Starting a Tableau User Group (TUG)

Recently I was discussing the success of the Milwaukee Tableau User Group with Rob Wellen of SWC. He was on his way to a planning meeting with the Indianapolis TUG and wanted my thoughts on running or starting up a TUG. I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts and knowledge. It goes without saying that some things have worked for us and some things have not, some things that have worked for us will not work for others, and we are constantly learning.

I've been the co-lead of the Milwaukee Tableau User Group for over a year now alongside Patrick Dlugosch. When we first took over leading the group we had at least five planning meeting just to organize our first meeting. Now we maybe meet once prior to each quarterly meeting. That's because we have developed our agenda, contacts, and checklists. Much of our planning can be done over LinkedIn or email.

Agenda Template/Checklist
Having a template or checklist is extremely helpful both as a leader in planning the meeting, but also for members so they know what to expect. That said, this is just a template and should change based on the needs for the meeting. For example, when Dan Murray presented at our last meeting he required more time so we cut other segments.
1:00-1:20   Welcome (preferably by the host with their Tableau story)
1:20-1:45   Introductions (name, company, question-of-the-day)
1:45-2:00   Message from the Leaders (go through PowerPoint slides)
2:00-2:20   Member Presentation 1
2:20-2:30   Break and Networking (bathroom breaks, setup next presenter)
2:30-3:00   Member Presentation 2 (if no second presentation, do breakout sessions)
3:00-3:15   SWAG Giveaway
3:15-3:30   3-Minute Win (new Tableau tip or trick)
3:30-4:00   Tableau Doctor (users answer each other’s questions)
4:00-6:00   Happy Hour (hopefully sponsored by a Tableau partner)
Member Presentation Guidelines
I have been attempting to line up presenters in advance for all of our meetings this year. It has been extremely helpful as I've found getting members to present to be the most difficult part of planning a meeting. When needed, I reach out to the Tableau Partners in the area to give a presentation. When I touch base with our presenters I set these basic requirements.
  • You should plan on a 15-20 minute presentation with questions after
  • Include screenshots or give a live demonstration of your visualizations/dashboards
  • Show the group any behind-the-scenes magic that was particularly difficult
  • You can even use “fake” data if you are concerned with sharing sensitive information
  • Answer the question “How has Tableau changed the business?”
Questions for the Host
Arranging a space for our meeting to be held has been a bit easier than finding presenters usually because it doesn't involve preparing a presentation. For new hosts I make sure to discuss the following topics.
  • Confirm location, address, and that a room has been booked
  • Where should members park
  • Do members need to sign in
  • Are there any other instructions for our members
  • What is the capacity of the room
  • Is Wi-Fi available for everyone or at least the presenters
  • What type of AV connection is available (HDMI, VGA, etc)
  • Would they be interested in giving a welcome introduction and brief presentation
  • Would it be possible to make a tour part of the meeting (if applicable)
Day-of Checklist
To make sure my day goes smoothly, as well as the meeting, I make sure I grab the following materials. I usually spend the week of the meeting updating my slide deck in preparation for the meeting. The slide deck evolves from the prior meeting so I don't spend too much precious time on it.
  • Name tags, sign-in sheet, sharpies
  • Sign-up sheets (for hosting, presenting, and 3-minute win)
  • Signage
  • Swag
  • Slideshow (this is on a timer prior to the meeting)

That's it! Hopefully it doesn't seem too overwhelming, though I know it was for me at first. Once I developed these checklists it made planning our meetings much easier. As always, once you have the basics down you can begin to think about the next steps or new ways to make your group more engaged and excited to attend.

Things we're currently doing
  • Create a list of different topic ideas
  • Develop a list of people to reach out to
  • Survey to continuously gather feedback
  • Personalized icon/image
  • Sign Up documents (for hosts, presenters, and 3-minute win)
  • Planning out our year in advance
  • Network with Tableau Partners in the area
Things we'd like to do soon
  • Encourage the use of a hashtag through meetings, LinkedIn, and registration
  • Include a link to the LinkedIn group and Tableau community page
  • Develop a mission statement or mantra
  • Provide a more detailed description of presentations and presenters
  • Make our registration page more visually interesting
Spin offs
The Milwaukee Tableau User Group is extremely lucky in that we have members who attend each meeting and are extremely involved. Some of our members have created their own groups with different objectives but similar interests.
If you have any questions, comments, or are interested in presenting, hosting, or sponsoring a meeting please comment below!

