Tableau Padawan - Getting the Most Out of Tableau Conference 2016 #TC16

The 2016 Tableau Conference is a month away, here’s a list of tips for first-timers (and reminders for those who've forgotten). Thanks to @prashud for asking!

Packing & Planning

  1. Pack comfortable clothing, you’ll see everything at the conference from jeans and tees to full on three piece suits, it’s mostly business casual. If you’re into collecting swag you can end up filling out your wardrobe with tees.
  2. Speaking of swag, leave some room in your bag for swag.
  3. Bring comfortable shoes that are worn-in. With TC16 now spread across more venues there will be more walking!
  4. Bring lots of business cards and load up your smartphone with a business card scanning app.
  5. Some people like to get out of town before/after the conference and will pack hiking gear, I’m one who is full on conference and packs as light as possible so I don’t have to check any bags.
  6. Bring a spare battery pack, a water bottle, Emergen-C, and some energy snacks. Tableau provides charging stations, drinks, and snacks, but depending on where you are and the rush there might be none available at the time you need it.
  7. Pack earplugs. Tableau always arranges for awesome bands and fantastic DJs and sometimes the music is just too loud for my ears. Even using one earplug at a time helps!
  8. If you’re not on Twitter the #TC16 hashtag is a fun read and a good way to connect with people you just met.
  9. In some ways the conference gets going on Sunday, not Monday, so if you can get in early then the more chance you have to connect with people before things get crazy.
  10. If you're from the US then don't forget to vote before you get on the plane! Here's a link for getting your absentee ballot.


  1. Make a plan for what sessions you want to see with backup sessions nearby just in case your first choice session is full. If there are more sessions than you want to attend then make a list of those, most will be recorded and available online.
  2. If you’re new to Tableau and are comfortable learning on your own you can likely skip the two+ hour hands-on sessions, there’s typically plenty of materials available online that cover those plus you can go at your pace. On the other hand historically most of the hands-on sessions have not been recorded so if you want that then by all means go! Most of the hands on sessions fill up so definitely check in early and/or arrive early.
  3. If you’re an old hand with Tableau and ever have anything to do with training & supporting new users then check out the beginning sessions, they can be great reminders of everything that you’ve learned and forgotten.
  4. Download the TC16 app (usually available about two weeks before conference) and use the check-in button to reserve a spot in the sessions that you want to attend. (more on the TC16 app below)
  5. Choose a mix of Tableau-led sessions and customer-led sessions and pick at least one or two customer-led sessions that are totally outside your industry and/or current area of focus to get a taste of what’s different.
  6. Don’t skip the keynotes! Almost every keynote I’ve been to has been educational, enlightening, and/or hilarious.
  7. Every year Tableau grows the offerings for Tableau Doctor and the staff there are great, take advantage of it! If you can’t get an answer from the person you are talking with they can escalate and sometimes you may end up talking with the software engineer or product manager responsible for the particular area you are interested in.
  8. If you've never been to IronViz then make space for that, I've never failed to be inspired by what the three contestants create in such a short period of time.
  9. The conference is so huge that it can be hard to meet people from your industry, look for the industry-specific meet ups.

If you'd like to meet the DataBlick team we'll all be at the Conference (with swag to hand out!) and we're leading and/or facilitating several sessions this year:

At the Conference

  1. Some people suggest taking a small bag for the day, I leave my room in the morning and I’m not back until midnight (at least) every night so I pack a big bag.
  2. If you take notes on a laptop make sure you plug it in every night before bed. (see prior point about getting in late, I've learned my lesson the hard way!)
  3. Put your phone into low power mode at the beginning of the day.
  4. Take advantage of the free breakfasts that Tableau provides…besides avoiding room service charges it’s a great time to meet people outside of the crowds at lunch & dinner. I like doing at least one breakfast in the vendor area as they are just starting the day themselves and conversations can be more “real”.
  5. Refer back to the TC16 app regularly for changes in sessions locations…at TC15 Tableau started allowing reservations for sessions and used that to make last-minute changes to session locations to support sessions that had more people attending, I’ve been told they want to do more of that to avoid having to turn people away from sessions.
  6. Drink lots of water!
  7. If you’re in a session and have questions, ask them! As a speaker I really appreciate questions for helping to make sure I’m meeting my audience’s needs, and as an attendee the answers are often the most interesting parts of the presentation.
  8. If you’re in a session and you’re not getting enough out of it then don’t be afraid to leave. Life is short and there’s likely to be at least one other session that will feed your viz needs.


  1. Be on the lookout in the airports and on the plane for conference attendees...a couple of years ago I was on the plane telling my seatmate about Tableau and he asked, "Who else uses this software?" There were laptops across the aisle and ahead of us that all had Tableau running!
  2. I’m an introvert so networking is challenging for me…if you’re an introvert too, here are some questions I ask to break the ice: “How’d you like the keynote?” “What’s your favorite feature from Devs on Stage?” “What’s your highlight of the conference so far?” “What’s your favorite session so far?” “What sessions are you looking forward to?”.
  3. With all the Tableau blogs, Tableau Public, and the Tableau community we get to see a lot of each other’s work. If you’re a fan of someone else’s work then try to get over your own shyness and appreciate them! Some highlights of my own conference experiences have been meeting my dataviz heroes and then getting encouragement from them.
  4. Most everyone you see who is running the conference is a Tableau employee and they are great to talk to! You can learn a lot about Tableau (the company) as well as Tableau (the product) from them.
  5. If you’re going to the conference with a bunch of co-workers then go in different directions as much as you can to learn more and meet others, you can catch up when you all get back to the office on Monday.

Here are some other roundups of tips from past years:

And last year Brit Cava did a great post on after-conference activities:


Plan to learn a lot and have fun! I hear from people who've been in the data business longer than I've been alive and people whose job it is to go to conferences that the Tableau Conference is the best conference of the year. See you in Austin!