Six Steps To Prepare For a Brewing Conference

The 2019 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America takes place this week in Denver, Colorado, but it’s only one of the many craft brewing conferences around the world.

Whether you’re a first-time conference attendee or a seasoned old hand, conferences can be exciting, informative, and stressful. However, you can abolish stress from your conference routine by preparing ahead of time.

Follow these six tried-and-true steps to prepare for your next brewing conference, streamline your planning, and help you achieve your goals.

1. Research

There are four logistical concerns which can make or break your conference experience:

  • Where am I staying?
  • How will I travel to and from the conference venue(s)?
  • Where will I eat?
  • How will my attendance be paid for?

Before you approach anything else, ensure you know the answers to these questions. Whether your brewery is covering your expenses at a high-profile conference or you’re driving to a local event, having a solid understanding of the logistics will set you up for success.

What to attend

It’s also critical to research the conference schedule ahead of time and prepare a loose itinerary for yourself. While it can be tempting to arrive with an open mind and go to whatever seems most interesting, this almost always results in missing important seminars and wasting time.

Make a list of the events you’re interested in, then pencil an itinerary including every one. This allows you to get a better idea of what seminars, talks, and events conflict with each other or take place too far apart.

Next, whittle your itinerary down to a manageable size. You can still allow for making some decisions on the day itself, but having a plan will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

2. Know your goals

Everyone visits conferences for different reasons, but these usually fall under three primary goals: networking, professional development, or learning about advances in the brewing industry and trying new products.

While networking may look different for a job-seeker than it does for an established brewmaster, both can further their goals by being aware of them.

Before attending the conference, write and rank three SMART goals for the convention. These will make you more confident when making decisions about your time and energy, the two most important resources when attending a conference.

3. Prepare your work

It’s true that nobody likes coming home to a messy house, but returning to a chaotic workplace is even worse — particularly if it’s your fault.

Be proactive in preparing your brewery for your absence. This starts with making a list of what you need to do before you leave, but it’s equally important to consider what they might need while you’re away.

Paperwork you forgot to fill out, information only you know and never wrote down, and urgent emails from people unaware you’re at a conference can all cause significant disruptions to your itinerary. Instead of leaving yourself open to interruptions, remember to check off this list:

  • Ask your coworkers and supervisor(s) if they need anything from you in advance
  • Write down any routines or information you are asked about regularly
  • Fill out all paperwork, including anything which can be completed in advance
  • Set up an out-of-office email response. While you can still choose to respond, this will allow you greater freedom to manage your time.

4. Develop your personal branding

Brewing industry conferences are an ideal place to network. Start off on the right foot by preparing two things: an updated business card, and an elevator pitch. This advice is particularly important for jobseekers, but everyone can benefit from developing their personal brand.

Nothing about this has to feel false, or like you’re bragging.

If you have a business card from the brewery you work with, double-check that all your information is correct. If you’re a jobseeker, a simple, low-cost business card with relevant contact information is all you need.

As for the elevator pitch, think of it as a way to protect yourself against fumbling with your words. You’re going to be introducing yourself to many people, so having a quick way to explain who you are and what you do will save you stress in the long run.

5. Pack the essentials

There are countless conference packing lists available online: choose one, or two, and go through to develop your own packing list.

However, there are three items important enough to cover again here:

  1. A portable charger can be a lifesaver. Some larger conferences will have facilities where you can charge your technology on the go, but it’s always safest to bring a portable charging battery and your cables.
  2. For times when your portable charger fails you, a notebook and pen will be your best friend. Use it to take notes at seminars, leave your contact information when you run out of business cards, or just doodle to kill time.
  3. While brewing may have a more casual dress code than other industries, stylish and comfortable clothing is still the right choice. You don’t have to bring your finest suit, but a clean, professional look will serve you well. Jeans and button-down shirts work for most people.

6. Organize your follow-up

Networking works best when you follow up, and your memory of what you’ve learned might become cloudy if you don’t remind yourself of it once you’re home.

Before you’ve even left for the conference, decide on how you plan to follow up. Are you planning on using email or social media to stay in contact with the people you’ve met? Will your networking be general, or do you have an objective such as finding a job? Does your brewery expect you to share what you’ve learned?

Mark out one evening (or several) after the conference to review your notes and touch base with the people you’ve met. For some people, it will make sense to do this immediately, while others will benefit from scheduling their follow-up for several weeks later.