Critical Path For A Successful Tales of the Cocktail Seminar


First things first – here’s a hugely abbreviated version of what has to happen, and when:

The Timeline - Abbreviated

Until December 1, 2018: Come up with an idea and confirm panelists.

December 1: Submit proposal.

December 1-January 2019: Improve your presenting skills while you wait to hear if your proposal got accepted.

January 9-10: Education Committee Meeting in New Orleans

January 28-February 1: (If your proposal has a shot): Call the Director of Education and one Committee Member to discuss it.

March 4: Proposal acceptances sent out.

March 5: Start planning, researching and structuring your seminar.

March 17: Submit final description, get panelists to submit headshots, bios etc.

April: Start drafting your PPT, continue to coordinate with Tales, Cocktail Apprentices (CAPs).

Mid April: Begin promoting your seminar!

April 23 - May 7: Seminar Tastings and/or Cocktail recipes due

May 1: Submit draft PPT.

May 1 – June 3: Finalize PPT, rehearse seminar with panelists, write hand-out, liaise with sponsor to ensure Tales gets all the products for the tastings/cocktails.

June 3: Submit final PPT, hand-out and other collateral.

When you arrive in New Orleans : Rehearse seminar with all panelists in the same room, meet with CAPs, ensure all liquids have arrived.

On The Day: Meet panelists in presenter green room 45mins before your seminar start time , prepare once more, and then get going!

The rest of this document is a more detailed explanation of what to do and when.

Think about what’s going on, in your life and your work, from now until next July.

If – at this stage - you doubt that you will be able to meet all these deadlines and requirements, then don’t submit a proposal this year.

There’s no sense in putting yourself under undue stress. You can always submit another year.

If you DO submit a proposal and it gets accepted, communication thereafter is largely email-based. There will be a LOT of emails, from many, various people: people with “” email addresses, people with other weird email addresses you don’t recognize, people you have never heard of. They are all trying to help you put on a great seminar. If you can’t stay on top of these emails (which includes replying to all of them within 3 business days, every time, and checking your spam filter regularly), then you don’t have the bandwidth to moderate a Tales seminar this year.

Why All The Deadlines And Requirements?

1. Tales simply doesn’t have enough staff to be personally chasing 70 seminar moderators. If we expanded the staff to do that, we wouldn’t be able to give back to the mixology community as much as we do (in 2018 Tales provided over $180,000 to the Cocktail Apprentice Program). Tales is the only cocktail festival we know of that donates actual cash back into the community of mixologists which it serves, as well as offering travel expenses plus a $500 honorarium to each seminar moderator. To keep doing that, we need you to meet deadlines so we can keep operating with a lean staff.

2. Tales is the single largest cocktail festival in the world; a major platform for you as a speaker, for sponsors to connect with bartenders, and for working bartenders, our attendees, who come to learn. Seminars start at $60 each to attend, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your seminar delivers a value far beyond $60. Tales seminars are the best in the business. If you want to teach a seminar, bring your “A’ game. Hard-working, ticket-buying bartenders deserve nothing less.

3. Tales is a big beast of an operation, and (behind the scenes) massively complex. 1 seminar can involve having 210 people taste 4 spirits and 2 cocktails while being taught by 1 moderator and 4 panelists, all within 90 minutes, before emptying, cleaning and resetting the room within 1 hour to do it all over again. And again. Imagine coordinating all that. Then multiply by 84, which is the number of seminars we hold in total. That’s why we need your input in full, and in time.

The Timeline - Detailed

From now until November 21st: Brainstorm ideas

Filter your ideas against Tales New Orleans seminar topics that were already presented in the last 5 years ( view here) and which shouldn’t be repeated just yet.

Write titles and descriptions for your top 3 ideas, and get verbal feedback on them from working bartenders.

Choose 1 idea to be your proposal. (You can submit as many separate proposals as you like, though – just repeat this process).

