The Excel “Screen Saver” Greeting Attendees of My Talk
(No it wasn’t an animated GIF in the talk, just here on the blog)

Well folks that was an intense trip.  I had a great time.  Some highlights:

Steven Freaking Levitt!


Freakonomics Author Steven Levitt Liked the PowerPivot Mashup I Showed Him
(Or at least, he politely pretended to like it)

Steven Levitt was hands-down the best keynote speaker I have ever seen at a conference. Zero doubt. Some paraphrased highlights from his talk:

  1. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be the kind of economist who studied prostitutes. I wanted to be Allan Greenspan – the kind of economist where if you make a terrible error in judgment, you launch a worldwide economic crisis.”
  2. “People who like to analyze data are the scarcest resource in the business world today.”
  3. “The bigger the company, the worse they are about organizing and analyzing their data.”

But some of my favorite stuff came later, in response to a question I asked. I’m not normally the “walk to the microphone in a crowded auditorium to ask a question” kind of guy. But c’mon, it’s Steven Levitt!

And I had to ask him: “what data tools do you use?”

His answer was something like: “We primarily use a tool called Stata. It’s really simple and easy to use. I don’t know why anyone would ever use SAS. It’s complex, it’s nasty, it’s difficult. It grew out of some academic stuff in the 1970’s that never should have gone anywhere. Statisticians love complexity.”

Standing in front of a thousand people and he just openly bashes the world’s “leading” statistical tool. That brought raucous laughter from the crowd – we are not accustomed to such brutal honesty in public speakers it seems. But I love his emphasis on simple – his aversion to needless complexity resonates with me quite a bit. I’m going to check out Stata – true statistical analysis is not one of my strengths, nor is it one of PowerPivot’s (at least not today), so maybe Stata can help me.

And as pictured above, I got to meet him in a small reception afterwards! Big thanks to Tom LaRock for getting me into that room.

I may revisit this topic and share some of the other things he said, but for now this is enough space burned.

Sleep is for the weak!

At 7:30 PM Wednesday night, I was exhausted after driving to Chicago.  I wanted to go to bed for the night – I was BEAT.  But we had a “meet and greet” scheduled for 9 PM and I couldn’t let anyone down.  So I dragged myself out the door, not realizing I’d be talking PowerPivot, Excel, and related topics until 3 AM.

And loving every minute of it.

Thanks everyone who showed up, and particularly the core group of Jeremy, Jeff, and Diego.  Great discussion, and a lot of fodder for future blog posts.

My Best Talk in Years.  I Think.

For this conference, I decided to experiment with “some new material,” as the comedians say.  Brand-new talk with a brand-new format.  The kind of thing that is Very Risky, in my experience, since “brand-new” is a another way to say “completely untested.”

I don’t have my speaker evaluation scores yet.  But I know that *I* enjoyed it more than any talk I’ve given in years, and the attendees were asking all kinds of great, thoughtful questions.


The Opening Slide


All of These Buzzphrases and Hot New Trends.  Who Can Keep Up?


Zoom Out Though and You’ll See That Excel Still Dwarfs All of It – the “Dark Matter”

Oh, and after 20-30 minutes of slides, I switched over to a “Jeopardy” board in Excel where people could choose the next topic.  That was fun – I plan to use that approach a lot from now on.

BI and Excel Mingling!


From Left:  Greg Kramer (Excel Pro), Bob Phillips (Excel Pro), Chris Webb (BI Pro)

Any place I can take a picture like that is a great place to be.  We all just happened to find each other at lunch on Friday.  And a few minutes earlier, Tom LaRock had been sitting in Chris’s seat.