Tableau Conference (TC) 2022 is fast approaching!
This year, Tableau are hosting their first-ever hybrid conference with an in-person experience in Las Vegas (which I’ll be focusing on in this post) and a virtual experience (which I’ll be writing about separately). This will be the first in-person TC since 2019 so it’s a particularly exciting occasion for those who are lucky enough to be attending!
As I’ve done in previous years, I’ll share some conference tips in this post to help those who are attending in-person, either for the first time or to serve as a refresher for conference veterans (it has been 3 years, after all!). This year is particularly unique due to the time that has elapsed since the last in-person conference experience. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have discovered Tableau or joined the community since 2019 that have never experienced an in-person TC (or at least never attended one as an engaged community member). Perhaps this is you? If so, you’ve probably read lots of people reminiscing about TC on social media over the last two years and may be wondering what the fuss is all about. This post will provide an overview of the conference experience, what to expect and how to prepare. If you have never been on a ‘Braindate’, thought Doctors should only be consulted for medical concerns and don’t know your ‘Data Night In’ from your ‘Data Night Out’, this post is probably for you!
This post features a collection of tips that I’ve collected over the years. However, we’re all different and it’s entirely up to you how to approach the conference. While some of these tips may not necessarily work for you, I hope you find them helpful nonetheless.
Tableau Conference 2022
This year will see around 5,000 data fans upon the city of Las Vegas, Nevada (USA) for three jam-packed days of learning, networking and inspiration!
The conference is taking place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre; the same venue which hosted the conference in 2017 and 2019. This venue worked perfectly as a conference venue last time so I’m excited to return there. While the Convention Centre is huge, the breakout rooms are usually spread across multiple floors and it’s relatively easy to move around the venue.
Without a doubt, #data22 will be a busy week for everyone involved so preparation will be key for a stress-free conference.
The TC experience can be daunting, even for the most extroverted data fanatic. However, this is particularly true this year as for many, this will be their first large-scale in-person event in years. TC will look different this year too. The conference will be smaller than usual and there will no doubt be other safety-related changes in place too. For those who are nervous about returning to in-person events, I would suggest taking things at your own pace. There’s no expectation to participate in everything. Take things slowly, take plenty of breaks and if anything makes you feel uneasy, I recommend finding an alternative option that you are more comfortable with. For those who feel energised by the in-person experience, be mindful that others around you may be struggling. Be supportive and accommodating and be prepared to step away from the hustle and bustle to help others feel more at ease.
What can you expect at TC?
A high-level conference agenda overview is available to view here. It should give you an idea of what activities and content the conference days will consist of. A more detailed Schedule Builder with precise session timings will be launched in the coming weeks. The Schedule Builder will enable you to personalise your conference experience and secure your spot in the breakout sessions that you want to attend. The Schedule Builder (aka “MyTC22”) will be your conference guide so be sure to reference it once it goes live for all of the latest information.
The conference typically runs from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day, with an earlier finish on Day 3 (Thursday).
The core schedule consists of a variety of session types:
These are held in the main conference area and have the largest seating capacity of any of the conference sessions. Keynotes usually take place at the start or end of the day. Keynotes are the star attractions of conference. You won’t want to miss them!
This year, keynote sessions include:
- The Opening Keynote – This session will mark the beginning of TC! The keynote will feature Tableau CEO Mark Nelson, as well as inspirational talks from Chief Product Officer Francois Ajenstat and other special guests. This year, the opening Keynote includes a special edition of ‘Devs on Stage’ where Tableau Developers will provide a sneek peak into the product roadmap!
- Iron Viz – The ultimate data visualisation competition, live on stage! This years’ Iron Viz will feature finalists CJ Mayes, Kimly Scott and Will Sutton as they battle it out for the $10,000 prize.
- The Promise of Data, featuring speakers Neal Myrick (Tableau Foundation), Channing Nesbitt (Tableau Foundation), David Turner (Post-doctorate Fellow UCLA in Social and Cultural studies), Sheila Herbert (Measures for Justice).
- Thought Leader Keynote, featuring Prof. Hannah Fry (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL). Prof. Hannah Fry is a mathematician, a best-selling author, an award winning science presenter and the host of numerous popular podcasts and television shows.
These are lecture-style sessions led by either Tableau employees or guest speakers, including both Tableau customers and community leaders. Each session typically lasts ~ 45 minutes with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions at the end. These sessions cover a vast variety of topics including Tableau tips, data culture, customer stories and much more.
