I'm not a newbie to this conference, nor am I an "every year" guy, but this was the third Tableau conference I attended and the first time I've ever come back afterwards to my company recommending that we NOT send people next year.
For the record: I'm not suggesting that the content is bad (it's always stellar) or that Tableau doesn't put enough into this conference (it's obvious they sink a lot of time, energy and money into making this the best conference they can). And the opening night reception was pleasant enough. But this year really paled in comparison to the other two I attended (Seattle 2014 and Las Vegas 2017).
My main gripes:
1. Hands-on trainings were WRECKED by the network/PC issues. Some of our company's attendees did a pay-extra session on Tuesday and were refunded money because the network was not useable at any point. Furthermore, my first full day of the conference was back-to-back hands-on trainings that consisted of: 1) The first 45 minutes bogged down with network issues, only for the network to finally become stable and forcing the rest of us to play "catch-up." 2) Two hours of watching the instructors demo stuff, because the side of the room where I was sitting never was able to get the course to launch on our machines. Four hours of hands-on training reduced to 75 minutes of actual work. Simply unacceptable.
2. Keynote speakers were a step down from previous years.
3. The first full day of the conference, I was among the small group of early birds who entered the data village at 7:00 on the dot. I finished up eating at 7:15, only to find that most coffee stations were completely out. I had to walk probably 300 yards just to find a station that still had some.
4. The food was a step back this year. Seemed mostly of the low-budget heat-and-eat variety.
5. We experienced issues with the app for the first few days afterwards and threw constant API errors. Most of the people from our company ended up with whatever sessions they could get into, and very little of what they were actually interested in.
6. Data Night Out was a mess. The parking deck atmosphere was pretty gross, although some of the indoor sections were a lot nicer. The crowd was way too big for the area allotted, though, and most of us considered leaving within the first 30 minutes of arrival.
7. Perhaps my BIGGEST issue: I know that Tableau prides itself in breaking an attendance record with every conference, but this was the first year I felt that things had reached the "tipping point." Crowds were just unmanageable at times, and even the Data Village (which is usually good for a breather) was packed to capacity during keynote speeches. Waiting in line to get into sessions I'd registered for and had already been approved to attend was horrible. Lines were long, sometimes constructed in confusing manners, and typically resulted in people being elbow-to-elbow with absolutely no room to move. This was the first conference I'd attended where I got even the slightest inkling that it had grown too big for Tableau to handle.
It pains me to say it, because I love the company and I love the software, but this was a big letdown. Not just for me, but for our group (of roughly 25) as a whole.