If you have panelists, confirm that (a) they are willing and able to come to Tales, (b) they are willing and able to supply YOU (the moderator) with any and all input you request, from headshots & bio to seminar content, including research and rehearsals, according to the seminar deadlines, and (c) they promise to turn up on the day, on time, sober, well-rested, and well-prepared, to help you teach a successful Tales seminar. If you can’t get them to give you these assurances face-to-face, schedule a videocall like FaceTime or Skype. If you can’t get them on a videocall, call them on the phone. If you can’t get them on the phone, you might want to reconsider having them as panelists – being unresponsive before the proposal has even been submitted is a red flag. Tales will not chase your panelist(s) for you. The buck stops with you.

Any panelist you consider should be an expert in their field, and able to share their experience and expertise in an entertaining and effective way.

The information that you and your panelists share is your intellectual property. Tales doesn’t own it – you do. You need to be comfortable sharing that knowledge. If you are writing a book and want to include unpublished research in it, for instance, it would be better not to share that knowledge in a public seminar.

Decide on which type of sponsor(s) you would like for your proposal, if you don’t have any already in place. Would you prefer a whisky brand? Or a gin? Or does it not matter?

November 2 – November 30: The Form

If you do not have an OpenWater account, create one and view the form. You can begin filling it out and stop and save and resume it any time before December 2. Show it to working bartenders, for feedback. What can be stated with fewer words? What would make the seminar sound more attractive? More different? Worth more than the $65 price of entry? Read all the information on the form carefully – it’s precisely phrased, so that filling out the form should help you crystallise an idea into a proposal which can grow into a seminar.

If you are serving cocktails – which recipes? Even if sponsors are not confirmed, you can indicate categories (“rye whiskey”) and preferences (“rye whiskey, preferably Templeton”); you can adjust recipes if/when a sponsor is added.

December 1: Submit

Rewrite the proposal and submit it. You can log back in and view your submission at any time.

January 8, 2019 – February 8, 2019: Improve your public speaking skills

Read “Impossible to Ignore” by Carmen Simon.

Watch TED talks on Bonus: watch TED talks about giving TED talks.


Worst-case scenario: your proposal isn’t accepted, but you learned how to be a better public speaker anyway.

Mid January 2019: The Call

If your proposal is in the top-scoring 50% or so of proposals submitted, you will receive an email. This does NOT mean your proposal is about to be accepted; it only means that your proposal is in with a chance. Dozens and dozens of proposals in the top-50% who receive this email are not subsequently accepted.

If you still want to see your proposal become a real seminar, there will be a bunch of information (and links to information) in the email. Read them all.

You will be asked to call the Director of Education in New York within a specific timeframe to discuss your proposal. He may have questions about your seminar, and he will want to confirm you have read all the information, all the links, seen all the deadlines and will stick to them. He will want you to promise to reply to all emails from everyone connected to Tales, with the information they request from you, within three business days. Every time. And it will be a lot of emails.

January 30, 2019: The Decision

If your proposal scored highly enough with the Committee, wasn’t vetoed by the CAPs or the Director, and you convinced the Director and Committee that you have what it takes to put on a Tales-standard seminar, you’ll hear on or before this date.

February 1 March 4, 2019: Planning & Delegating & Publicizing

Plan the seminar. What are the key points of information you want attendees to leave with? What myths need to be dispelled? Do you have new information? A new perspective on existing information? Are you challenging any preconceptions?

If your seminar involves research: start researching yourself, and/or brief your panelists on the research you want them to do. Whether it’s from-scratch research, or a review of existing research and its literature, you will likely need up to 2.5 months before it is all conducted and collated so it can be integrated into the seminar.

Structure the seminar around the Powerpoint (or similar visual). Be a storyteller. What story are you telling? What’s the beginning, the middle and the end? Will you structure it chronologically, or in another way? How much time will be devoted to alternative theories or opinions?

Are you just the moderator (keeping things structured, on time and moving, but all the information is coming from the panelists) or are you presenting information too? It’s a common error for the moderator to speak too much from his/her dominant position, meaning panelists speak too little.

Integrate the sponsor(s). How can their brand(s) be credibly integrated into what is being taught, without it seeming like a sales pitch? Can they contribute expertise? Information? A panelist with specialist knowledge?

Discuss with the sponsor if any of the cocktail recipes need to be adjusted, and what will be at each attendee’s seat. Does the sponsor have a gift bag they would like to distribute? Specific giveaways? Can they develop something tailor-made?

