I received media credentials my first year and tried to do everything - Interviews, client events, brand activations, seminars, tasting rooms and of course, the parties. I wore myself out! Running from place to place, trying to be everywhere was exhausting.
The second year, I was a little more organized and managed my time a little better. I still had a full plate, but focused on ‘work’ days and ‘free’ days. Still got off track on occasion, but it yielded such great things.
This year, we will see what happens, but I am hopeful I’ll master it eventually. :)
While I do not consider myself an expert, I have learned some things over the years that I’d like to share with you.
- HAVE A PLAN. Plan your day(s) so you have an idea of your time. I use a spreadsheet to keep me organized. Yes, I’m that person. If you are REALLY organized, sync it to your phone calendar and set reminder alerts.
- UTILIZE THE TALES APP. The Tales of the Cocktail App is your best friend. It lets you set your schedule and sends you notifications. The app is usually out a few weeks before the conference. It’s also the best place to check updates.
- BE FLEXIBLE. Your plan is timed perfectly! But things happen, so don’t freak if you have to revise it. Just go with the flow and don’t stress if your timing gets thrown off. Sometimes those end up being the best opportunities.
- VISIT APP/WEBSITE OFTEN. Last minute adds or changes can happen so be sure to check the app or website a few days prior to be sure your events are still on track.
- ATTEND SEMINARS. There is such a variety of education available to us at Tales. Grab your tickets early as many sell out quickly. Check out the free and brand seminars too.
- WHAT TO TAKE. It’s better to be prepared, than realize you should have packed the essentials. I recommend the following: sunscreen, lip balm, reusable water bottle, sunglasses, phone cord, power pack, granola/energy bars, mints, cushion insoles, light sweater/jacket (those seminar rooms can get cold!). And not to worry if you forget something, there’s a store directly across from the Hotel Monteleone, the host hotel. i also throw some bubble wrap in my suitcase in case I bring back bottles.
- SWAG BAGS. Gals, we like to use our tiny purses so we can have our hands for those cocktails! However, you will acquire things throughout the day that you may want to pack away, especially if you aren’t able to get it back to your room. Carry a tote or backpack with you. You’ll thank me later.
- RSVP. Some special events or parties will require an rsvp. Some are invite only. RSVP when required/requested to do so. With so many attendees at this conference, they DO at times adhere to a strict list. While Tales is primarily an industry-driven conference, many brands open the events to locals and understandably so, so be sure you are on ‘the list”.
- PRACTICE MODERATION. We will have many days full of cocktails, some days starting very early and going very late into the night. If you do the hangover prevention thing, I suggest you take precautions. Remember that this is not a sprint, but a marathon - pace yourself. I’ve learned it’s best to try small sips of things in the tasting rooms, then if it’s something you really want a full drink of, go back and get that. If you consume every full cocktail handed to you, you may be in for a short day or worse. And believe me, I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty. Just because it’s an open bar doesn’t mean you have to drink it all. Remember this is still a professional platform and you’ll need to face these people back home, the next day, or next year. Maintain your integrity.
- HYDRATE. Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. (I know, it’s the Mom in me). Refill your water bottle regularly. It can get really hot walking around New Orleans in the middle of July, especially with alcohol in your system. There’s usually water in each seminar room, tasting rooms and in each hotel lobby, but just in case, it’s good to have your water bottle.
- REST. We may not be able to get a good full nights sleep, so take advantage of any down time you have to grab a quick cat nap or snooze by the pool. I experienced FOMO when I did this last year, but was so glad that I had those little naps to help get me through the rest of the night.
- NETWORK. You have the opportunity to meet people from all over the nation and the world: Brand Ambassadors, bartenders to bar owners, Distillers, Media and more! Take advantage of any time you have to chat. Exchange business cards or follow each other on social media.
- SMILE. Treat volunteers and workers with respect and offer a smile. As a volunteer for SXSW and F1/Circuit of the Americas, it’s refreshing when people say Thank You, smile or say they appreciate you. A little kindness goes a long way. Be sure to flash that smile in photos too. Snap, post and be sure to tag @totc on Twitter or @tales_of_the_cocktail on Instagram. Feel free to tag me too - I'm @vodkagirlatx on everything!
- TIP YOUR BARTENDER. We have to pay for almost nothing while at this conference and many of the bartenders working from around the country are volunteers. Be sure to tip your bartenders. Let’s support our industry co-workers.
- EXPLORE AND ENJOY! New Orleans has a rich history and some of the best bars and restaurants. Allow some downtime and discover all the area has to offer. Invite that new person you just met to go with you!