Todd Libby recently posted about the need for conference organizers to support those of us who don’t want to drink. As someone who has been sober for 13+ years now, I agree whole heartedly with this sentiment. Sometimes it is difficult for people who don’t regularly think about this to know how to have actionable ways of changing things though. So, I’m going to give you some tips. You’re welcome.
1 - Alcohol is not the focus
If your event centers around alcohol, you’ve already failed. I cannot save you if you decide a “KEG STAND AND BEER PONG/FLIP CUP COMPETITION” is an appropriate thing to have at a professional event. In fact, I might suggest you look into getting help. Anytime you make an event that focuses on drinking as the primary activity, you have excluded the following people:
- Recovering alcoholics (Hi.)
- People who take medication that doesn’t allow them to drink
- People who don’t drink for religious reasons
- People who are pregnant
- Anyone under the age of 21 (This is more of USA thing, but generally, still a thing.)
- Anyone who doesn’t feel safe being around people drinking
- Anyone who doesn’t feel like drinking that day
- Anyone who just doesn’t drink
If you are hell bent on making an event focused on drinking, please go ahead and print up that list and add it to your flyers to declare that you are fine discriminating against those people.
What to do instead: Activities
Instead of drinking being the activity, make drinking be a thing next to the activity. Here are a list of potential ideas:
- Team trivia
Bowling(Probably not bowling, it excludes people in a different way)
- Board game night
- Chess Competition
- Food Truck Rally
There can be drinking. That’s fine! Just don’t make it the focus.
2 - Provide Non-Alcoholic Options
This is the big one. As someone who doesn’t drink it is a bit of a slap in the face when I go to an event and my options are:
- Bottled Water
- Unsweetened Ice Tea
Let’s be honest. You’re here probably because you’re wondering why I am complaining. That’s totally enough options! Nope. No it isn’t. This is the equivalent of showing up to a wine tasting to discover you will only be trying out a walmart brand pinot. This is like going to a brewery and only being able to order Natty Light. It’s like going to a whiskey tasting and being offered jack and coke. IT IS OFFENSIVE.
What to do instead: Craft Sodas
There are so many different craft sodas (some of which you can get from breweries) that will show you put mild effort into giving people options. Here are some of my favorites:
- Abita Root Beer
- Red Hare Root Beer
- Red Hare Grapefruit Soda
- Boylan Sodas
There are so many potential options here. A little bit of effort to have one or two of these available make me feel about 900% more welcome.
What to do instead: Mocktails
So, you have your very-serious-and-fancy bar for your very-professional-not-alcohol-focused event. People are wearing suits and gowns. they look very nice. So you have a “Signature Cocktail”… why not take another 30 seconds and come up with a “Signature Mocktail” as well. Even if you don’t have a Signature drink for your event, if people have martini glasses, gosh dang, I want a fancy glass too. The difference between a place that says “I can make you a mocktail, what flavors are you interested in?” and then they pour me a gingerale with an orange slice in it vs the places that hand me a menu with good descriptions of interesting mocktails is tremendous. I appreciate a place that can make me what I am in the mood for, but sometimes I want something new. or something I can get another of. Plan out your mocktail menu. I’ll help you here with some products that make this process a lot easier:
- Fevertree Mixers are a great starting point for any drink. Bold flavors and readily available.
- Seedlip Drinks are complex non alcoholic spirits that add depth to any drink. Also have a large collection of recipes.
- Le Sirop a great way to add pizzaz to your drink.
This is everything you need to make a fantastic mocktail. I have been places that I ordered every mocktail they had because they were all so good. Don’t be afraid to try out these drinks yourself! Know what you are offering to people.
What to do instead: Amazing Food
This one is harder. If you can’t make the craft sodas or the mocktails work out, give me food. But it needs to be amazing. Not “I ordered pizza hut” or the Presidential Mcdonalds Meal. It needs to be something local. Something unique to the area. something that will leave me talking about it afterwards. I can’t give you specifics on this, dear reader, but you will know it when you have it right.
Y’all, I know It’s tough being an event organizer. I get it. If you’re already taking into account dietary restrictions, go the extra step, and try making things better for everyone. A little bit of work goes a very long way.
Just so we are clear, this post isn’t all encompassing. I have a very USA centric perspective, and you should adjust accordingly to your region/audience. Also these suggestions are not exhaustive. There are lots of other options out there. Not all of these suggestions may work for everyone and are purely my own preferences. Know your audience, and know who you want to have as part of your community.