Using each slide of the Powerpoint like a cue card, plan out who (from your panel) will say what, on each topic, and when. Draft out talking points for each panelist to expand on. Play to panelists’ expertise.

Ensure you have a welcome page introducing the seminar, each panelist and Tales itself, with all the relevant social-media handles and hashtags. There should be discreet sponsor branding throughout the Powerpoint, and at the end.

Start mentioning your seminar on your social media (if you haven’t already) and encourage your panelists and sponsors to do so too. Create a hashtag for your seminar (not too long, though) and tag all your posts with it, and with #TOTC2019, so you can benefit from Tales’ 400,000+ social-media followers. At this stage a post, Tweet or picture every week or two will keep it top-of-mind, and help your seminar sell out as soon as tickets go on sale!

March 4, 2019: Final Seminar Info

Submit final seminar info including title, description, plus all presenters’ names, headshots and bios according to instructions you will receive by email.

April 23 May 7 2019: Final Recipes

Submit final cocktail recipes / tasting(s) info according to instructions you will receive by email.

April onwards: Logistics

Communicate with the CAPs for any tastings and/or cocktails being served. The CAPs are expert in serving large amounts of cocktails very quickly in a seminar setting, so you will want to listen to their advice. Make sure you get your seminar’s CAP supervisor’s email address and cell phone number, and plan to meet them at least one day before your seminar, to confirm all is well. You will get multiple emails from the CAPs. Reply to them all, within 3 business days max.

Book your flights and hotel. Encourage your panelists to book theirs. You will have received details of you and your panelists’ approved travel expenses by now; you (as moderator) can also invoice Tales (afterwards) for an honorarium of $500 per seminar, to be used as you see fit. Agree where to meet with all the panelists to rehearse the seminar.

Liaise with your sponsor(s) to ensure every liquid that is needed for the seminar is in New Orleans well in advance of Tales. To comply with state law, Tales needs to purchase all the alcohol for all the seminar tastings/cocktails in Louisiana, and can help your sponsor if they need a temporary distributor in Louisiana. Unusual and/or not-for-sale liquids can be donated to Tales by filling out a form, but such liquids also need to be New Orleans well before Tales. Alcohol (especially unusual liquids) being sent from outside the USA inevitably gets stuck somewhere due to customs or other formalities, so ensure foreign shipments are received into the US by June at the very latest. Supply your CAP contact and Tales contact with a tracking number when the liquids are shipped down to Tales.

April 1, 2019: Start Drafting the PPT

By now you should have a structure for your seminar, plus all your research, including information from your panelists, if any, and an idea of the story you want to tell. Put it all together into a PPT or similar. Share it with your panelists and sponsor, and ask them for feedback. Audio, video and graphics are not required at this stage, but you can totally submit with them, if you have them. Golden rule #1: if you’re going to say it, don’t put the words on the screen, and if the words are on the screen, you don’t have to say it. Golden rule #2: the PPT is a visual aid – it’s there to support what’s being said.

May 1, 2019: Submit Draft PPT

This draft should be everything except visuals, audio or video, although if you already have those elements, you can submit them at this time. The Director of Education may ask you to contact him so he can give you useful feedback on your draft Powerpoint. Unless you have audio, video or animation in your PPT, submit it as a PDF. If you are going to share the PPT after your seminar – with or either Tales’ or your own account, for instance – consider creating two versions: one with minimal text (to accompany your “live” seminar) and one with more on-slide text, as a stand-alone PPT to be viewed by anyone who was not at the seminar. For online sharing, we recommend PDF format (as it is non-editable). If you share your PPT with, it remains your intellectual property at all times, and you may request it be taken down at any time in the future.

May 2 – June 3, 2019: Polishing & Collateral

Add visuals/audio/video/animation. Is there a better way to structure the information? Show the PPT to someone who hasn’t seen it before and doesn’t know about your seminar. Does it make sense? Can you explain something quicker with a graphic instead of a table of numbers?

Hold a rehearsal of the entire seminar over Skype (or similar) with all your panelists. Check the timings. Things will go quicker on the day of, so make sure you have more than enough content. Don’t count on being able to “pad” a seminar that ended too soon with questions for the audience. In rehearsing this way, you and your panelists will learn what it really is they want to say.

