Posted - Jul 3rd, 2014

In Nov. of 2013, I started the “Tableau Your Data!” speaking tour in Omaha, NE. This tour culminated with the talk in Pittsburgh, PA last week.  I had the privilege of being able to talk Tableau to fellow users across the country. Along the way, I met some fantastic people, witnessed cool new ways these people are using Tableau and simply had a great time.

I have three more talks scheduled for North America in Aug. and Sept. These include Atlanta, Washington D.C. and a virtual session talk with Cigna. Before finishing out with those talks, I’m taking the tour to Europe. Before I do that though. I wanted to share some insight from the U.S. portion of the tour. I’ve given a brief recap of each event below. I hope you guys had as much fun as I did on this tour!

Omaha TUG

Nov. 7, 2013

I did this first early-edition talk because Mike Moore asked me to do one. My later talks had very little in common with this early edition, which spent too much time on Hadoop. There were around 50-60 people in attendance, including a couple of Tableau field staff members from Denver, CO.

Indianapolis TUG

Jan. 14, 2014

This event was hosted by a new Tableau Partner, Apparatus. There were around 50 people in attendance. The event took place on a basketball court in Apparatus’ facility. Apparatus is a well-established Microsoft Partner. I met several of their employees and got a tour of the facility. The audience was engaged. A local investment company was also in attendance (I had coffee with this Pacific Crest client before the talk). Also notable—Rob Joyce called me and wanted to know how things were going. After my speech, I had dinner with my sister, Leslie, in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis TUG

Above: The Indianapolis TUG meeting on a basketball court.

Raleigh TUG – Duke University

Jan. 16, 2014

This was a very nice location in an old tobacco warehouse. This TUG was a smaller group (around 30 people), but included clients like Cisco, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others. After the talk had ended, I went to a wine bar with about 15 of the attendees and had some very good discussions with some very smart folks. The only person missing was @Lewandog.

Minneapolis TUG

Jan. 21, 2014

This was the only time I’ve ever given a speech with long underwear on. The high temperature for the day in Minneapolis was -15 degrees. Over 125 people actually came to the talk, including clients like Target and Delta Airlines. There were very engaged people who stayed after the talk to ask questions.

Madison TUG

Jan. 23, 2014

This was a smaller group of people (around 30), but some of them were highly-motivated. InterWorks sponsored the venue, and a small one-man partner, Patrick McCormick, ran a very good TUG meeting. Nice guy. I had dinner with him, and we talked extensively. I also met Sarah Nell of AE Business Solutions (Milwaukee) here for the first time. Overall, it was an engaged and intelligent audience focused on education and health care.

Milwaukee TUG

Jan. 24, 2014

This talk was held at a Tableau Partner office (AE Business Solutions) with their very enthusiastic Tableau consultant, Sara Nell. About 35 people were in attendance. By then, the temperature had warmed-up all the way to -2 degrees. Harley Davidson had several people in attendance, which was notable because Tableau Software had just beat-out QlikTech to land a very big deal there. QlikTech was rumored to have dropped their prices significantly below Tableau. Tableau held firm and won the deal. I asked one of the Harley people why they selected Tableau. The answer? Despite the big discrepancy in upfront cost, they believed that Tableau would offer a lower total cost of ownership.

Boston TUG – The Broad Institute

Jan. 28, 2014

One thing about giving a talk at a genome research institute directly adjacent to Harvard University and MIT—the audience is going to have a lot of smart biotech folks. In this case, there were also a couple of Tableau Zen Masters and friends there—Chuck Hooper and Jonathan Drummey. Aside from having the honor of speaking there, I saw one of the most interesting talks from Tableau customer, New England Biolabs. Nicole Nichols and Josiah Grimes use Tableau to improve the quantity and quality of data analysis related to DNA Polymerase development. They had fascinating visualizations.

Boston TUG

Above: Speaking at the Broad Institute to the Boston TUG.

New York – Tumblr HQ

Jan. 30, 2014

I didn’t realize that the talk was scheduled at Tumblr’s HQ until I arrived at what looked like a condo building. Going up the elevator, I thought that I was in the wrong place. Then, when I arrived at floor whatever, the doors opened and a Tumblr logo greeted me. About 60 people attended, and the post-talk Q&A was active and engaging. After that, James Wright and I went to dinner with Lee Feinberg. We followed that with a trip to the Village to hit up Smalls. Fun trip.

Portland TUG & Nike Talk

Feb. 11, 2014

One of the absolute highlights of the tour in North America was my visit to Nike. I actually did two different talks there. In the morning, I spoke to the Portland DAMA (Data Management Association) in the Steve Prefontain Amphitheater. It was a very nice venue. In the evening, I spoke in a smaller room to the Portland TUG. Check out our video of the full presentation. Overall, I would estimate that around 150 people attended. The engagement of both audiences was very high. Several Nike employees brought their laptops and wanted to show me their “very cool” work. There are several striking things about Nike:

  1. They are very friendly people
  2. They are willing to try new ideas
  3. They take technique and extend it in novel ways

Their data team is excellent, and for a big company, they jump silos with aplomb. Nike is a special place.

