I have been lucky enough to have attended almost all of the Beer Blogger & Writer Conferences that have been held since they first began in 2010 – and I have learned a lot along the way. Because I’m kind of a “veteran” and there are new bloggers each year, I thought I’d take a minute to offer a few pieces of advice if this is your first go-around.
1. Go out of your way to meet new people.
My first blogger’s conference, I was star struck by a few people that I had been reading for years, and made a quick clique of folks that I sat near during the first session. While I am still friends with that small group to this day, when I remember back to the conference, I realize that I barely talked to anyone else throughout the rest of the conference. The following year, I tried a new tactic – every session, field trip, dinner – I made an effort to sit with people I hadn’t chatted with yet. And I had TONS more fun. People are interesting, and they are also interested in what you do and how you came to be sitting next to them. Trust me, I am not an extrovert (though I play one on the Internet) and this effort pays off. All you have to do is keep moving around the room.
2. Repeat after me: IT IS OKAY NOT TO FINISH THAT SAMPLE.
No matter how many fests you have been to, or beers you’ve reviewed or checked in to, you probably won’t be prepared for the constant stream of beer that will come your way during this conference. There are educational sessions that will involve samples, beer dinners, and then bottles that people just happen to share at tables, on busses, and so on. It is constant. And if you accept and drink every single sample poured for you, you won’t be too happy of a camper by Saturday morning. It is okay not to finish a sample. Believe me, you will be judged less for leaving behind a “wounded soldier” than you will for becoming belligerent or hungover.
3. While we’re on the topic of hangovers – hydrate!
You made room for the bottles of beer your bringing, but scoot one over and pack a water bottle. Most conferences have had water around the room, but it’s easier to fill up a Nalgene once than a cup four or five times. Use it to cleanse your palate between samples, then take another round as insurance against hangovers. 99% of hangover ickiness is caused by dehydration, so it’s a really simple way to help you survive.
4. Charge everything. And bring all of your chargers. Check twice.
You’ll probably be Tweeting, Untapping, Facebooking and Instagramming, maybe even Vine-ing or Periscoping more furiously than you ever have before. Make sure you have juice, and bring the plug-in chargers with you to the conference itself (don’t leave them in your room). Often there are power strips at the table to help you charge up, but you’ve got to stay on top of it. Pro tip: Label your chargers with sharpie. Your iPhone charger looks like everyone else’s – especially after a few beers.
5. Don’t trust yourself to remember blog-worthy details.
“I’ll write about it later” will spell the death of the content for you if you think you can just recall all the details. The second year, I started taking notes using just ‘notepad’ on my laptop, but this year I’ve switched to Evernote and/or Google Keep. Write down beer names, details, key points, anything that you trust yourself to remember later, because those details fade very quickly after tightly-packed schedules.
6. We’re all basically equals here. Don’t be afraid!
There will be people at the conference who have been writing about beer for longer than you’ve been legally able to drink it. There will be some that just started their first podcast or blog only a few short months ago. But when we’re together, we’re all just people who are passionate about sharing our love for craft beer. So the fact that someone has a LOT more twitter followers than you, or that they’ve written a book shouldn’t give you any pause. When we walk in the room, we’re all there to learn and meet new people – and everyone is super happy to meet everyone else.
Those are my best pieces of advice as a “veteran” of the conference. The conference will have social opportunities, learning moments, funny incidents, and of course, fantastic beer. It’s easy to make the most of it. And if you see me, please sit next to me. I’d love to hear your story too.
The Beer Babe