1st Alteryx User Group Meeting

Last Thursday evening the first Milwaukee Alteryx User Group (MAUG) meeting was held at the Baird offices. Starting with pizza and soda at 4:45pm provided by AE Business Solutions the meeting transitioned to a welcome and introductions. The group is being lead by Robert Farley of Health Payment Systems, John Heisler of Health Payment Systems, Matt Christen of Baird, Mark Hohensee of Baird, Alex Christensen of AE Business Solutions, Tessa Jahnke of AE Business Solutions, and Sam Lachterman of AE Business Solutions. Outside of those individuals there was representation from Northwestern Mutual and Johnson Controls who aren’t currently using Alteryx, IMS Health who is using the tool for its geocoding capabilities, and Artisan Partners among others.

John Heisler began the presentations with an overview of HPS’s implementation and use of Alteryx which was over my head as they are using it as a replacement to a data warehouse. It is certainly an interesting use case and I’m sure pushes the boundaries of the purpose of the tool. 

Matt Christen did a quick-fire demo showing us how he used Alteryx to find cabins within a certain range of a vacation spot. From the Minocqua website he manually copied cabin locations into Excel, then used the public Alteryx gallery tool to geocoding them. His next step was to put the data into Alteryx to essentially only show locations within a 6 mile radius of the center of town. It was a very interesting demonstration and something I would definitely consider doing as well. My pain point would be manually copying the data into Excel. I would much prefer to automate that process using some sort of web scraping ability.

Alex Christensen provided another example using the in-database tools which puts the processing power on the database and not the machine that runs the Alteryx workflow.

Next up was John Fomby of Alteryx who showed the group the road map for the next year. Some cool things are definitely on their way in Q2, but I’m more excited about the second half of the year. 

Overall it was a great first meeting. The presentations provided wonderful examples of what is possible. I liked the breakout discussions at the end and I might use that same idea in a Tableau User Group meeting but I would assigned high-level topics so members could get the most out of the discussion.

1st Data+Women Meeting

On Wednesday, March 23rd I held the first Milwaukee Data+Women Meetup at Anodyne Coffee. Seven people attended (including myself) and we discussed a variety of things. I began the conversation explaining why I wanted to start the group but that I was struggling with the group’s purpose. I posed a question to the group to get an idea of why they chose to attend.

Most people wanted to network with like-minded individuals and learn about what others are doing with data and the tools they use. Additionally, having a place where women felt comfortable speaking up was an important attribute. Reflecting on the meeting, I believe we accomplished the objective.

Our conversation began with mentoring. It was a topic that stuck with me when I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Starting with an anecdote about a human resource intern who approached me to get involved with analytics, we discussed how we can support other women or get younger women interested in data science. A good point was made about keeping women in the field of data as some of the participants had experienced women leaving their departments.

The idea of the meeting came from a Tableau leaders webinar. At the last Tableau Conference a Data+Women panel was held and more recently the San Francisco TUG held their own meeting. So obviously when I began organizing the meeting I shared the information with the Milwaukee Tableau User Group. While Tableau brought us together, the conversation was applicable to all. Actually two of the attendees aren't Tableau users (yet).

We discussed some of the data science tools available, one of which was Tableau. Since most of us were familiar with Tableau we spent more time discussing Alteryx, R, and Hadoop. Alteryx is a data preparation tool and one other user had experience with it. R is a statistical programming language and Hadoop is a database for unstructured data.

This topic lead us to talking about how to learn new things. It can be difficult to know what you need to learn, but even more difficult to take the initiative to learn it. You have to make time, focus on the subject, and then try to translate what you learn into actual implementation. We discussed the best websites to facilitate learning and how we each learn on the job.

I found an interesting image the other day that I shared with the group. It's called the Imposter Syndrome and it seemed to apply to other participants.