What is a Data Viz Competition?

Learn about the key elements that make up a Viz Game, or data visualization competition, in which contestants show off their design, analytics, and data storytelling skills.

Tableau’s superpower is the ability to quickly turn data from a dry, obtuse data source into a rich, impactful data story. Anyone with access to data sets can explore their data, looking at it this way and that, until they find the best articulation of their analysis. 

What, then, if you took it to the next level and asked Tableau experts to do this at speed, in front of their peers and a panel of judges? Not only do you get to see multiple stories emerge from a single data set at lightning speed, but you add a smidgeon of competition to make things more exciting. That is what data visualization games—or “Viz Games”—are all about. 

Viz Games were inspired by Tableau Conference’s wildly popular Iron Viz—the world’s largest data visualization (“viz”) competition. Viz Games are conducted throughout the year at companies and organizations worldwide. The purpose is to harness the excitement and fun of the Tableau Community to establish their own internal data culture where all employees are empowered to use Tableau to gather, analyze, and apply insights.

Over the years, I’ve been honored to judge and host Viz Games with many Tableau customers. Each time I get to see an expanding data culture, internal community excitement, and growth of data analysis skills. Viz Games encourages people to do multiple things. They’re learning how to use Tableau, hunt for insights in a data set, and, most importantly, communicate their analysis to others. One advantage Viz Games organizers have is that they can use their own organization’s data, which sometimes reveals previously hidden opportunities.

What are the key elements of Viz Game competitions?

The Theme

Setting a theme up front is important because it helps guide the building out of the rest of the competition. Themes for Viz Games are typically around a particular topic, dataset, business problem, chart/dashboard type, or feature. It is important to be creative and challenge the participants in a fun and engaging way.

Great data and resources

The theme isn’t the only thing to consider when looking for data sets—size and shape are factors too. Typically large datasets offer more opportunities for deep analysis and storytelling. Vizzes are often most interesting when the author starts with a question they were curious about rather than using a dataset as a starting point. Encourage people to make it about something they can learn from the data rather than a collection of random facts.

The judges

Judging panels can be a group of people with diverse experiences and perspectives to make for a balanced evaluation. We recommend anywhere from 3-5 judges. The criteria in which the judges determine the winner generally center around: 

  • Design – How appropriate is the design for the story being told?
  • Storytelling – Is there a clear story being told or a question being explored, and is there appropriate context?
  • Analysis – How sophisticated and appropriate is the data that is being used for the story?

The world’s largest data visualization competition

If you’ve dipped your toes into the Tableau Community or been a part of Tableau Conference, then you know about Iron Viz. We are talking about a next-level Viz Game. Three worthy contestants selected from the Tableau Community global qualifier competition take center stage. They have 20 minutes to flex their skills and deliver a compelling and awe-inspiring story using the same data set. Win or learn, you cannot lose.

If you’d like to develop your organization’s data culture and spread the excitement of data storytelling, check out these Viz Games resources.