Are you looking forward to the Tableau Conference, but feeling exhausted or overwhelmed at the idea of 15,000 people? Fear not, this is your guide! How do you survive one of the largest conferences in a sleepless city? You plan, my friends. And try to dodge the slots if you want to return home with some cash.
There’s loads of sessions – enough you could time-turner yourself 10 times and still miss too many to count. Good news for you: they’re recorded. Common advice says pick a theme. You can certainly explode your head trying to take on the world, but themes can help.
My advice: Download the app on your phone as soon as it becomes available (technically, you can download it now, just there’s nothing to see). Pick several sessions, including 1 in VERY near proximity to the one before. There will be more people charging through the halls than you’ll likely witness anytime soon. If the crowds look like too much to bear, go to the nearest session. Or, plan to be fashionably late or unreasonably early. The sessions go like this: 45 on, and 5 or 15 in transit. Plan to move at a snail’s pace and PRE-REGISTER as much as possible. Another cheater plan: go to one session, skip one, and go to the 3rd.
The warning: some classes, particularly the ones offered by Tableau over and over (this is your cue that these are hot) go quickly. If you want in, plan to skip a session and just hang out by the area. Or, pre-register when possible. And, yes, if you get in a session and walk out, no one will cry – it happens. (Some people argue this point – me, if you’re not happy, you’re paying for it, head out or take a break.)
The extra: Find a buddy and tag team. WiFi will be consumed and the phone circuits may get overloaded. Go analogue with Walkie Talkies if you want to be real cool. Hit the star on sessions that interest you so Tableau can plan accordingly.
There’s loads of events, whether it’s Data + Women, Makeover Monday, IronViz, Tableau Doctor, the keynotes, and – of course – the hottest night in analysis, Data Night Out. Figure out what you can handle and for how long.
My advice: Figure out a few escape hatches along the way. Data Night Out usually consumes a wide swath of something. Find outlets nearby or hit a cab (rumor has it, Uber got banned, so scratch that plan). Turn in early or show up late if you know the crowds will get to you. But, it’s always helpful to get an hour in.
The warning: these events are crowded as all get out. Sit at the outer edges if it’s hard for people to hear you.
The extra: learn to sign and cue your buddies accordingly. Key trick – you can sign up high and through windows – it’s like being a superhero.
A final shout out: Don’t miss IronViz. It’s worth it!
If you’re active on Twitter or read blogs, make a list of people you’d like to meet. The Tableau Conference app allows you to message people (just keep in mind the whole Wifi/cellular lag potential and that some may not be using it) and arrange meet-ups strategically. You’d be amazed at how many people do this and are open to it. Just don’t be creepy – no heads in boxes or meeting by staff doors.
My advice: make a few new friends. Hit people you follow, but also look up the presenters you think are crushing it. Try to hit outside your usual realm as well, as that may spark something widely new for you. If you tend to hang with consultants, look up a customer and meet them. If 90+% of people you talk to are women, find a guy or vice versa. Find someone who travelled from another country (you’d be AMAZED at how many people qualify). Bonus points if they speak another language. (Remember – friends from other countries are better than AirBNB – they usually let you crash at their pad FOR FREE or know the better, cheaper places to stay.)
The warning: it may be hard to connect with some people, either due to WiFi, not using the app, or the fact that person is just overwhelmed. Keep in mind, there are other introverts too. They like to rest.
The extra: Get someone new on Twitter or signed up to blog. It’s amazing the effect it has, even if it’s scary as all get out.
If your hotel is close, plan some time there to recover. Or, hit a local trail or other site. It’s okay. The conference is a lot and overstimulation is real. You learn nothing if your brain is buzzing. And remember, sessions are recorded.
My advice: there’s a few places with “Bits and Bytes” snacks. Usually, these are highly trafficked areas in between sessions, but virtually dead during them. Use these areas or some of the other lounges provided by Tableau to take a break.
The warning: There’s a lot of people here. There will be others doing the same and the space overtaken by the conference is vast. You will be overwhelmed at times
The extra: plan a date with your bed the day after you get back. Take a day off work and recover. You’ll need it.
This and that
- If for some reason you don’t already, wear sensible shoes. I like Dansko and can wear them all day. Same thing with clothes, bags, and the like. You’re going to walk a lot. Go minimal, prepare to sweat if you’re sweaty like that, and be comfortable.
- Bring headsets and music for intermittent breaks. Lately, my go-tos are Metisse, Tragically Hip, Black Violin, Rag N Bone Man, and a variety of my 10,000 songs I’ve accrued over the years.
- Find time to go outside. It’s Vegas and it’ll be reasonably warm to anyone from up north. Bring a sweater for inside, because the AC will be cranking.
- If you realize you’re better a concept than you previously thought, don’t hesitate to change up your track entirely.
- Hit at least 2 customer sessions, if not more. It’s too easy to write these off for something technical, but you’ll need the out-of-the-box ideas customers find and it’s really cool to hear their stories. You won’t regret it. Besides, the technical ones, you can hit PAUSE when you’re watching the recorded version.
- You can come to my duet with Joshua for the Play-Doh. I promise to stutter at least once and forget my train of thought twice. There may be toys. There will be data and dashboards.
- Look for Jewel Loree if you want some silliness and some awesome data fashion. Bonus points if we get some hashtag trending on Twitter.