2006 Excel User Conference

Last week I attended the 2006 Excel User Conference. A few immediate reactions to the conference:

  • Roughly 50 people attended, which made for a nice, close-knit setting that encouraged questions and discourse between the participants. But seriously, 50 people? I know 50 people myself that could have gone to this conference and saved themselves endless hours of frustration. The cost of conference fees and taking 2 days off work would probably be paid back by increased productivity within months.
  • Overall, the conference was very comprehensive and every question I could think of was easily answered by the presenters. The speed at which I learned new techniques for manipulating Excel’s functions or charts was amazing once I had someone to show me visually while explaining it. I guess it just goes to show how simple peer-to-peer learning can be the best way to quickly learn.
  • A good craftsman never blames his or her tools, but even good analysts many times find it hard to deal with raw data or graphing their analysis when using Excel. One major theme I took from the conference is that Excel is all about details. All the formulas, formatting, and open room to do whatever you want is often overkill when someone is looking for a particular solution. Many questions people have about doing something in Excel is usually one formula or right click away. Learning Excel requires attention to detail.

Next week I will share some of what I’ve learned about Excel through dealing with Chris and his nonstop Excel wizardry and from this conference including:

  1. Methods for finding answers to your Excel questions — Tutorials, tips, and forums where you can go to find the answer to your specific excel questions.
  2. 10 things I wish someone had told me 5 years ago about Excel — Procedures and tricks I use every day in Excel.

Perhaps the main reason for the lack of Excel power users lie in the fact that many people don’t realize what they don’t know about Excel. With just a general understanding of Excel’s potential, most people have the ability to take the extra steps needed to be their own source for analytical understanding.