I decided earlier this year that I wanted to hold a bigger special annual DC Tableau User Group meeting. Being in DC, there are more users than I can find space for, so I always end up with a waiting list (not a bad problem though!). I thought if I could hold a big event, maybe I could, just for one meeting, not run into a space issue. At the time, I don’t think I realized how much planning that would take or just how big the user group community in DC is (we still sold out 300 tickets with a waiting list).
There are a lot of really cool venues in DC, but after checking prices I knew I was going to be hard pressed to find enough sponsors for me to hold the event at one of these locations. That’s when I realized I needed to use the community to help me! I look through all of my users, who attend my meetings to see, who might have a cool location, or may be able to assist in getting a big enough location. It turns out that the data visualizers at the Washington Nationals attend my meetings and I reached out to one of them. He was eager to help me (like everyone in the Tableau community). Although he couldn’t get free space, he did know some tricks on getting the price from an arm and a leg to reasonable. We could buy tickets for the baseball game, then add on pre-game conference room space! This was going to be great! Everyone would attend the meeting and then we could all relax and network at the baseball game.
Furthermore, finding sponsors that could pay for the event was going to be the next challenge. I know absolutely nothing about event planning and vendors, so this was a learning experience. I have contacts in the DC area, but I wasn’t sure how to go about asking for money. I started with telling them about the event I had planned and that I needed sponsors in order for this event to be possible. But I knew they needed a bigger incentive than just being able to attend a great event.
This was when I had a talk with Jordan, because I wasn’t sure if I could have sponsors or to what extent they could be involved. It turns out that I was able to provide my sponsors with a select number of registrations for the event, a vendor table, branding on all of MY DC TUG invitations and documents, and depending on level of sponsorship, a presentation slot. What I could not do was provide any attendee information to them or have their sponsorship listed on the actual email that gets sent out by Jordan/Tableau.
Thank you Slalom and Interworks for sponsoring our event!
Next, I needed to find presenters. I had given one of the presentation slots to Slalom Consulting for being our platinum sponsor, so I just needed to find two more. I thought a presenter from Tableau would be great. A lot of the users, who attend the user group meetings don’t make it to Tableau Conference, so why not talk about where Tableau is going, and bring someone in from the dev team? Jordan was super helpful with getting me connected with Thierry D’hers, the Vice President of Product Development. He talked about the Tableau road map and eagerly took questions from our users. I can’t thank Jordan enough for hooking me up!
I had one more presentation slot to fill. I wanted to find someone, who would be able to come down to DC without needing any expenses paid for their trip. That meant they needed to be local or be able to find their own transportation and lodging for the event. Immediately I thought of the Data Duo, Adam Crahen and Pooja Gandhi. They had started the Duo about a year ago and this would be their first presentation together! They are relatively close to DC and I thought and hoped they would be able to convince their bosses to let them come to DC to present!
Finally, everything is lining up perfectly! I have the event paid for and I have a really fantastic line up of presenters! Turns out Murphy’s Law was in play. Weather, the Nationals game time was moved up by 4 hours, so the game and meeting times would overlap. Less than 24 hours before the event, I had to decide what we were going to do. I ended up moving the user group meeting by an hour, so that we would hopefully be able to catch the end of the baseball game. Everything worked out fine, but next year, I don’t think I’ll choose a venue that’s so weather dependent!