has become a conference favourite since Andy Kriebel and Jeffrey Shaffer starting running speed tipping sessions a number of years ago. These sessions are always snappy but straight to the point, bursting with mind-bending tips! Jeffrey and Lorna are seasoned experts in this space and in this session, they each share multiple bitesized tips which you can easily apply in your own work. A conference must-watch! Here is a link to the workbook they shared too.

Data Literacy Panel Discussion

In this session, Ben Jones (CEO and Co-Founder of DataLiteracy.com) sat down with Elissa Fink, Balaji Padmanabhan, Tarnejah Rolfe and Ravi Mistry to talk about data literacy and specifically, their experiences of tackling the Data Literacy gap we face in the workplace. It was a thought-provoking chat with each of the panellists sharing their unique experiences.

Data + Diversity: A Fireside Chat with Wade Davis

Before watching this talk, I would encourage you to watch Wade’s talk on his journey in the landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I recently had the honour of being selected to serve on the Tableau Community Equity Task Force. As an champion of diversity, inclusion and representation, I was excited to watch the Data +Diversity sessions included on the conference agenda. In this fireside chat, my friend and fellow Equity Task Force member, Chantilly Jaggernauth sat down with Wade Davis to discuss his personal journey and suggestions on how we can help to create more inclusive corporate cultures. Wade Davis is the VP of Inclusion & Product at Netflix, Former NFL Player, Corporate Inclusion Advisor and Educator.

In this fireside chat, Wade encouraged us to assess the seven people we engage with most frequently (outside of our family) in terms of their race, gender, able-bodiedness, sexual orientation, income and neuro-divergence; an exercise which he refers to as the ‘Special 7’. By doing this, we are able to see how diverse our closest friends and colleagues are and therefore, it should highlight areas where we need to do better and strive for more diversity. Fellow Equity Task Force member, Joshua Smith kindly put together this template which you can download and use when completing this exercise yourself.

Andy Kriebel & Lorna Brown – The Most-Favourited Viz on Tableau Public

In this talk, Lorna sat down with Hall of Fame Zen Master, Andy Kriebel to talk about his journey and the most-favourited viz on Tableau Public; his ‘Visual Vocabulary‘ viz. This viz has over 2 million views and over 2,000 favourites!! Andy is a pillar of the Tableau Community and so many have learnt from Andy over their Tableau careers. Without Andy’s blog and #MakeoverMonday, I would never have discovered the community or stuck with Tableau so he’s had a huge impact on me personally.

This was a fun, insightful talk and it was great to hear about Andy’s journey with Tableau Public to date.

The Vizzies

The Vizzies are always a conference highlight for me. I’m so glad that Emily Kund and Matt Francis were able to bring them to us virtually this year! For those that don’t know, the Vizzies are similar to the Oscars, but for the Tableau Community. Community members can nominate others in the community for a range of awards such as ‘Best Blog’, ‘Server Guru’ and ‘Most Technically Sound’. It’s worth noting that Zen Masters are exempt from receiving Vizzie awards.

This year I had the pleasure of watching the Vizzies along with a large group of community friends via Zoom at a watch-along session organised by Kevin and Ken Flerlage (more on these later). What was particularly great about this Zoom call were that many of the Vizzie nominees (and winners) were present.

A total of 157 people from across the community were nominated for Vizzie Awards this year!! I was so proud to see so many new names featured on the nominees list; many of whom were either new or lesser-known in the community last year. It was also great to see so many #IronQuest participants featured.

I would like to give a special shout-out to my mentee Dzifa Amexo who is named above. Dzifa burst onto the scene last year and is a refreshing burst of energy! Like many of us, she started off with #MakeoverMonday but has since got involved in more community projects. Dzifa was a first round judge in this years #IronViz feeder competition, has spoken at multiple Tableau events and user groups and was recently recognised as both a Tableau Public Featured Author AND a Tableau Ambassador!! Congratulations, Dzifa!

This years award winners were as follows:

The Kelly Martin Best Designer Award – Judit Bekker

It came as no surprise to me that Judit won this. She’s an exceptional designer and influencer. Her Tableau vizzes are innovative, beautiful and always get people excited. She’s an inspiration to us all.

