When we asked whether or not WordCamp afterparties should be alcohol free, WP Tavern readers responded passionately. A majority of commenters argued that the afterparty is a social event and that alcohol is a social lubricant established in societies across the world.
“Although I completely understand the discussion and the sentiments that surround it, it’s my opinion that an afterparty is specifically held to be a social event, more than a WordCamp itself which is more an educational event,” Bryan said.
“It primarily exists because of ‘OK let’s relax a bit, have a few drinks and just chat around, after all this learning and thinking’. Having a drink is simply what a lot of people do to relax and decompress, and instead of asking that age-old judgmental question ‘can’t you have fun without alcohol?’…..let people just have it.”
Some of our readers suggest that by removing alcohol to be more inclusive actually makes the event more exclusive. Travis Pflanz, lead organizer of WordCamp Kansas City 2016, says that no matter what organizers do, there will be a way for people to feel excluded.
“If WordCamp is truly ‘informal, community-organized events,’ each city and each group of organizers should be different, and each WordCamp should reflect the individual city, the personalities of the individual organizers, and reflect each individual local WordPress community,” Pflanz said.
“Ultimately, no matter what you do – in any type of event – there will be some way for someone to feel ‘excluded.’
Jenny Wong, lead organizer of WordCamp London 2016, says there are ways to make social events more inclusive without banning alcohol. “The concept of an alcohol-free WordCamp London social is simply a joke,” Wong said. “We can make events and evening socials more inclusive, and about more than consuming alcohol.”
In a detailed list, Wong outlines the items she specifically addressed to make WordPress London’s social event more inclusive and less focused on alcohol.
Here are a few things we did at WordCamp London 2016 :
– No communication content which had any lanuague that suggested * Lets get wasted *
– Have non alcoholic drinks on offer and center of attention.
– Two drink tokens per person to redeem free drinks were only given to people who went for their dinner ( evening meal ). The concept here is if we are going to feed you drinks – alcoholic or not – we are going to line your stomach with food first.
– Make sure dinner is a meal of substance – aka a proper meal, so it actually lines people’s stomachs properly.
– Have some kind of entertainment. We had retro games and board games everywhere and on every table.
– Have a chilled chatting area. This was the dining hall at WordCamp London. We had low level relaxing background music in the hall and people stayed up in the dining hall chatting away. There is also no bar in there so it’s suitable for anyone who doesn’t want to be near a bar.
– Ensure that there is a organizer who is sober. We had two.
– Work with the bar staff to ensure anyone who was getting drunk was also refused service. Our social, our rules. We do not want to be responsible for anyone being drunk at our event. We’re gratful that our attendees know how to behave and we never had to do this. But it is also good to know we could.
– Hold the social in a private venue. This way you have full control of what goes on. Our venue was suitable for under-18’s, but we would be willing to make an extra effort to ensure that if there was ever an issue with under-18’s at a social/after-party we would be willing to change the venue to accommodate them – and this could be something other WC’s/conferences could do too.
– No music playing. We had full control of the stereo system and since everyone was talking, music was pointless in the bar area.
– PA system to hand. Nothing beats a PA system you can use to quickly make announcements to everyone in the room so that you can be sure everyone is paying attention to your public announcements.
– Have on hand details to the local religious buildings around the venue so that if anyone asked, we could point them in the direction they need to go for prayer. We had a multi-faith room which was open during the event, but was inaccessible during the social hours.
– Finish the social at a sensible hour – aka before midnight.
A number of commenters replied that WordCamp London’s social event was fantastic. “Totally agree with this. The London WordCamp I went to was a great atmosphere and there were no issues at all,” Simon Pollard said.
“It was a social gathering for those who wanted to stay on and chat / interact more with the people there. All ages, all religions, that was irrelevant. No one seemed left out to me.”
As for next year, Wong says she is going to do the following:
Make it clear that the bar tab is not prepaid. Any drink tokens which are not used means a smaller bar tab which we appreciate. It means people do not feel they must drink their allocated two drink tokens.
Don’t call the event an ‘after party’. The notion of a party is one thing. Call it a social and the mentality of what to expect and how to behave will be different
Have a multi-faith room accessible during the social hours.
“I know this is not ideal for every WordCamp, but I just wanted to show you that it is possible to have a WordCamp social not be about alcohol yet have alcohol at the venue,” Wong said.
No More Afterparties?
Morten Rand-Hendriksen suggests that perhaps it’s time to rename afterparty to something else. “Start the evening with a two hour After-hours Social with no alcohol. Then follow up with an After Party with alcohol in moderation,” Hendriksen said.
“The purpose of all this is to have an after-hours event where everyone can mingle and socialize. This solution placates both those who can’t drink and those who want to.”
Others noted that wording is important and that the word afterparty should be changed to Social or something not strictly tied to alcohol.
Loud Music Sucks
If there is one universal item agreed upon by those in the conversation, it’s the distaste for loud music at WordCamp social events. Loud music makes it difficult to hear people and is counter effective to the event’s purpose.
If you’re organizing a conference or thinking about putting one together, I highly encourage you to read the discussion on the post as it contains a number of ideas on how to make events more inclusive without taking things away.