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Blog March 25, 2019

Tableau Conference 2018 Blog Series

David Elliott

Data Viz Heaven

Attending a major Business Intelligence (BI) Conference had been a goal of mine for several years, dating back to before I joined CapTech. Having collected a massive amount of data from the conference, I wanted to figure out the best way to convey the information without overloading my fellow data lovers. I’ve decided to create a blog series, over the next few months, to share my full experience at the Tableau Conference.

For starters – what is Tableau and what is a Tableau Conference? Tableau is software that can help anyone see and understand their data. The ease of use that Tableau has created has made the software a leader in the business intelligence space. The inaugural conference was held a decade ago in Seattle and welcomed just shy of 400 people. Since then, they’ve experienced a 417% increase in attendance, which is unheard of for a data conference.

One of the best parts about being a Tableau Certified Developer is engaging with the community Tableau has managed to build around its people. The outreach and training that is available to everyone is unlike any platform I’ve ever used. It is really no wonder why people continue to be evangelists for Tableau, attending the data-driven event year after year.

Getting the phone call that I’d been selected to attend the Tableau Conference in New Orleans last year was one of the coolest moments in my career. As a self-professed data nerd, I couldn’t imagine a better place to learn more about my favorite software. I immediately made the plans to fly into New Orleans for October 22nd-25th and created my four-day itinerary of events.

The best way to describe trying to create an itinerary for a conference of this magnitude is: overwhelming. I quickly learned that I would not be able to attend all of the sessions (with there being over 500 choices) and unfortunately had to narrow down my selections. I wanted to make sure I attended more than just visualization sessions, which is why you will be able to read more about avoiding data pitfalls, how to create an Iron Viz worthy dashboard, and how to use the new dashboard extensions, in my upcoming blog posts. Overall, the itinerary helped tremendously, even with over 17,000 other data enthusiasts making it tough to navigate from room to room - although, I did rack up over 70,000 steps in just 3 ½ days! Luckily, Tableau created a mobile application to help attendees find all available sessions and let me use a schedule builder to plan out my days.

Once I arrived and dropped off my luggage at the hotel, I walked a little over a mile to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Upon arrival at the venue, which happens to be over a half a mile long, I picked up my badge (which, I won’t lie, made me feel pretty cool). Since the Welcome Reception had already begun, I made my way to the Data Village, feeling like a rock star the entire way. As music blared throughout the hallways, everyone was ushered into a very large Great Hall, which included appetizers, drinks, software company kiosks, group meet-ups, a merchandise store, and many other fun activities (including a see-saw and swing set). Not a bad way to start a conference.

Day two started out much like day one – more rock star status. The opening keynote was an amazing way to get the day started, especially with Tableau CEO, Adam Selipsky, starting the keynote off with a very riveting up-tempo speech about how technology can be ubiquitous. He provided specific examples to reinforce his point that specific technology is now consumed everywhere (refrigerators, telephones, radio, etc.), and how even 75 years ago most households did not have these items. Adam touched on the impact that technology and data have on society today, including the magnitude of data that has yet to be analyzed. In fact, he ventured that nearly 70% of companies still do not use data analytics in any form, which is why he is working to make Tableau easier to use and consume. Just think about all the untapped opportunities that are still out there!

One of the best parts about the keynote speech was the live demonstrations of Tableau 2018.3, which included container transparency, Data Prep, Data Modeling, and NLP aka “Ask Data”. I will be discussing each of these awesome new features in a later blog post. Adam wrapped up his speech by discussing some very interesting and real-world applications for using Tableau. One of my favorite dashboards that Adam showed us was a Harry Potter dashboard which illustrates which spells were used the most and by whom throughout the HP universe. I had found my fellow Tableau lovers and was ready to take on the conference.

Over the next few months, my blog posts will chronicle my time in New Orleans, in which I hope to provide you with some new Tableau knowledge and a glimpse into the exciting adventures of attending a major conference. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or just to chat more about my experience!

Look out for blog #2 in the Tableau Conference 2018 Blog Series – Developers on Stage Coming soon!