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Alcohol & Community Events

I recently wrote an article for Model View Culture on the alcohol and inclusivity in the tech industry:

I put forward a few recommendations for making events and conferences more welcoming by including delicious non-alcoholic drinks alongside the alcoholic ones.

I’d like to continue the discussion with folks on here. I’d love to hear more advice on what I can do as a community manager to make everyone welcome regarding drink choices. Despite being very aware of these issues (and being a non-drinker myself), I still struggle not to plan community events where alcohol is the key focus. I’m trying to change things, but it’s a process, and it’s tough.

Anyone have additional advice based on making community events less alcohol-centric, or advice for including alcohol without creating an event where folks are pressured to drink?

EDIT: I intended to mention this and accidentally left it out: thanks to everyone from the CLS 2014 for being so supportive of my lightening talk on this topic! It was a big step towards me feeling more comfortable talking about this stuff :wink:

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I don’t have a suggestion on this; I’m curious to see what comes up. One of the things that was pretty awesome at our recent event is that we had long tables of snacks and drinks on ice - cola type drinks, water, non-caffeinated drinks. Alcohol wasn’t present during the conference.

I did not attend the after-party which was held at a theater; not a bar, so that alone is promising.

In the interest of inclusivity, I would add that alcohol is not the only problem here. Dairy is a big issue (especially conferences with morning drinks, ie: coffee) and caffeine. To be entirely inclusive we need to focus not only on alcohol but on catering to a wide range of dietary and personal needs.

For context: more options for drinks may be one way to lower the pressure on non-drinkers. More availability and choices is a win all around and may take the focus away from the alcoholic beverages.

Thanks, @Kara, for raising this topic.

I thought your talk at CLS was perfectly balanced on this topic. In my mind, the focus of a social event should be on the social interaction, getting together, and sharing ideas, stories, and experiences.

I think we should be open to people lubricating the evening in whichever way they see fit, be it beer, soda, wine, water, or whatever else.

I look at this from two areas:

  1. Ensure there are different options available. Don’t just presume the non-drinkers will all drink soda.
  2. While there will always be an element of people celebrating with alcohol (e.g. having a round of shots to celebrate something), I think we should be open and accepting of that so long as people are being civil and courteous.

Now, these thoughts don’t deal with the element of people who have experienced trauma because of alcohol (e.g. recovering alcoholics). While I sympathize with those folks, I think it would be sub-optimal to overly restrict a social event in terms of alcohol because of those folks, who are likely to be in a fairly small proportion of the overall attendees.

So, my overall summary here is: provide plenty of options for all tastes, encourage people to focus on the social interaction (no computers!), and just require courtesy and respect from attendees.

This came across my twitter stream today and I thought it was worth adding a link as a resource:

An excerpt:

The decisions we make as humans are like water: they tend to follow the path of least resistance. If the only social activity of your conference is an open bar in a big empty room with a sponsor
slideshow in the corner, the easiest decision to make is to drink.

I don’t drink for religious reasons. When a host considers my specific preferences I am very grateful, but I do not often ask for accommodation because I don’t want to make a big deal about my personal beliefs. Your perspective helped me to realize that it isn’t just me being an outsider, it is that our communities are not as inclusive as they should be.

Over the years I have grown comfortable with the attention I draw by being a non-drinker at tech industry events. I choose to attend for the conversation, even if I only have a glass of water in my hand. But I have also noticed many of my non-drinking friends simply avoid the awkward nature of those interactions. And our communities are worse for that.

I appreciated your talk at CLS last July, and I am glad you put it in a well written article that I can share.

And as you point out, I am regularly surprised by how many staff are not aware of the non-alchoholic options at the events where they work. Expecting your staff to be aware of those options is already a step in the right direction.


Read your post recently and thought it was great. I plan on highlighting in my 2014 community manager recap. I hope you have some advice that you can add: Tips from 2014 - writing a collaborative post

I think what you’re talking about really falls into the inclusiveness category. We have to strive to consider people from all walks of life and different choices. Althought I like my beer and wine, I personally chose to stop drinking soda. So now, when I attend conferences and the drink options at lunch are limited to soda, water, and tea, which is fine, because I’m going h20, but assuming that soda is OK is really not OK with me anymore. I would not have thought that way a year ago.

Thank you for taking the time to gather your thoughta and share them. It’s a very important topic. In fact, I recently held an event where I had many of your best practices in place (so I gave myself a little fist bump).


Thanks to for being the kind sponsor for this forum!