According to those who study the alcohol industry, consumption of “no and low” alcohol drinks will grow by 31% by 2024. Why is this important to conference organizers and attendees? Traditionally, many conferences and conventions have used alcohol as a social lubricant and an enticement for attendees. Happy hours, drink tickets, and post-meeting cocktails are all standard. How can organizers adapt to this new trend?
Be respectful of choices
People have a variety of reasons for not drinking, including health concerns, pregnancy, diet, addiction issues, and personal preference. Many companies also advise employees not to drink when “on the job” to avoid potential legal problems. Obviously, no one should question anyone else about why they do or do not eat or drink a specific item. Organizers may also want to review conference information and announcements to ensure that it’s clear the conference is a welcoming space for those who do not drink.
More diverse happy hours
Happy hours aren’t disappearing. But if you want to make sure that non-drinking guests feel welcome and comfortable, you may have to up your game in terms of what you serve. No one wants to feel left out. Instead of only offering wine, beer, and soda, think about creating a signature “non-alcoholic” cocktail or providing a variety of non-alcoholic options.
Spending a little more energy (and money) on your appetizers will also help keep people who aren’t drinking happy. Remember, the point of a happy hour at a conference is to help people feel taken care of and keep them talking to each other. The more interactive the food, the more occupied guests will be. Some ideas to consider:
Fondue or other dipping foods
Edible centerpieces that encourage nibbling
Roll-your-own spring rolls
Build-your-own taco, stir fry, or poke bowl meal.
These choices all have the added benefit of allowing people to choose their ingredients based on dietary needs and preferences.
Coffee is the new drinks
One benefit of drinking less is that it’s easier to get up in the morning! For many conference-goers, “Let’s grab coffee” has replaced “Let’s get a drink.” Consider focusing more of your networking opportunities around the morning instead of the evening.
Get the dance started
Many conferences like to end with a big party featuring a musical guest and dancing. There’s no denying that getting people to dance is easier when alcohol is involved. If you’re worried about whether or not people will have a good time at your social event, consider bringing in help. Hire a dance instructor to teach line dancing or consider non-musical entertainment that still allows people to interact. Several companies provide game shows or murder mystery events to keep participants entertained.
Party favors and swag
Unless your event is for the food and drink industry, you should not give items like shot glasses, carafes, and beer cozies as swag or favors.
Alcohol isn’t disappearing, but with more and more people choosing a low or no alcohol lifestyle, conference organizers, attendees, and hosts will all have to find new ways to socialize.