Tableau Tuesday: Pro Tips for Demoing While Presenting

By: Tiffany Spaulding | September 1, 2015

I had the joy of presenting to the Boston TUG (Tableau User Group) last Tuesday at the Broad Institute. We were able to spend a little over an hour discussing pro tips to help all users present and demo better in Tableau. Many of the skills discussed translate to other tools, however many were Tableau Desktop specific. Let's look at a few that were specifically beneficial to the crowd in attendance. 

Present and Demo without PowerPoint

As I was building my notes, I realized I needed to be able to visually present key points yet actively demo the feature simultaneously. I considered having a full screen PowerPoint deck and a full screen Tableau workbook active, then toggle between each as I needed. I also considered having PowerPoint on one half of my screen and Tableau the other. Neither seemed appealing to my specific need.

I decided to try something new (and it worked quite well). I setup two Tableau Desktop sessions side by side (split screen). One Tableau workbook contained my "slides" and the other my demo content. 


Use one Tableau session as PowerPoint slides with key bullet points for each topic (left). Use a second Tableau session to demonstrate slide content without toggling two programs back and forth.

Similar to PowerPoint master slides, I designed background images at half screen size that included any repeated information. In Tableau, I sized my dashboard to 640 x 800 (half of 1280 x 800) and inserted a tiled image to fill the entire space. I also set the image to be centered in the space. Next, I brought in floating text boxes for the title as well as main content. To visually cue when we were moving on to a new chapter or topic, I designed blue slides for transitions to new topics and used white background slides to present subtopics.


Left view shows the blank slide (image on a dashboard). The right shows two floating text boxes as well as a floating image. The final look and feel of the right (if the text box isn't highlighted in gray) is a slide of content.


As we demo, many times we need to navigate from a dashboard to the worksheet to make changes on the spot. Tableau gives us the "Go to Sheet" icon and drop down menu selection to navigate from a dashboard to the worksheet behind it. 

When it comes time to navigate from dashboard to dashboard, I have found it easier to either use the Filmstrip mode or the Sheet Sorter mode instead of the default Tab mode. Filmstrip mode replaces the Tabs with thumbnails of the visualization instead. Sheet Sorter mode allows the user to see all sheets or dashboards in the workbook and quickly rearrange their order, much like Slide Sorter mode in Microsoft PowerPoint. From the Sheet Sorter view, you can navigate back to the design workspace for a specific worksheet or dashboard by double clicking the thumbnail preview of the visualization. 


The icons for filmstrip and sheet sorter modes are in different locations between versions 8.X and 9.0. In 8.X, the toggle between filmstrip and tab modes is available through an up/down caret in the bottom right corner. The Sheet Sorter view is available using the workspace tabs above the Show Me menu. In 9.0, the features were compiled into one menu of three icons/buttons in the bottom right corner of the session window.


Take CTRL of your View

As we become more experienced users in the tool, we get to a point where we know how to make Tableau work (as it was intended). Eventually, we learn to master the tool with Jedi hacks (using the functionality in ways other than what it was intended for). Along the path to Jedi mastery, we also find new ways to make Tableau work for us. Many times, making Tableau work for us involves making it work faster.

When we build visualizations in Tableau, the software defaults to only taking up the minimum amount of screen real estate needed to display the specific chart. For horizontal bar charts, it means our bars are rather tiny in height. Some of us try to hover our mouse over the area where the axis meets the chart, waiting patiently for a double up/down arrow to appear. Half of the time, we accidentally shrink the axis instead of increasing the row height. Here is the fastest way to increase and decrease row height: use the up and down arrows on your keyboard while pressing CTRL. 



The same trick works to increase and decrease column width, but use the left and right arrows with the CTRL key instead of the up and down arrows. You'll be able to adjust the size and spacing of the marks in view much faster than delicately hovering for the double arrow.

These are only a handful of the pro tips I shared with the Boston TUG last week on how to better present and demo in Tableau. Both workbooks (slide and demo) are available for download here. Hopefully they help you become a better presenter and coach to your team mates.

Want to take your Tableau projects to the next level? Learn more about how our experts can help grow your skills today. If you're ready to show off your skills, don't forget to enter the CoE Viz Contest on September 10th in Boston!

Helping you viz smarter, one Tuesday at a time. Have a great day!

Categories:Tableau, Data Visualization