Second, Tales is a great time to network. Do not overlook the old school world of business cards, and I recommend getting some printed up if there is still time. And to avoid the issue at the end of the week when you peer at a stack of random business cards, I found that writing a short note on each card will help trigger a memory of who this person was and why I should contact them in the future. Hints about what event, what they were wearing, and what was spoken about have been rather meaningful in how to follow up later. One great way to follow up is to write thank you emails to these people and reconnect when things are calmer. Now with the new school world of mobile devices, adding people to your Facebook or LinkedIn on the fly is a great tool as well, but it is not as appropriate for all situations.
Split your time between the people you know from your home city and meeting new people from around the world. Making new friends and following them to the next events can add a wonderful curveball to the week. For example, I am thankful for the group of Dutch bartenders that I befriended in 2011 as they adopted me into their circle and made me feel at home when my Boston crew were off doing other events. Likewise, try things that take you out of your comfort zone whether it's an event like a pool party, going to a jazz show, or dining in a dive bar. Memories are strongest with what was novel opposed to safe and usual.
Fear of missing out can be a major issue especially with social media providing images of missed opportunities from multiple sources. However, if your week is full and otherwise pleasurable, do not overthink what could have been. Every year, my Tales experience has been different and I do not feel that one year was better than the other because of it. Just try to fill your week with a variety of activities. If it is your one visit a year to New Orleans, do not neglect the city itself including the bars, restaurants, tours, and museums.
Unlike many other cocktail events, Tales of the Cocktail has almost too many things going on at once. Do not be overwhelmed. Give some aspects forethought but allow others to just happen as they appear. Be safe and sane, and if you see me that week, say hello and cheers!
Adapted from my article posted last week on the USBG National blog (with different photos). Link only works for USBG members with accounts.