Data Storyteller ExtraordinaireRobert Janezic

Robert is a talented designer and storyteller. His vizzes are often powerful and tell compelling stories in innovative ways. Check out his entry for Iron Viz this year to see what I’m talking about.

Tableau can effing do that? The Elissa Fink Award (AKA The Hackiest) – Alex Varlamov

Alex comes up with the craziest designs in Tableau! He’s built everything including a Shanghai city-scape, a Lego house and even Eddie Murphy’s face, in Tableau! Check out his Tableau Public portfolio here.

Server Guru – Zak Geis

Over the last few years, Zak has established himself as one of the few go-to server gurus in the community. If you have any server questions, Zak is a great person to ask!

Data Do-Gooder – Brian Moore

At the beginning of the year, Brian founded #TheSDGVizProject, alongside Jacqui Moore and Vinodh Kumar. Every month, the project leverages data from the World Health Organization to build data visualizations focusing on one of the 17 goals.

Best Blog – Tim Ngwena

Tim’s YouTube channel is my go-to source of Tableau YouTube content. Without fail, Tim posts high-quality videos covering all of the latest releases in Tableau, as well as Tableau tutorials and other content. It’s literally a treasure trove! It’s no surprise that he won this award.

Most Technically Sound – Jim Dehner

Jim is an unstoppable force on the Tableau Community Forums. If you have ever used the Forums, it’s highly likely you will have had or seen a question answered by Jim. What Jim doesn’t know about Tableau isn’t worth knowing!

Notable Newbie – Priya Padham

Priya burst onto the Tableau scene earlier this year. As soon as I spoke to Priya for the first time, I knew she was going to do great things. Priya has been participating in the community non-stop since she started. She regularly posts impressive vizzes and is an active member of the broader community. She’s also incredibly humble and a genuinely lovely person all-round so it was a joy to see her recognised for this award!

Biggest Growth – Ghafar Shah

Ghafar has been participating in #MakeoverMonday and has been open to feedback at every step of the way. By taking this feedback and acting upon it, Ghafar has been able to significantly improve his skills and his vizzes have notably improved as a result too. Ghafar now posts impressive content week after week and has managed to craft his own unique style too.

Must run on coffee or Coke – Zach Bowders

We often joke that Zach never sleeps. He always seems to be doing something; whether that’s publishing new vizzes, recording podcasts or just generally being active in the community. If anyone must run on coffee or Coke, it’s Zach!

Prepstar – Kate Brown

‘Prepstar’ is a new award this year to recognise someone that specialises in Tableau Prep. Kate has become well-known for her Tableau Prep knowledge. She is a regular participant in the #PreppinData challenge and has a series on Tableau Prep on her blog; FairwaysandViz.com. I can’t think of anyone more deserving for this award.

Favorite Viz of the Year – ‘Ebb & Flow’ by Robert Janevic

Robert’s viz ‘Ebb & Flow’ analyses the popularity of different music genres over time. It’s beautiful, innovative and it’s no surprise it won the Favourite Viz of the Year!

The Michael W. Cristiani Community Leadership Award – Adam Mico

The Community Leadership Award has a special place in my heart. The award is named after Michael W. Cristiani, who sadly passed away a few years ago. Michael was loyal member of the Tableau community and had attended Tableau conference every year since the very beginning. Not only was Michael an advocate of the tool itself, he was also passionate about building connections with others across the Tableau Community. While he wasn’t the most outspoken community member, behind the scenes he was always helping to mentor, connect and introduce people.

I had the honour of winning this award in 2018, the first year it was renamed after Michael. Winning this award was a shock for me, but also an incredible honour. Last year, I was delighted when it was awarded to Kevin Flerlage. This year, I was thrilled to see it awarded to my friend, Adam Mico.

You may recall, Adam won the Notable Newbie Vizzie Award back in 2019. At the time, Adam wrote about winning this award, stating:

“My 1st thought was how can I be considered with these group of talents, (already) legends and amazing people. I was elated, but it was so difficult to accept. In my head, I thought there must have been groans when I won and how did people who I personally felt were as deserving if not more deserving felt about it (this is a VERY foreign thought process for me, but it happened). However, friends shared my win on Twitter publicly and privately… but my skepticism persisted. It was not until Tableau published the video and I heard excitement when my name was announced that I knew it was genuine”.