Each session has a limited number of seats. Once the schedule builder goes live, you’ll be able to reserve a spot in the breakout sessions you wish to attend. I recommend you do this as soon as you can! Certain sessions will fill up quickly and you risk missing out if you don’t reserve a space. While Tableau will hold an allocation of seats back for walk-ups via a stand-by line, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to enter a session unless you reserve your spot first.
Hands-On Training Sessions
These classroom-style sessions are led by Tableau trainers and cover core Tableau concepts, including data preparation, calculations, dashboard design and more. These sessions are great for attendees looking to improve their Tableau skills and learn new concepts. The sessions will be taught at a manageable pace, with practice exercises along the way. Hands-on sessions are only ever run in person. You won’t find these as part of the virtual conference experience.
Meetups are a unique opportunity to experience your favourite Tableau community projects, in person! They offer an opportunity to meet the project leaders and fellow project participants and be inspired by guest speakers or success stories. Some projects such as Workout Wednesday will offer a hands-on session (you’ll need to bring a laptop with you to participate), while others will feature guest speakers, a project overview, or networking opportunities. This years’ meetups include:
- Workout Wednesday
- Viz For Social Good
- Back 2 Viz Basics
There are also other activities and events unique to the in-person conference experience, including:
The Data Village is the hub of the conference!
While the exact details for 2022 are yet to be announced, located in the Data Village you can expect to find places to hang out, a Community Hub area (all things Tableau Community and a great place to meet community friends), the Braindates lounge, Tableau Doctor, the TC photobooth, the Storypoints Theatre (featuring live from TC broadcasts), the Tableau swag store, refreshments and much more.
The Data Village is usually the venue for the Welcome Reception too!
Tableau Public Viz Gallery
Imagine an art gallery filled with printed Tableau Public vizzes! Visit the Tableau Public Viz Gallery and be inspired by the work of talented Tableau Public authors. This year, the gallery will be located in the Data Village.
Tableau Doctor Minute Clinic
At the Tableau Doctor Minute Clinic, you’ll be able to connect one-on-one with Tableau product experts and Tableau Visionaries to get point-in-time support with your Tableau challenges and technical questions, or even get some tips to help take your dashboards to the next level. You’ll be able to schedule your appointment with the Tableau Doctor in the Schedule Builder.
Braindates enable you to meet either 1-2-1 or with groups of 2-5 people for 30-45 minute knowledge-sharing conversations. Braindates typically take place in the Braindate Lounge; a chilled-out meeting space optimized for conversations.
To complwment the core conference schedule, there are usually morning group workout options available to all attendees. In the past, activities have included #RunData guided early morning runs around Las Vegas, instructor-led yoga classes by the Mandalay Bay pool, and more. Full details of how to get involved will be available in the Schedule Builder.
The Welcome Reception is a celebration to mark the start of TC!
The Welcome Reception takes place in the Data Village and offers attendees the perfect opportunity to explore all of the attractions located in the Data Village whilst mingling with other conference attendees. Expect lots of fun and excitement to end the first day of the conference!
Data Night Out
Data Night Out is a huge data-themed party! Expect live music, entertainment, a variety of food and drink options, fun attractions and lots to see and do. Data Night Out is the perfect opportunity to unwind and enjoy an evening with fellow data friends.
This year, Data Night Out is taking place at the MGM Grand on the MGM Pool deck and MGM’s newly renovated day club, Wet Republic!
What to pack
The conference dress code tends to be casual. There’s no expectation for anyone to wear smart business attire! Here are some tips to ensure you come prepared:
Comfy shoes | You will do a lot of walking at conference! The days are long and you’ll be on the go from morning until night. Some nearby hotels are a 20-minute walk away from the convention centre and even if you are staying at the Mandalay Bay itself, you’ll still need to walk a short distance to get to the convention centre. Bring sensible footwear with this in mind.
A fully-charged battery pack and charging cable for your phone or tablet | The likelihood is you’ll be using your electronic devices heavily during the days to reference the Schedule Builder, check your Twitter feed, take photos, write notes, etc. The last thing you want is a dead battery by mid-afternoon! There will be places to charge your devices in the conference venue but bringing your own fully-charged battery pack will save you from having to worry about trying to find a charging point (or fighting with somebody else to use one).
