Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DATA15 Survival Guide

This will be my fifth Tableau Conference, and every year I get questions from people. They want to know what sessions to take, which ones to avoid, and what they can't miss.

  1. Have Fun. I know this should go without saying, but have fun. There are going to be great parties, events, speakers, and conversations. Get enough sleep (tough for us used to EST). I try to get all my work related stuff done between the time I get up at 4am and breakfast at 7. That way I don't have to worry about work and can focus on the conference. 
  2. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. The MGM Grand is huge and the conference is twice the size of last year. You are going to walk all over and should be comfortable. 
  3. Don't carry too much stuff. I try to have a minimal load with me: a small backpack, iPad, power pack/cable, and a water bottle. Don't be that guy with the huge bag who comes late/leaves early and has to slide past 20 people to a seat, banging a bag against everyone. Or even worse takes a seat with your bag. Which brings me to...
  4. Have options. Find a few sessions for a time slot so if one fills up you have a fallback. Many sessions will fill up and turn people away. Slide in to make room. You might need to skip a session, or leave early to get to your next one. Chances are some sessions you want are going to be full so...
  5. Some sessions are best experienced. I am thinking of IronViz, PimpMyViz, and the keynotes. The sessions are usually recorded live, or before hand, so you can catch others online. 
  6. Talk to people, the great thing about a software-specific conference is that everyone uses, or is thinking about using, Tableau. Ask them where there are from and how they use it. You can gain new perspectives, and meet people that you can connect with later. The conference is really big now, so knowing people makes it more fun. TC11 was about 1200 people. I was constantly running into the same people over and over; not so much these days. 
  7. Last year they gave out backpacks at registration. If you plan on using it make sure you have some way of identifying yours from the 10,999 others. Better yet, use your own. 
  8. Help is everywhere, to mixed degrees. Tableau has exploded over the past few years so there are many people working there that have less experience than me. If you want to ask esoteric questions go to one of the meet-ups and talk to the developers at the Data Doctor. There are information desks everywhere and people are generally helpful. 
  9. Food is also everywhere. Going somewhere new can be scary. Breakfast and lunch are provided. There are some events in the evening (with drinks) that may count as a meal, depending on who you are, and how much you eat. There are also usually snacks available during the day at Bits and Bytes and at the Bar Chart. Lines can be long, but hopefully Vegas is good at dealing with swarms of people. 
  10. Tweet all about it with #data15. 

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