Portland TUG

Above: Presenting to the Portland TUG in the morning.

Kansas City TUG

Feb. 18, 2014

I didn’t expect the relatively large crowd in a smaller city, but around 70 people came to this talk. I had the good fortune to have dinner on the first night with Tableau Viz Contest winner and founder of the user group, Ryan Sleeper. Ryan is passionate about data visualization. Another notable attendee was my friend, Mike Moore, from GOTUG. Mike had recently moved from West Communications to Kiewit Corporation. Mike brought a co-worker and his boss. I ended up going to dinner with the three of them, geeking out on data visualization and dashboarding for a few hours into the night.

Phoenix TUG – AAA Glendale Ops Center

Feb. 20, 2014

My talk to the Phoenix TUG was for a very small audience (around 20 people,) but the ones that came were very engaged. Because the room was small, there was a lot more interaction than normal with the audience. Ken McBride, also came to the meeting, and we went to dinner with three of the attendees after the talk was over. One of the highlights for me was meeting Gessica Briggs-Sullivan. Gessica is an analyst at AAA. She was their first Tableau user and the real driver that moved Tableau into their data culture. The other highlight was seeing AAA’s amazing data center, which contained an 80’ wide dashboard wall (there were at least 20 dashboards being displayed here) that contained at least five separate Tableau dashboards that were monitoring vital network status reports for their North American operations. I haven’t seen anything like it before. It reminded me of a NASA Flight Operations Center. It was very impressive.

San Diego TUG

Feb. 28, 2014

San Diego was my first (and last) Friday evening talk. The audience was very small (around 10), but also the most technically knowledgeable. In addition, the other speaker that night was one of the principals of Import.IO, Andrew Fogg. He is the founder and CDO of the company. He did a really nice demonstration of their product (which is totally free). This product reminded me of a tool that I used in the 1980’s for extracting greenbar mainframe reports into Lotus 123 (Monarch – now owned by IBM). Of course, Import.IO is thoroughly modern and built for the web. I see this as a very nice tool for scraping data from web pages.

Nashville TUG – Vanderbilt University

Mar. 6, 2014

This was a very weird trip. I had to come from San Francisco via Atlanta on a Redeye. When I arrived in Nashville, I “Ubered” my way to a breakfast place. When I arrived at the hotel, I called Behfar to discuss events of the day. While I was looking out the window, talking with him, I watched in horror as a homeless man was run over twice by a pizza delivery driver. Amazingly, the guy got up, shook the driver’s hand and went back to dumpster-diving. I went to sleep and woke up a few hours later to get ready for my talk. I saw the homeless man pushing a grocery carriage up the alley while he walked with a very pronounced limp. Just another day at the office for this poor fellow.

Saint Louis TUG

Mar. 11, 2014

This talk attracted around 80 people to a really wonderful venue at World Wide Technologies’ brand new corporate headquarters. This consulting company must have invested around $25 million in a brand new demo center. I toured the facilities with a couple of WWT Consultants. They are just getting started in the Tableau world, but this is a company with impressive credentials. I was impressed with the size, scope and quality of their HQ.

St. Louis TUG

Above: Preparing for the Saint Louis TUG meeting.

Philadelphia TUG

Apr. 8, 2014

This was my first talk after having gall bladder surgery. It was also my birthday. So, that might give you a clue as to how much I’ve enjoyed giving these talks, meeting Tableau users and new Tableau Partners. This talk was sponsored by a new Tableau Partner, Acumen Analytics, and was hosted at a local public television station, WHYY Public TV. George and Kathleen Brunner are husband and wife, and they’re the leaders of Acumen. They were delightful hosts, and we had a lot of fun sharing data war stories. Thank you, George and Kathleen!

Midwest VizWars – Harley Davidson Museum

Apr. 10, 2014

After meeting Sara Nell at my Milwaukee and Madison speeches, her employer and Tableau Partner, AE Solutions, invited me to judge a VizWars contest. This was held at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI. The museum is a very cool place. Whether you’re into motorcycles or not, I highly recommend the tour. Three winners were selected, but the highlight of this event for me was a brand new Tableau user, Barb Holschbach, from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. Barb had about one hour of experience using Tableau and was able to build a dashboard. She had the guts to get up in front of 100 people to show off her creation. That takes some guts when you’re competing against 80 more experienced Tableau gurus. I decided to give her an honorable mention and a free copy of my book. Well done, Barb! If that doesn’t demonstrate how easy Tableau is to learn and use, I think nothing will.

Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee, WI

Above: An exhibit at the Harley Davidson Museum.

Oklahoma City TUG – Sonic & Devon Tower

Apr. 17, 2014

I did two different talks here: one at Sonic’s World HQ (they are a client) and another at the new and impressive Devon Tower (the giant skyscraper). In total, around 120 people attended these talks. The audiences were engaged and asked a lot of questions. Another InterWorks client,, graciously gave a 10-minute demonstration of how they were using Tableau. I always get a thrill when a client catches the fever. Amber Smart is clearly a prototypical Tableau customer. She is very passionate about Tableau and is creating wonderful new insights for LifeChurch.

