Bringing Numbers to Life: 2018 Tableau Conference Insights

Over four days of data in New Orleans with 17,000 attendees, 55 vendors and nine key topics, this conference did not disappoint. The 2018 Tableau Conference was a great opportunity to fine-tune our skills and talk data and analytics with peers from all across the country. Offering more than 400 workshops, the conference was a great place to better understand the ways Tableau—a data visualization software for interactive data analysis and storytelling—can help people see and understand their data, and thus make informed decisions.

  1. 1. Pie Charts, Tables and Infographics?

    There are so many better ways to see and understand your data.

    We were able to attend several hands-on sessions, logging more than 10 hours of hands-on classroom training. Tableau developers were available to answer our questions and teach us additional ways to create the perfect data visuals. These interactive sessions included applying statistical data charts, data blending, aggregating data with table calculations, and creating and designing dashboards and digital stories. We were also able to talk with our fellow conferencegoers about tips, tricks and ways to improve our data analysis.

    In addition to the hands-on training, we were able to attend breakout sessions where speakers covered best practices for Tableau and how other organizations are using Tableau to work more efficiently. When we wanted to experience even more data discussions, Brain Dates were available where you could collaborate with attendees from similar tracks, data needs, or in our case, geography. We met up with a few of our Greensboro neighbors from VF Corporation’s analytics team.

  2. 2. Data Visualizations Help People Understand the Data Story

    One of the most exciting components of the conference was the Iron Viz competition. The theme for the bout was weather, and the three teams were given three years of weather data—provided by The Weather Company—and 20 minutes to create a visualization of the numbers. Using Tableau Prep, the teams cleaned up and organized the information and created three unique data stories—all in front of a live audience.

    One team created an interactive piece of art, comparing rain, wind and temperatures between two cities using a radial layout and making it easy to identify days of weather anomalies. Another team put the user at the center of the story by creating a “personalized output of where the grass is greener,” incorporating Tableau’s Set Actions functions to give the user the ability to generate average weather conditions from a selection of multiple points on a map. And the final team used the data to tell a story about how weather impacts our daily lives, creating a dashboard using the Pages feature to visualize the relationship between global positioning and weather conditions.

    It was an impressive display of Tableau skills and gave us new ideas about how to share and display information for our audiences.

  3. 3. Data Is Powerful and Can Drive Change

    While learning was the main objective for the conference, we also were given an opportunity to help the community with HandsOn New Orleans, a nonprofit group that coordinates service projects in the New Orleans area. This year, Tableau attendees put together 1,000 hygiene kits for the homeless. The backpacks included personalized notes from the volunteer who assembled the kit and were distributed at local shelters around New Orleans. For more on HandsOn New Orleans, go to

    Assembling these kits wasn’t the only opportunity to see how data can help people. Keynote speakers Adam Selipsky and Joseph Mutale discussed using the power of Tableau to help end malaria. By tracking malaria outbreaks and treatment efforts, the government of Zambia can more efficiently manage its resources, sending support to affected areas to stop the disease’s spread in a timely manner and ultimately save lives. Zambia also can use Tableau to visually track water flow patterns and terrain and predict where malaria-carrying mosquitos will flourish and potentially cause an outbreak. Once those areas have been identified, officials can focus their efforts there and hopefully get ahead of the disease. PATH and Tableau Foundation have partnered to help end malaria as part of the Visualizing No Malaria project. Learn more about it here:

  4. 4. Exponential Growth of Data

    According to the International Data Corporation, the premier global market intelligence firm, our digital footprints are expanding. Trackable metrics are growing by about 40 percent each year; by 2020, our digital universe will contain as many digital “bits”—the data we create and copy—as there are stars in the sky. Considering this rapid growth, companies need to evolve with technology to more easily define trends and discover anomalies. Tableau is one of the leading tools helping analysts bring numbers to life, and it was truly rewarding to spend more than three days learning alongside others who are passionate about data.

    Learn more about the Tableau Conference here:

Written by Amy Mason

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