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 reach out!

2022 Update

  • I have now been leading the Milwaukee TUG for 7 years and a few other leaders have joined the leadership team. We have a standing monthly planning meeting and use Slack for a majority of our communication. Typically, we rotate who does which part of the standard agenda.
  • During the pandemic, the TUG held virtual events and we shortened our meetings. They used to be 3 hours (a half day, followed by a happy hour), but now they are 1.5 hours and over the lunch hour. As stated in the intro, it is important to shift and evolve as you learn more about your members or as the environment changes.
  • In addition to shifting the length of our meetings, we have started polling members instead of going around the room doing introductions. As membership grew, introductions were taking up 45 minutes and people were becoming disengaged during that time. Now, we conduct interactive polling with and ask a mix of questions specific to the meeting topic, basic questions about how long members have been using Tableau, and fun questions.

Hosting Hybrid Meetings

  • In-person meetings are relatively easy: you find a location, show up, and share your screen. Virtual meetings are similar, but you don't have to find a physical location to host people. Hybrid meetings, on the other hand, can present a few difficulties. As with most things, you'll find that practice makes perfect, so you should consider conducting a dry-run of the technical details.
  • I have heard it is easiest to have a single computer with all the presentations, which is tasked with presenting all content to both virtual and in-person attendees. While this might work for you, you have to ask speakers to send you their content in advance and this setup might be more difficult if presenters are demoing something in Tableau. This computer has to be plugged into the AV equipment at the physical location, but also has to share the screen with virtual attendees.
  • An alternative option is to have all presenters join the virtual meeting and when it is their turn to present, they share their screen on the virtual meeting. This allows for presenters to be either in-person or virtual. A separate primary computer needs to be plugged into the AV equipment at the physical location as this allows in-person attendees to see what screen is being shared by presenters.
  • It is ideal to have 2 people helping to run a hybrid meeting. One person is responsible for monitoring virtual attendees (screen share, chat, Q&A, etc.) while the other person is responsible for monitoring in-person attendees. A single individual could do both, but it might be a overwhelming and difficult to keep everyone engaged. When questions are asked, it is good practice to repeat the question so everyone hears.
  • It is helpful to have some sort of camera feed at the physical location so that virtual attendees can see in-person attendees. Lots of meeting spaces these days have a camera and speaker system, but it is best to check. The primary computer running the meeting could also serve this purpose, if positioned correctly.
  • Making sure mics are set up properly is also important. If a speaker can wear a mic, that is ideal, but if that is not an option, they should remain relatively close to their computer. All other computers should be muted. Similarly, sound should only come from a single output.

Good luck! You'll do great!