10 Top Tips for Tableau Trainers

Tableau is one of those tools where you can just pick it up and learn it yourself. There's tons of on-demand learning content out there and lots of users are completely self taught. There's also a lot of people out there delivering the official Tableau training courses as Certified Tableau Trainers (like myself). Or perhaps you are someone in an organisation who's become the "go to person" for all Tableau questions. Knowing how Tableau works is just one part of training. Knowing how to explain and share that knowledge to others is sometimes the trickier task. Here are my top 10 tips for training Tableau to others - whether that's in a classroom setting, or just helping out colleagues who want to learn.

  1. Be careful with your cursor
  2. Take your time
  3. Use the correct terminology
  4. Practice the Practices!
  5. Draw on your own experiences
  6. Adapt to your audience
  7. Explain the HOW and the WHY
  8. Set the scene
  9. Introduce yourself
  10. Introduce the Tableau Community

  1. Be careful with your cursor

It's really hard to concentrate when your mouse darts around the screen. When you're explaining something make sure you use specific and confident mouse movements. Don't 'shake' the cursor over something to provide emphasis. If you need to draw attention to where your mouse is try changing your mouse settings to make the cursor large. 

You can also turn on the pointer location in your mouse settings. When you press CTRL this places a circle around your pointer for a brief moment. Great for highlighting where you mouse is on the screen and drawing attention to what you're clicking on.

  1. Take your time

Make sure you speak clearly and not too fast. Keep the pace slow so everyone can keep up - remember you've been using Tableau for a while, but most people in your class will be new. Chances are they've never seen these screens or dialogues before, so take your time to explain them. The more time you take on introducing the Tableau interface at the start - explaining the data window or where to drag items in to the view - means you'll spend much less time re-explaining these things later during the more advanced content.

  1. Use the correct terminology

We all have our own little phrases for things: "pills" is a great example. No where in the documentation will it refer to data items used in the view as "pills". If you like to use unofficial terminology, just make sure you caveat it with the fact that it's not the official term for it. Also avoid words like 'thingy' or 'do-hickey' etc. This is going to make official documentation or learning materials more understandable to your learners. 

  1. Practice the Practices!

Your training will involve doing hands-on practices. So make sure you know how to do them inside-out. Otherwise when someone asks you to give them a hand, you're going to be unsure of how to help them. Also knowing the practices allows you to build on them - can you make them better? What about changing the colours from the default red-green to something more colour blind friendly? Then explain how and why you do that, share the knowledge!

  1. Draw on your own experience

The greatest benefit of classroom training is learning from someone experienced in the tool and being able to interact and share ideas. So if you have a piece of work that fits well with some of the topics you're teaching about, don't be afraid to show it off! You can even use the examples as extra practices in the class for people who finish other practices quickly. If you can't show off any of your own work find some good examples on Tableau Public.

  1. Adapt to your audience

If you have a room full of Excel users, then make the content relatable to them. Explain that the structure of a Tableau workbook is similar to an Excel workbook, with sheets along the bottom. Show them how to build crosstab tables, then show them a highlight table. Explain that with just the addition of colour you can create a more impactful visualisation. If you have a room full of SQL developers, explain that Tableau writes queries back to the database when you drag something in the view. So a filter creates a WHERE clause, for example. Relating something to a topic someone already knows about will increase their understanding of it.

  1. Explain the HOW and the WHY

Why does Tableau draw a line chart when you bring a Date field and a numeric field in the view? Why does Tableau try and aggregate continuous data? How does Tableau actually work? What's the order of operations going on in the view? Add value to your classes with this information. You'll give your students a great foundation of knowledge to really understand the possibilities of Tableau.

  1. Set the scene

So you're going to explain how to create a scatter plot in Tableau. Great! Make sure you also explain why we use a scatter plot and give some scenarios as to when using that chart type is useful. Again use your own examples and stories, or reach out to Tableau Public for ideas.

  1. Introduce yourself

Training is fun! It's two days of interaction with data people who are going to LOVE working with Tableau and exploring new things. Make sure you spend some time introducing yourself properly, give the class some goofy facts about you too to 'break the ice'. I sometimes like to introduce the class to each other by collecting data to use later on - ask people what their favourite bands, movies or books are. Create a tally chart or place the items in to genres and use that to create your first bar chart in Tableau.

If you're training Tableau within your organisation to people you already know, show them your content you've made at work already. It's a great opportunity to show them some best practice, and get their feedback so you can improve your work too! 

  1. Introduce the Tableau Community

No individual should leave Tableau training without knowing where to go for further help or learning. Nor should anyone leave without being shown some of your favourite Tableau blogs, or how to sign up to the forums and search for relevant resources. Make sure you show them Tableau Public too and get them to sign up to viz of the day. That way not only are you adding value to the class, but you're also ensuring they're going to get support and extra learning materials for when the class is over.



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