For our December meeting, the Melbourne Tableau User Group had our first-ever hands-on session—a viz competition (inspired by the Fanalytics event at the Tableau Conference). There were teams of about 6 people each (randomly assigned on the day), and we gave the teams 1 hour to create a dashboard which they then presented back to the entire group (check out the dashboards here). Tableau employees and a graphic designer were there to serve as judges. The winners, of course, got some sweet Tableau swag.
Here are the lessons I learned:
- Make the data easy to access. I find Google Sheets are easy for people to connect to (with a bonus that it highlights the new-ish Google Sheets connector in Tableau)
- Keep the data fun. This means no superstore dataset! For this competition we used a dataset on meteorite landings from NASA.
- Other sources of inspiration might be Makeover Mondays or Kaggle datasets
- Make the data set simple. We had previously run a viz competition Australia-wide outside of user groups, using AirBnb data. However this data was a bit complex and there was a bit of work required to get it to work well in a viz, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you can simplify it before the competition. It was fun for a city-vs-city competition though!
- One idea (stolen from Andy Cotgreave) is to make the dataset VERY basic – e.g., only 12 or so rows of data – so that the teams focus more on the communication and visual representation rather than any technical aspects
- Skill balance is important when assigning teams. We had people who considered themselves advanced raise their hands and made sure there was at least 1 advanced user in each team. I think this was really successful in getting dashboards that were presentable within the tight 1-hour timeframe
- Our groups were about 6 people, which I think is about the largest size you’d want
- We picked the groups randomly so that people could learn from their peers in different industries and with different backgrounds
- We also had a few Tableau employees at the event to help out with any questions
- Having the teams present their work was really nice. At the end each team had 2 minutes to present back their work. This was really great because everyone got to see the surprisingly different directions each team took their dashboard (and learn a few new tricks along the way). o
- Be a stickler about the timing! Presenters had a tendency to run over time, so next time we’ll be structuring this as: Tell us one thing you learned, one feature in your dashboard, and one insight from the data
- For the presentations, I’d suggest putting all the team's dashboards onto one flash drive – otherwise about half the presentation time is spent getting people’s computers to connect to the screen. This also lets you post all the workbooks on the User Group’s Tableau Public page
Based on a survey we sent out after the event, people loved the competition. We’re planning to do these regularly from now on and I’m sure I will continue to learn new tips and tricks. I’d also love to hear your experiences with running a viz competition as part of your user group so please let me know how you go!