Adam Mico, 2019

Since last year, Adam has become even more involved in the community. He may not be posting vizzes all of the time but he does an incredible amount of work behind the scenes. He’s involved in both VizConnect and Mentoring Meetup and just like Michael, he is an encouraging voice and is always connecting people in the community. He still blogs almost every week and in every post, he highlights community members. The blog isn’t about him, it’s about everyone else.

I had the pleasure of meeting Adam in person in January during my trip to Cincinnati. Adam and I enjoyed a trip to the Cincinnati Museum Center together during this trip. I had only met Adam for the first time the night before but regardless, we had a great time at the museum and it was fun way to get to know him better.

I can’t think of anyone more deserving for this award. Adam has quickly become a pillar in our community. He’s incredibly humble and always puts others before himself. In fact, it’s highly likely if you’re reading this that you will have met Adam at some point during your Tableau journey. I can’t wait to see what Adam achieves in the next 12 months!

Congratulations to all of the 2020 Vizzie Award winners!

Braindates

Braindates have been a conference favourite of mine since they were introduced a few years ago. The concept allows you to schedule and/or join meetings with others, either on a 1-2-1 basis or in groups of up to six. Braindates are scheduled around a topic or a shared interest and other conference attendees are able to ‘browse’ the Braindate listings and sign up to any Braindates which take their fancy.

This year I initially scheduled four Braindates; a group session to discuss getting certified in Tableau Desktop, a group session to discuss setting up Tableau User Groups, a group session to discuss community projects and another 1-2-1 session to discuss community projects. I didn’t realise at the time but 1-2-1 sessions can be booked multiple times. As a result, I ended up receiving multiple invites to talk about community projects (which was awesome)! This resulted in me completing 12 Braindates over the course of the conference!

Through my Braindates I met a wonderful group of people from across the world. I had the opportunity to catch up with some regular #IronQuest participants, meet some friends in the community who I’ve never had the opportunity to speak to in person before, have an engaging talk about internal user groups and community building, as well as meeting lots of newer community members to share some advice to help them get started.

Tableau Doctor

As a Zen Master, I had the opportunity to help out with Tableau Doctor at Tableau Conference. If you don’t already know, Tableau Doctor is like a real doctor, but for Tableau problems. Attendees can book appointments to see the Tableau Doctors, who are made up of both Tableau staff and Zen Masters.

I volunteered to help out with Tableau Doctor at the European conference this year but I only had the opportunity to help with a few appointments at this event. This time I was excited to get more involved. I completed a total of 10 Tableau Doctor appointments at this conference. These sessions were one of the highlights of my week. I had the opportunity to help a wide range of people across the three days, each with completely different challenges. I was particularly proud that in one session, I was able to teach someone set actions and help them to apply a drill-down action in their viz. In each session, it was so rewarding to share solutions that I knew were going to massively help people with their day-to-day work.

Zoom Watch-a Longs & Happy Hours

The Community is what makes conference so special for me. Since this year was virtual, sadly we couldn’t have all of the get-togethers we are so used to. However, this didn’t stop us from connecting with one-another.

A number of people organised post-event ‘Happy Hour’ get-togethers and watch-a longs to coincide with the keynotes and big events such as Iron Viz. These made the world of difference to my conference experience! Watching along with others was almost like sitting in the keynote hall with someone to talk to sat next to you. It made the whole conference experience far more interactive and engaging. Through these sessions I was able to catch up with old friends and meet new ones too.

It’s surprising what can be achieved via Zoom. For instance, after Iron Viz we were joined by Andy Cotgreave on the Happy Hour call. Andy is renouned for his magic tricks, especially at Tableau Conference. This year, Ken Flerlage challenged him to perform a magic trick via Zoom. I think most of us on the call thought he would politely decline, but we were thrilled when he agreed.

Kevin caught most of the trick and shared the recording afterwards:

I still don’t know how he did it but it was amazing! Later in the week, Emily Kund even organised a ‘Data Night Out’ via Zoom, complete with a DJ!


All in all, it was a fantastic three days. I learnt a lot and enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new friends too. If you attended the conference, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you missed it, be sure to catch all of the conference content on demand.

A big thank you to the Tableau team for putting together such a fantastic event. It was clear how much effort had gone into organising this event. We can’t thank you enough!

Thanks for reading.