San Francisco TUG

Apr. 24, 2014

I was excited to be giving a talk in the epicenter of technology. Friends, clients, former InterWorks employees and data visualization fanatics (Tableau Zen Master, Chuck Hooper, again) added up to around 100 people crammed into a small space. That only made it seem like an even bigger crowd. This talk was a blast with lots of good questions and a very lively audience. People from Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and every other cool tech company in the Bay Area were there. You get the picture. Fun!

IW Crew

Above: Hanging out with current and former InterWorks employees in the Bay Area.

South Bay TUG – Netflix

May 1, 2014

The following week, I was back in San Francisco to give a talk at Netflix for the South Bay TUG. Netflix has a very cool speaking venue. Chuck Hooper officially became a “Tableau Your Data!” tour talk groupie by attending my roadshow for the third time. Tableau Zen Master and good friend, Andy Kriebel, was there along with gonzo Tableau Zen Master, Ryan Robitaille. Because I had some good friends in the audience, I decided to tell some stories about them and their cool breakthroughs with Tableau. This was the most active audience of the tour so far, and even larger and more well-known brand name companies were there asking questions. I actually got on a bit of an anti-cube rant with one of them in the hallway after my talk, which prevented me from seeing talks by Ryan and Andy. I also missed what sounded like a very funny talk by Tim Shea of DataSift. Afterwards, I had dinner with Chuck, Andy and Ryan, extending a data viz geek discussion for a couple more hours. Another thing about Tableau people – they are nice. Andy gave me a rather extended ride back to my hotel.

Chicago TUG – DePaul University

May 22, 2014 

I’d been looking forward to this speech for several weeks. A good friend and the winner of the first Tableau Data Visualization Contest, Rina Bongsu-Petersen, was my primary contact for the Chicago TUG. DePaul University hosted the speech in a very nice lecture hall. About 100 people came to the talk. The audience asked a lot of questions, and a dozen people stayed after the talk to ask more questions of me and Brian Bickell (who was in town and helpfully attending). I want to say a little more about Rina. I first met her after she won the contest with a visualization called “Fit and Fat in America.”

At the time, I wanted to write a blog post about Rina. I called her and interviewed her for about 90 minutes, intending to write a detailed piece about her and her contest-winning visualization. You can see the viz here. This was just around the point that our Tableau/BI practice at Tableau started to expand very rapidly. I went on the road for the next several years and never wrote the piece. So, Rina, this is my make-up for that shortcoming on my part.

Facebook Talk & VizCup 2

May 20, 2014

Following Chicago, I did yet another speech at Facebook, but was also invited by Facebook to judge VizCup 2. Aside from the amazing pig-roast for 5,000 they were having that day, the contest brought together data visualizers from all over the Bay Area. For a detailed review of that session, see this post. The winners used a beta release of Tableau 8.2. They utilized the new Story Points feature to deliver findings of their 60-minute data dive in 60 seconds. This is where the Story Points feature really shined. Three people presented twelve story points in 60 seconds. They clearly and convincingly made their findings understood. Very cool.

Viz Cup 2

Above: Myself and fellow Viz Wars 2 judges, Cole Nussbaumer (left) and Jewel Loree (right).

Seattle TUG – Washington Athletic Club

June 19, 2014

It was wonderful to visit Seattle. Earlier in the week, I attended the Alteryx Inspire Conference in San Diego. During my Seattle trip, I visited Tableau HQ and caught up with some good friends at Tableau Software. Slalom Consulting sponsored my talk, and I have to say, was EXTREMELY patient with me following my surgery. I had to cancel and reschedule four talks. The Seattle talk was rescheduled twice. So, I have to thank Slalom for putting-up with my volatile schedule. It was worth it. Around 120 people attended (over 200 signed-up), and the after-meeting discussion with the attendees was really great. I made several new Tableau friends, including Slalom’s BI practice lead in Seattle, Craig Wake. Thank you, Craig, for arranging the quality venue!

Pittsburgh TUG

June 24, 2014

Last, but not least, was my talk at Carnegie Mellon University. This was another speech that was rescheduled with little notice due to my surgery. Ted Curran and Jill Wooster of CMU did a great job rescheduling the event. Around 80 people attended, and the whole event covered three hours. There was one hour of speaking along with two hours of Q&A, especially on the topics of data governance, security and scaling servers to large deployments.

Pittsburgh TUG

Above: A crowd shot of the Pittsburgh TUG at CMU.

Upcoming Events

The book tour is now moving to Europe. Be sure to check out the full list of dates and locations. I’ll be doing a talk with Zen Master, Andy Kriebel, of Facebook about how to start and run an effective Tableau user group. Andy and I started the first user group in the United States a long time ago when he was still in Atlanta at Coca-Cola. John Hoover/Andy Piper (Norfolk Southern) and Chris Cushman/Martin Click (then of UPS) were also co-founders.

Upon returning from Europe, I’ll finish the book tour talks at my favorite user group in August – the Atlanta Tableau User Group.

Thanks for a wonderful tour, America!