One of the things I love about conferences is that I’m suddenly surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people who do exactly the same thing I do for a living. We work in kind of a loner field – data professionals often have to work alone in an organization, with nobody else to understand what we do.
It’s incredibly therapeutic to suddenly be able to talk to someone else who gets it. We can vent together about how tough our work is (and how rewarding it is when we get it right.) Before you know it, you’ve made lifelong friends and you’re sharing stories over food and drinks.
And more food and drinks.
And more drinks, and then everything turns into a blur.
And sometimes, we wake up a little disappointed with some of the decisions we made, how much we spent, and our ability to comprehend complex technical sessions at 9AM. I’ve been there – I’ve got vivid memories of delivering a session only a couple of hours after I’d downed my last drink. It gets even tougher for those of us dealing with jet lag, time changes, and who don’t drink very often.
Food and alcohol are great. I’m a big fan of both. I’m not here to be condescending to other folks who can party like rock stars, either – I’m all for that as well, even in professional environments like a technical conference. You’re coming here to have a great time, and you should do just that.
Just define what a great time means to you.
For me lately, a great time means meeting up with a lot of my friends, having good conversations, making my attendees happy, and creating more memories that will make me smile through the next year. For me to pull that off, I need to pace myself, sticking to water most of the time. (Thursday, after my last session finishes, look out. I may just start drinking during the Q&A.)
The buddy system is alive and well at community conferences. Declare that you’re not going to drink tonight, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of people who eagerly chime in. Many of us are looking for an excuse to be good, and by drawing that line in the sand out loud, we all help each other fulfill our goals of having a great time.