I just finished a couple of beers and thought it would be a great time to write a blog post about not drinking.
I’m headed to Vegas this weekend for our annual user conference like many of you have done over the years. We gathered as a sales organization at the beginning of the year and during that conference I decided that I was going to abstain from drinking. I realized a few things during that 4 day period about myself, my peers, and about these types of events in general. As I packed my bags, I decided that I am going to go dry again at our user conference and I have listed out some of the opportunities that not drinking will give me and help you understand why I made what may seem like a crazy decision below.
First, let me just say that I am not against having a couple cocktails (see the opening sentence) and this is not about the drinking itself. It’s about maximizing the opportunity that events like this present instead of falling into the trap of simply being physically present but emotionally absent and foggy. Second, you should know that the very nature of sales lends itself to socializing as you build relationships with clients, and happy hours and chug and hugs have always been part of the process. I think they serve their purpose well but choosing to not drink during these big conferences is something entirely different. Lastly, I’m not passing judegement on anyone and encourage you to make your own decisions based on your own reasons.
Opportunity to build better connections – These events are about networking with peers, clients, prospects and in many cases deeping friendships you have created with each of these folks. The challenge with having a perpetual buzz for four days is that you don’t get to create the same kind of connection with these folks. You can’t really maximize the opportunity to get to know more about someone if you can’t even remember the conversation the next day. In these offsite interactions, many of my clients are a lot less guarded and really start to open up and the relationships become much more personal. Taking advantage of these interactions without the overhead of a few cocktails simply drives more value from them.
Opportunity for personal growth – I’ve found that as I work on who I am, small victories are a great boost over time. By creating and sticking to a goal to not drink at an event that presents dozens of valid opportunities, further strengthens my own ability to set and achieve even loftier goals. Throw Vegas into the mix and we’re really pushing the envelope! I showed myself in January a tough goal that I was able to achieve without a great deal of effort. If I can easily do this one thing that seems impossible, what else can I do?
Opportunity to stay employed – Let’s be honest, one drink turns into two, and two turns into too many. I really truly don’t want to act like a fool during these big conferences. You are far too likely to run into someone influential to your own career and you are creating a negative opportunity to restrict your own success just because that 8th Old Fashioned seemed like a great idea. There is a time and a place to celebrate and really let your self go, but when you have the eyes of 18,000 peers on you it’s better to simply pass.
Opportunity to get value from the content – Presenters work for weeks putting together slides. Marketing teams spend months perfecting each and every color scheme and messaging. The events teams work and work to make sure each booth is in the right spot and each session has the right number of chairs and working AV. The staffing at these events is incredible. Where else can you listen to a DJ spin a live set at 7:30am?! But the most compelling thing about the entire conference is all of the information that gets distributed. Most companies use these occasions to launch new products, or announce new acquisitions. Many of the sessions focus on enablement for the products that you use. And the entire event is focused on making sure you leave better educated. Being crisp and tight each morning allows you to really lean in and gain valuable insight into where the company is taking their products and how they’re crafting their future. Staring bleary eyed at the luke warm coffee you grabbed on the way in to try to help keep you awake and wash the taste of gambling losses and tequila shots out of your mouth does nothing but get you through the day.
Opportunity to save my body – You’ve seen how many miles you typically walk at these conferences. I’ve averaged 5-10 miles each day over the years and can promise you that when I hit the sack at midnight each night I am exhausted. Drinking excessively, or even just a couple at that happy hour adds even more physical stress to the mix. I’m no athlete, so I don’t need anything else making it hard to wake up at 5:30 the next day with minimal sleep.
Opportunity to save some money – Even though the corporate tabs are open and the events throw great parties, there is always that one person that wants you to go grab a steak at so and so’s restaurant or grab a drink at this one bar no one has heard of. That all adds up quickly. Throw some liquid courage into the mix and who knows which bungee cord or which high roller slot machine you might find yourself at. The conferences are designed to take care of all of your needs, and skipping those extra cocktails just may save you a few dollars along the way.
Opportunity to experience something new – When you’re chasing happy hour and after parties all night, you typically don’t get to enjoy many of the things that the conference has to offer or more importantly what the host city has to offer. By taking a break and bucking the trend a bit and straying from the normal path, you may be able to go home with more than knowledge from the conference itself, but some additional life experiences that will stick with you for a lifetime.
So if I see you in the hallways or see you at one of the nightclubs, you can ceratinly buy me a drink. Just make sure it’s a virgin or a club soda! When we make it back home, the next beer is on me.