Update the PPT, speaker notes and (if you’re sharing) the online-version, based on the rehearsal, and circulate it to the panelists and sponsors. Get feedback. Update it again.

Write any hand-outs you will be offering attendees. Although printed hand-outs are beloved by audiences, they aren’t environmentally desirable, so we suggest you make hand-outs and other materials available online for free download.

Finalise what (if any) gifts or samples from the sponsor will be offered to each attendee, separate from any tasting/cocktail they will receive. Agree who will distribute them, decorate the room. This is the sponsor’s responsibility, but it’s good to coordinate with them, as it all affects attendees’ experience.

June 3, 2019: Submit the final PPT / Remind

The real hanky-panky. Include speaker notes, visuals, audio, video, and any hand-outs or other supporting materials you will be distributing on the day or making available.

If your seminar has sold out, don’t stop posting about it on social media! Believe it or not, some people buy tickets and don’t show up, and you don’t want to be presenting to a room that’s less than full. Encourage your followers to join the stand-by line if they don’t have tickets: they can almost always get in by buying a ticket on the door.

Before You Get On A Plane

Make sure you packed your video adapter so you can connect your laptop to a VGA projector; this isn’t a problem just for Apple laptops, as in fact, many PC laptops now only have HDMI ports; so make sure you have the necessary adapter to connect your laptop to a VGA beamer.

Pack a wireless presenter remote and enough batteries. This will mean you can face your laptop screen, see the Notes view as well, and advance the slides without having to constantly turn around and look at the screen; it’s an instant hack that makes you look 50% better as a presenter.

Print all your handouts and tasting mats if you need them and bring them with you. Pack any tools or demo equipment you’ll be showing onstage.

In New Orleans – The Day(s) Before Your Seminar

Host an in-person rehearsal with all panelists using the final deck. Encourage them to get a good night’s sleep the night before the seminar.

Meet your seminar’s CAP supervisor and confirm all bottles/ingredients are present, that the cocktails can be made and served as planned, and what the timings/cues are for serving each cocktail.

Optional: Upload the Powerpoint & speaker notes to and send Alex ( the URL. Tales will add it to and/or their website within 24 hours of your seminar, which you can mention to attendees, so they don’t have to take notes from the screen, and can instead concentrate on you and the other speakers. If you’d rather not share your PPT in this way, that’s absolutely fine as well, even though sharing increases your seminar’s “reach” to the tens of thousands.

On The Day

Ensure that you and your panelists have eaten healthily, and arrange to meet up in the presenter green room at least 45 minutes before the seminar, or somewhere you will not be disturbed.

Run through the Powerpoint and speaker notes with each panelist one last time. Confirm how you will introduce each panelist, what their title is, check that all the social-media “handles” are accurate, and tell your panelists at what stage of the seminar the tasting/cocktails will begin.

40 minutes before the start

Go to your seminar room and hand over your USB to the A/V department and check that the Powerpoint works, including any audio/video you will be using, and your wireless remote works.

Coordinate with the room supervisor as to when people are let in, confirm if you would like the room supervisor to introduce the seminar or if you will do it yourself.

It’s a nice touch to stand by the entrance and greet attendees as they come in; they appreciate getting to say hello to you.

It’s a good idea to use a microphone, even if the room is not that large; a microphone means everyone can hear you, and you don’t need to raise your voice or change your tone.

Make sure to remind everyone to review your seminar on the app!

After the seminar, take questions outside the room, either in the Presenter Corrals, or at a location of your choosing, but exit the room as fast as possible, so the Tales Staff, CAPs and volunteers can re-set the room and the next presenters can start setting up.

After The Seminar

You may get requests for copies of the deck, interviews, and questions, in person, via email or through social media. Respond quickly and thoroughly: this is your moment!

Keep posting about your seminar on social media and encourage your panelists and sponsors to do the same. How did it feel to be presenting it at last? How was the reaction in the room? What piece of information surprised attendees the most? Did you take a selfie? Tag #TOTC2019 and your seminar’s hashtag.

And start thinking about 2020!