Post-Show Networking: To Drink or Not to Drink

Post-Show Networking: To Drink or Not to Drink

You’re eager and maybe even a little giddy to make more connections, exchange business cards, and possibly seal the deal of a lifetime, but one question often rears its head in these situations: To drink or not to drink?

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So, you’ve just attended a fabulous event, or maybe you’ve just worked an incredibly long day on the trade show floor.  

You’ve connected with some potential clients, talked about your service or product extensively, and even visited other trade show booths to scout out the competition.  

As the lights dim on your successful day, the post-show networking events begin to dawn.  

You’re eager and maybe even a little giddy to make more connections, exchange business cards, and possibly seal the deal of a lifetime, but one question often rears its head in these situations: To drink or not to drink?  

We will be exploring  

  • The Social Dynamics of After-Parties  
  • Benefits of Drinking (in moderation)  
  • Reasons to Opt Out of Drinking  
  • Alternatives to Drinking at After-Parties

Are you nervous about not joining everyone in ordering a beer, old-fashioned, or glass of wine? There’s no need to fear. We’re here to help.

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The Social Dynamics of After-Parties

One of the most intriguing aspects of trade shows is the after-parties. These post-even gatherings offer a dynamic social networking landscape that plays a crucial role in the overall trade show experience. 

A lot of post-conference or trade show after-parties are sponsored by an exhibiting company or the association hosting the event. Sometimes, attendance is by invitation only; other times, it is open to all attendees.  

One of the best aspects of the after-parties is whether you’re an industry vet or a newcomer, everyone mingles on a level playing field. This makes it easier to approach and engage with people you might see as unapproachable during your trade show event during your busy day.  

The informal nature of these after-parties often acts as important icebreakers. The social dynamics of these events are perfect settings to share stories, exchange ideas, discuss common challenges between brands, and catch up with old colleagues.  

It’s no surprise that alcohol plays the role of a social lubricant at these events. Alcohol has a long history of being used as a “social lubricant” in various social contexts. Alcohol is used to help break down barriers, reduce inhibitions, and foster open and relaxed conversations.  

One of the more unique aspects of drinking at after-party events is building rapport with a simple sharing of drinks. This automatically builds a sense of camaraderie. A friendly toast or clinking of glasses often signifies goodwill and an intention to cooperate or collaborate in the future.  

The truth of the matter is that the prevalence of alcohol in trade shows after parties is undeniable. It has become a tradition and an unwritten rule of engagement for these events. 

Benefits of Drinking (in Moderation)

Drinking in moderation at a trade show after-party can have some potential benefits, but it’s crucial to remember that responsible drinking is critical to ensure you don’t jeopardize your professional image and well-being. We encourage you to have fun but also remember your image and likeness matter while forming those essential bonds.

Drinking in a controlled environment can help break the ice regarding networking. Drinking breaks down the insecurities you might feel approaching a boss of another company or attempting to sell your brand to a potential collaborator. 

While drinking isn’t a necessity, it does help you blend into your environment. The chances that many other trade showgoers will be partaking in a few drinks after a long day are very high. Drinking after an event could be a form of relaxation, and you can couple that relaxation with other like-minded individuals.  

If you feel comfortable and you know you can control your alcohol, it could be beneficial to drink in moderation. 

Reasons to Opt Out of Drinking

As we’ve stated throughout this piece, drinking after a trade show event can have some benefits. It can help build a sense of camaraderie, but the reasons to opt out of drinking during your next after-party event are just as valid.

One of the primary reasons to opt out of drinking at a trade show after party is to maintain a high level of professionalism. Depending on your experience with alcohol in general, staying sober allows you to represent your company or brand in the best possible and clear-minded way. This will ensure that your interactions are respectful, coherent, and memorable for you and, hopefully, the person you’re interacting with.  

Many people choose not to drink at after-parties for health reasons. Alcohol can have numerous negative effects on the body, from impairing cognitive functions to affecting your physical well-being in general. Staying sober allows you to be in the best possible condition to continue to engage with other professionals.   

Another health reason is how you feel in the morning after a night of drinking. If you heavily drink alcohol, you’re well aware of the hangover and most likely lack of “good” sleep you’ve received.  

After a night of drinking, you’ll likely feel tired and less productive the next day. We can also safely say that having a hangover is not ideal, especially when returning to your booth the next day.  

The most obvious health reason to be aware of, as stated prior, is your personal relationship with alcohol. This becomes a judgment on your behalf. If you have a history of alcoholism in your family, it might be imperative to stay away from booze in general.  

You have sole proprietorship of your body. It becomes a decision if you should or should not drink.  

Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol

If you decide that consuming alcohol isn’t the right move for you at your next event, we have some alternatives that could lessen any perceived awkwardness at an after-party.

If you need a beverage, the most obvious of the alternatives is to order a nonalcoholic soda or even drink water. You can easily disguise your soda as a mixed drink.  

Another technique to alleviate the societal pressures of drinking is to prepare conversation starters. You can create a list of interesting conversation starters or questions related to your industry or the event itself. This will help you engage in meaningful discussions that will distract you from drinking.  

This leads us to our next point: setting clear objectives and a much-needed game plan is important. It would help if you defined what you want to achieve at the after-party. Is it to network? Maybe it’s to gather leads? Or how about learning from other industry professionals? Having these clear goals, it’ll help you stay focused.  

We highly suggest writing down objectives and referring to them during your event to keep yourself on track. We also suggest doing this part with discretion.  

Engaging in active listening is another method used to ignore the use of alcohol at events. Paying close attention to what others say by being genuine and interested in their thoughts and ideas can be focused on your after-party strategy.  

It would help if you were asking important follow-up questions and showing empathy to build those strong connections. This gives you that sense of camaraderie you might have missed without sipping alcohol with a fellow peer.  

Part of the game plan with drinking should be collecting contacts. Instead of collecting business cards, consider using a digital tool like LinkedIn to connect with everyone you meet. You can also go above and beyond by sending a personalized message when connecting online.  

The most important part of making your next trade show after-party without alcohol is having a game plan. Following these simple measures listed above gives you the tools you’ll need to get past that awkward nondrinking phase at that party.

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI


The question of whether to drink or not to drink is a decision that often lingers in the minds of professionals seeking to make meaningful connections and advance their careers. We’ve explored the pros and cons of alcohol consumption in these social environments.  

Ultimately, the choice to imbibe or abstain should be personal, guided by your goals, preferences, and the specific dynamics of the networking event. It’s essential to remember that moderation is key, and excessive drinking could undermine your professional image and hinder your ability to connect effectively.  

If you decide to drink, consider doing so responsibly and mindfully. Opt for a drink that suits your taste and tolerance, and ensure you’re well-hydrated throughout the event. Engage in meaningful conversations, listen actively, and be courteous to those around you.  

On the other hand, if you choose to abstain, you’re not alone. Nor should you be ashamed of your decision. Many successful professionals prefer to keep a clear head and focus on genuine connections rather than relying on alcohol as a social lubricant. 

Sobriety can be a strength and even open doors to connecting with others who also choose not to drink.  

In the end, whether you toast with a glass in hand or raise sparkling water, the real key to successful post-show networking lies in your uncanny ability to be authentic. By now, we should know that networking is about making connections, which are driven by your sincerity, not the contents of your glass.  

So, as you navigate the world of post-show networking, trust your judgment, follow your own path, and raise a glass or not, but always raise the bar for meaningful connections. 

The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585.

Photo credit: Unsplash

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