Something to use for note-taking | If you’re anything like me you’ll want to take notes during the sessions you attend to help you recall the content later. This could be a notepad, tablet or whatever works best for you.
Your favourite Tableau t-shirts | Tableau Conference is the perfect opportunity to showcase your Tableau t-shirt collection! If you don’t own any Tableau t-shirts, don’t fret. There’s a swag shop at conference which sells all the Tableau swag you could possibly wish for! Don’t forget to leave some space in your bag for any swag or freebies you are bound to acquire during the week!
Before you arrive
Decide upon a conference objective | What do you want to get out of the conference? Perhaps you want to learn more about a particular feature, tool or industry trend? Maybe you want to see how other companies are using Tableau? Or maybe you simply want to network with as many people as possible and catch up with old friends? Whatever you want to achieve, keep this in mind when planning your conference and pick sessions (or plan free time) that will help you to achieve your goal.
Use the Schedule Builder | The Schedule Builder (aka “MyTC22”) will be your go-to conference guide! MyTC22 will be launching soon (if you’ve registered to attend in person, you’ll be notified once it goes live). Once available, be sure to save it somewhere on your mobile device so that it’s easily accessible.
MyTC22 will replace the usual conference app this year. Expect to find important information in MyTC22 including a venue map, session locations, important announcements and key attendee information. You’ll also need to register for certain sessions in advance using MyTC22. This effectively ‘reserves’ your seat in sessions assuming you turn up in adequate time before the session is due to begin.
If you really want to attend a particular session, I strongly recommend you explore MyTC22 as soon as it’s released and start planning your schedule. The more popular talks and hands-on training sessions will book up quickly. See further tips in the ‘Plan your sessions’ section below.
Pro Tip: Use the conference agenda overview here to make a note of the sessions you are interested in attending. That way, you can quickly reserve your seat in these sessions once MyTC22 goes live.
Plan Meetings or Informal Gatherings | If there are specific people that you want to meet, reach out to them in advance. You could do this through the Schedule Builder or on social media. Chances are it will be easier to arrange something with them before conference begins and agendas fill up. Also, you are more likely to guarantee meeting them this way.
Book a Braindate | Braindates enable you to meet either 1-2-1 or with groups of 2-5 people for 30-45 minute knowledge-sharing conversations. Attendees are free to ‘advertise’ sessions in the Schedule Builder and invite interested parties to join them. Browse the available Braindates to find a topic that interests you, or create one of your own.
Plan your sessions….. but don’t go overboard | There are so many sessions that run over the course of the conference so you can’t attend everything. You could create a rigid schedule and plan every second of your day but I don’t recommend this approach. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the conference more if you build in some flexibility and downtime. In fact, you may get more value out of the impromptu meetings that happen by chance between sessions in the corridors than the sessions themselves. The approach you take is entirely up to you. Simply do what you feel most comfortable with.
Remember, not all sessions will be recorded this year. Consider attending sessions in person where you think you would benefit from being present in the room and asking the speaker questions at the end, or where you know it won’t be recorded. While some community members may repeat their sessions at subsequent user group meetings, you’re unlikely to find customer sessions again.
Be open to session recommendations from others | In the lead up to conference, and while you’re there, you are likely to hear other people recommend sessions or speakers that you might not have initially considered. Some talks may sound too technical or out of your depth but don’t let this put you off. You’ll still learn something by attending a more advanced session.
Change your Twitter/LinkedIn profile picture to a headshot 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 or cartoon! A simple headshot usually works best.
Jeremy’s Conference Viz | Fill in this form so you can be part of Jeremy Poole’s annual conference viz. Jeremy has been running this viz every year for as long as I can remember. It started as a way to help identify who was going to the conference, when they’ll be in town and enable those with similar interests to arrange to meet up. It worked so well the first time that he’s continued to run it year after year. Completing the survey will help you to network with the Tableau Community both before, during and after the conference.
The Vizzies recognise those non-Visionaries that stand out in the Tableau Community either for their dedication, skills, knowledge or amazing Tableau Public designs. This is your opportunity to get them recognised for everything they do. These awards really do mean a lot to those nominated so I highly recommend you get involved.
