What NOT to expect from Tableau Conference

So in the past few days I’ve read a lot of blog posts from people who are Tableau Conference veterans, those who have been there once or twice, and people who have never been before.  In fact, there’s a compendium from Mark “@pointsofviz” Edwards which is well worth reading – so go and do that RIGHT NOW.

You’re back? Good.

I’ve been to one full Tableau Conference (TC16 in Austin) and one Conference On Tour (London 2015) and I certainly can’t add to everything that everyone else has written, especially Sarah “@sarahlovesdata” Bartlett’s post – which pretty much sums up everything I think about attending a mega-conference like TC17.

However, what I can add are my thoughts on what NOT to expect.  Please don’t think this is negative – it isn’t, and I’m stupidly amazingly excited to be going in four weeks time. I went last year with some preconceptions that I shouldn’t have brought with me; don’t make my mistakes when you hop on a ‘plane to Vegas…

  • Don’t expect everyone to know who you are.

You write some blogs, you are “active” on Twitter (whatever that really means!) but unless you’re a mega rock star in the Tableau community, people probably won’t be stopping you in the corridor every five minutes and asking for one of your shiny-new business cards.  You probably will get stopped once or twice though, and meet some amazing people – and you should be happy about that! Everything other people have said is true though – having your actual face as your Twitter pic will help people to recognise you, and you them.

  • Don’t expect you’ll make every session you want to.

The sessions in Austin were spread out over a bunch of hotels around the Austin Conference Centre. This meant a LOT of running (well, brisk walking) from place to place. I’ve no idea what the 2017 version is going to look like, but I’m assuming that because it’s all in the Mandalay Bay Conference Centre things are going to be closer together.

Before I got on the ‘plane, I had two lists – my main list of sessions I wanted to attend, plus a backup list for every session. The flight was long, and by the time we landed I had a backup backup list… and I STILL didn’t get to my #3 session some times. At the time, I was annoyed with myself – I wanted to maximise the value of going to Conference. However, in that ’empty’ slot I managed to catch up with Mat Hughes from Interworks, who helped us with our Tableau Server installation, plus I found time to tour the smaller Expo booths, getting some valuable ideas for the future!

So don’t be gutted like I was – enjoy the breathing space if you find yourself looking at the wrong side of a door.

  • Don’t think you’ll find an unoccupied power socket.

Battery packs are your friend – get one before you go, or even two if you plan to be on your phone all day. And leave the laptop in your hotel room, you won’t need it.

  • Don’t expect you’ll find out about all the goings-on.

Other people talk about the pre-conference events, the breakfast meetups, the evening drinks etc.  I didn’t find out about any of these at TC16! (Apart from the 5am runs, and I don’t run and I’m not nice to be around at 5am – my colleagues who have been with me on the 0550 to AMS can attest to this…)

Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, and my hotel being a million miles out last year probably didn’t help, but I will certainly try and see if there is anything going on before or after the main schedule this year.

  • DO enjoy yourself!

It’s an enormous event. I’ve never been to an event like it with so many people in the same room. I couldn’t resist taking a good nose into the control booth at the back of the Keynote room – once a radio geek, always a radio geek – and even the technological logistics of the event blew my mind. Whatever you do, or don’t do, make sure you enjoy the event, soak it all in – you’ll probably never be in the same place as 15,000 like minded individuals again, unless you go to TC18 of course!

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