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!