Once in Town
Register & collect your conference pass | It helps to do this as early to avoid the queues you’ll otherwise find at the peak times. The Schedule Builder should tell you what time registration will be open. You won’t be able to enter the conference without your pass so it’s key you do this as soon as you can. Once you have your pass, you’ll need to wear it the whole time you are in the conference venue. You won’t be able to enter the Data Village, sessions or conference events without it.
Pro Tip: Write your Twitter handle on your conference pass with a Sharpie pen so people can identify you better. This is especially true if you are better known by your Twitter handle than your real name!
Familiarise yourself with the venue | This helps you to know where you’re going when the conference begins (including planning the route from your hotel). You can usually wander around the halls and common areas without a conference pass (you’ll need a pass to enter any breakout rooms or the Data Village, though).
Attend the Tableau swag store early | The swag store is where you can buy Tableau-branded clothing and merchandise. The store gets busy and tends to sell out of popular items very quickly. I recommend visiting the store early, especially if you have your heart set on getting something in particular. The store is usually located within the Data Village and tends to open during the Welcome Reception (it may be earlier this year). Remember, you can usually buy the same products online but it’s not quite the same as buying them at conference. Furthermore, if you live outside of the US you’ll usually need to pay postage to get them shipped to you so buying in person makes sense.
During the Conference
Attend the Opening Keynote (featuring Devs on Stage) | The keynotes are always awesome, informative talks and you’ll learn so much about what new features and developments are in the product pipeline at both sessions! The energy in this session is not to be missed!
Attend Iron Viz | Iron Viz is THE ultimate viz competition! The atmosphere is incredible, you’ll be inspired and you might even learn some new tricks! Mark Bradbourne sums it up perfectly here:
“Imagine a room filled with thousands of people going nuts for three contestants creating data visualizations. Now open your eyes and watch IRON VIZ! There is really nothing like it. Watch three contestants building world-class vizzes on stage. You’ll find yourself cheering on your favorite (or quite frankly, all of them) and getting wrapped up in the spectacle and competition”.Mark Bradbourne
Visit the Tableau Labs & talk to the Tableau Product Devs | At the Tableau Labs you’ll have the opportunity to see live demonstrations of the latest Tableau features and also help shape the product of the future with your feedback or suggestions. It’s a great experience and awesome to be part of. This can usually be found in the Data Village.
Take a photo (or two) in the photo booths | These make excellent profile pictures for social media and great conference mementoes. Just be prepared to queue for the booths at popular times; early mornings or late afternoons tend to be quieter. The photo booth/s tend to be located in the Data Village.
Stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat | Conference is busy and it can be easy to miss the food and drinks provided by Tableau. There are usually snack stations and drinks refrigerators located throughout the venue where you can pick up something to take to a session with you or put in your bag for later. The same applies to breakfast and lunches which are available at specified times in the Data Village. If you are a fussy eater it might be worth bringing some snacks with you too.
Don’t rely on conference coffee | I would recommend getting up early and getting a coffee from a nearby coffee shop if coffee is important to you. Conference coffee can be very hit or miss! There is a Starbucks on the approach to the conference venue but it can get very busy at peak times!
Get involved as much as possible | Arrive early each morning, attend the Welcome Reception, Data Night Out and any other conference events taking place. Conference only lasts a few days so make the most of it!
Leave your laptop in the hotel | Unless you are attending a Tableau Doctor appointment or a hands-on session, you’re not likely to need your laptop.
Let go of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) | With so much going on it’s inevitable that you will miss out on something. With a conference of this scale it simply can’t be helped. Get over it and enjoy the things you can be part of.
Tweet! | The hashtag this year is #data22. Be sure to use it whenever you tweet about the conference or share anything conference-related on social media. Also, following the hashtag helps you to keep tabs on everything going on around you. Use the unique session hashtags if you attended a great session and want to shout about it. If you tweet photos using the hashtag they might even get featured on the big screen in the Keynote arena!
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 to relax at some point during the week. This is perfectly acceptable.
After the conference
Recover | 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 or write up some of your learnings to share with your colleagues.
Feedback | Leave reviews for the sessions you attended in the app & be honest with your feedback | Tableau (and speakers) love to receive feedback to help them plan for future conferences.
Plan | You’ll likely leave the 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.
Follow Up | Keep in touch with your new friends & follow up on any connections you made.
Start counting down the days to the next Tableau conference! Hopefully, we won’t have to wait so long this time!
I hope you found these tips useful.
See you in Las Vegas at #data22!
Thanks for reading.