TC17 – How to do ‘the Expo Hall’

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Wow, there are only 8 days to go until registrations at TC17 open and the Mandalay Bay will be taken over by data lovers from all over the world.

With everyone talking about sessions, speakers, parties and must-see Vegas shows, I decided it’s time to say a few words about the Expo Hall, or the ‘Data Village’ as it’s called at Tableau.

I have attended a number of Tableau Conferences and Tableau Conferences on Tour. At first I was a customer, then a consulting partner and now I’m a tech partner and sponsor, so I have seen these events from different angles. They have all been great experiences and all very unique.

As a customer, people want your business. As a consulting partner, people (may) want your opinion. As a sponsor, people want your freebies.

Of course there is more to it than that :-).

I had a blast at every conference I attended and I want to share with you a few tips and suggestions so that your time in the expo hall is fun, valuable and lets you leave with new ideas, new connections and some cool new stuff as well.


What it is

The expo hall is where sponsors set up their booths to present their services, products and expertise. You can find a list of these sponsors on the TC17 website.

It can be quite overwhelming when you step into the area, because there is so much going on, there are so many vendors and it’s a bit tricky to figure out where to go. Especially when you’re a Tableau user and fan but not necessarily in charge of the tools that are being used at your organisation.

What’s great about visiting the expo hall is (apart from cool freebies – I will get to that later 🙂 ) that you can learn about the many tools out there that integrate with Tableau to expand the data universe in different directions. You’ll also find partners who help organisations solve their analytics challenges.


What to do and who to talk to

Walk around, check out the demos at different booths, grab a couple of flyers and have a few conversations. Even if you’re not going to buy their product or service.

You will learn something new, you might find out about a better way to do something you’re already doing. You will most certainly have a number of interesting discussions and you will – with absolute certainty – meet really cool people.

The sponsors aren’t just there to sell their stuff. They are part of the bigger Tableau ecosystem, whether by helping Tableau customers do even more with Tableau, or get started in the first place. Or by connecting Tableau to even more data. Or by making all your various data sources easy to consume for Tableau. Or… you get the idea.

These sponsors are also a crucial element in the analytics job market. A lot of them have positions in which you get to work with Tableau all day every day. So this expo hall is not just about their stuff but also about their staff. Yes, you might find yourself a job there. I did (and I didn’t even realise it at the time).

So network! Bring your business card, make connections with people, hear about their companies, their mission, what it is that drives them, what’s their connection to Tableau and see what they say. What else beside their services and products do they have to offer?

If you’re looking for a new professional challenge, this is a great way to see your potential future team and boss in action. Make use of that time and consider whether you could see yourself standing at that booth for TC18…


When to go there

By design, break times (meal times) will be the busiest. Whenever people come from sessions or are hungry (or both), they will end up finding their way into the expo hall.

It’s also a great spot for some downtime, sitting down and watching people wander around.

If you want to have more in-depth discussions with people at the stands, go during session times, especially on Tuesday and Wednesday, i.e. pre-party, when everyone is still eagerly attending sessions. This is when the expo hall will be relatively calm and you get some time to chat with the experts.


Now, what about those free t-shirts?

Yes, the expo hall is where you’ll get all the cool freebies. Everyone wants them, so let me give you a bit of advice from my experience behind the scenes.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Sponsors go to the conference and spend money on these events, so they expect something in return. They will bring cool gear for you. Yes, for you.

They love when you’re excited about their stuff. They also love when you share some information with them in return. It’s the courteous thing to do, so rather than swooping in to grab all the free stuff you can, return the favour by sharing some information with the people there.

After having a conversation, the freebies you take with you will be much more meaningful.

Be picky

Not every pen and every t-shirt will be something you want to use a month from now. Yes, it may be free stuff, but do you really need it? Be selective with the things you pick up. Leave the rest for the others to grab.

Only take clothing that actually fits. Do your kids really want a nerdy t-shirt from a company that they know nothing about? Does your spouse want to look at a data mug every morning? And that 100th flash drive…?

Chat to the people, grab a couple of things for yourself and travel light :-).

As a woman, my experience is that most of the t-shirts don’t fit anyway because they’re made for men who are taller and larger, so I don’t bother with anything that doesn’t come in my size and a women’s cut. The result is that I LOVE all the t-shirts that do make it home with me :-).

Bring your business cards

I wrote that above as well. Take your business cards to these booths because some of them actually have pretty cool prizes to win when you drop your card off.

Share the love

If you had fun at the expo hall and picked up valuable information or really cool gear, tell your friends or even better, bring them along on your next round.


Have fun

Tableau conference is as much about learning as it is about having fun with 15,000 like-minded people.

It’s a chance to see the whole community come together in one place: Tableau people, customers, partners, sponsors, users, developers, fans, favourites – everyone is there.

Make the most of your time, connect with others, stop them in the hallway, go to sessions, attend the keynotes, make new friends, grab a drink with someone you just met, chat to the people in the queue for lunch, get to know the Tableau doctors, go to the photo booth, get a new data t-shirt and put some money on red.

Whatever your schedule, I hope I’ll see you in the expo hall. If you’re around, come and say hi. You’ll find me at booth #239…


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