Whether you are a Tales Virgin or a Tales Veteran, attending Tales of the Cocktail can be a challenge. After four Tales, here’s what I’ve learned.
Do your research
One of the first things to figure out is why you want to go to Tales. Are you a bar or restaurant owner who wants to check out the latest trends and learn from experts in the industry or are you a cocktail culture connoisseur who wants to spend time tasting and hanging out with like-minded individuals? Once you figure out the why, you can start planning your trip. Downloading the app and checking out the website will allow you to maximize your time in New Orleans. Buy seminar and event tickets early because they tend to sell out quickly, especially those covering hot topics (looking at you Chartreuse).
Plan your stay
Once you book your plane tickets, look into where you want to stay. The Hotel Monteleone is the official headquarters for Tales, but the layout and slow elevators can make staying there frustrating. Not all private rental units are legally licensed by the city, so do your research before booking. Most events will happen in the French Quarter, so if you don’t want to spend money on a rental car/Uber/Lyft, it’s a great place to start your search.
July in New Orleans is hot, humid, and unpredictable. Pack an umbrella and sunscreen. Bring a swimsuit for the pool parties, just in case you want to jump in and cool off. Attendee fashion ranges from shorts and tee shirts to seersucker suits, so dress however you feel most comfortable. Bring flip flops, walking shoes, and a pair of dress shoes if you plan on going to fancier restaurants or events. If you tend to get cold in air conditioned venues, pack a light jacket or sweater.
Keep hydrated. Even if you aren’t imbibing, you will be sweating copiously and drinking water will help you beat the heat. Adding an electrolyte like Pedialyte or Gatorade to your routine will help replenish what you lose through sweating. You will be doing a lot of walking in the French Quarter, so add some adhesive bandages to your bag, along with a basic first aid kit. Remember to eat regularly. Some events will have snacks, some will not. I usually pack a protein bar to keep my hanger at a minimum. Just remember that chocolate will melt in the heat, so Kind Bars are my go-to.
Don’t overextend yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and plan on going to every event possible. Last year, my schedule was booked in 15 minute increments, barely leaving enough time to walk or Uber to the next event. This year, I’m leaving more time to get out and enjoy New Orleans. If you feel tired, take a nap. If you want a break, there are great parks to explore.
Make the most of networking
You will meet hundreds of people over the course of the week. Make sure to bring business cards to share. At the end of the day, you can update your contacts to add any new connections you want to follow up with. If you tend to lose cards, take a picture and add a note of why you need to reconnect. Update your social networking while you are attending and remember to tag the brands in your post. If your LinkedIn profile is out-of-date, update it before you head to Tales.
Remember to tip
New Orleans relies on tourism. Drop a few bucks in the tip jar at events, or throw in a few extra when you go out for a great meal. This isn’t a time to stiff your servers. Bring small bills so you can’t use the “I don’t have any cash” excuse.
Pay attention to your surroundings
New Orleans is like many other cities, there are safe parts and some areas you may want to avoid. I have personally never felt unsafe, but I have had cab drivers try to run off-meter trips. Keep your bag zipped, or your wallet in your front pocket. Have a buddy check in on you once in a while. If you stay alert and keep an eye on your surroundings, you should be fine.
You will leave Tales with new ideas, new friends, and a new appreciation for your own bed. After you rest and recharge, share your newly acquired knowledge with your team (many brands provide recipes if you want to recreate that amazing cocktail with your staff). Follow up with any leads you may have made. More than anything else, know that in one year you can do it all over again