How to Event

This weekend I presented a class I’d never taught before.  Most classes in the BDSM community revolve around either play skills or relationship dynamics.  This one was a bit different, though with just as much utility- It covered techniques on how to thrive at weekend BDSM events, get the most out of them, and walk away not feeling like crap. I’d put the class together after realizing that some newer people were running into things which could be easily avoided, things I’d learned long ago the hard way and now take for granted.  And while I did initially aim these tips at newer people, some more experienced perverts have said they’ve found quite a few useful ideas here.
I broke this class up into things that can be done before, during, and after the event.  Also, since I mention a few supplements, I need to add that my advice is not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any illness.  Consult your doctor before doing anything at all.  Ever.
Before the Event
  • Make sure you’ve requested off work.  Nothing ruins your weekend faster than your boss calling you Saturday morning asking where you are.
  • Buy your ticket early to save money.  Many events raise their prices over time.  This is a form of “pain in the ass tax”- it’s easier to plan the event when you have a solid idea of how many people will be there, and buying a last-minute ticket changes that number.  Getting your ticket early also increases your chances of snagging a room in the host hotel.
  • If possible, take an extra day off work before the event to pre-charge yourself.
  • Make sure your car works.  Kind of a basic thing, but if your check-engine light went on last week, you should take care of that before you get out on the highway and your car decides, “You know what, fuck you.  We’re not going to this event.”
  • Make a packing list and keep it in your suitcase/bag.  If you keep the list, you only have to make it once.  Doing this lessens that nagging feeling of forgetting something as you’re leaving.  It also saves you time since it makes the packing process more efficient.
  • Bring your ID- Most events require it when you check in.  No ID, no event.
  • A multi-tool is handy to have and doesn’t take up much space.  There are a few different brands and dozens of models available.   This little gadget can make you somebody’s hero.  Most contain tools like pliers, a knife, scissors, screwdrivers, or an awl.
  • Pack extra clothes.  Zippers break, stains happen, and the venue may be hotter or colder than you were expecting.  Also, make sure you bring some street clothes for going out for meals.  I’ve seen some people get excited and pack nothing but fetish wear.
  • Extra cash is always handy.  Unforeseen expenses are unforeseen.  If you don’t trust the hotel staff, hide it well- Stash it in your underwear, put it in a sandwich bag and stuff it in the middle of your dirty laundry, or even lock your suitcase/bag when you’re not in the room.
  • Allow yourself extra travel time if possible.  Being rushed can increase your stress levels before you even get to the venue.  Don’t forget to consider rush hour traffic.
  • Check construction on your route and figure out an alternate route if necessary.
  • Update your GPS.  New roads are constantly being built, old ones removed.
  • Scout out what’s in the area- restaurants, attractions, shopping, etc.  If you’re able, you may find it rewarding to do non-BDSM-event things while you’re in the area.  Hit the zoo, stop in at a high-end chocolate shop, go pet a baby goat, or jump into a mosh pit.  I would, however, recommend against taking a goat of any age into a mosh pit.
  • If you’re going without a partner, consider sharing a room vs. rooming alone.  Both have benefits and drawbacks.  Are you a light sleeper?  Do you mind paying for an entire room yourself, or would you rather split the cost?  Are you ok sharing a bed if necessary?  How long do you and your potential roommate spend in the bathroom?  Do they snore?
  • Carpooling is another way to save money.  However, carpooling can sometimes prove problematic if the playspace is not in the hotel you’re staying in.  One person may want to leave for the night, but someone else isn’t ready.  You may be dragging and ready for bed, meanwhile, the driver has just started a long scene.
  • Check the event rules ahead of time.  Some venues don’t allow things like fire play, penetration, or blood play.  No sense in lugging all that equipment there if you can’t use it.  Also be sure to check their policies on cell phones and alcohol.  Some events are strict about these things and will throw you out without a refund.
  • Join the fet group for the event-
  • Many groups will have “looking for play” threads.  These can be a solid way to find play dates.  Make sure you hit “follow” for any threads you may be interested in so they keep showing up in your groups feed every time someone posts.
  • People sometimes post construction alerts in the group that you might not otherwise know about.
  • People also post if they’re looking for ride/room shares.  Hooray for money!  Trust your gut though- If someone strikes you as creepy, has no friends on fet, or sends off any other potential uncomfortable-making signs, it may be best to pass on that person.
  • Any last-minute changes to the schedule or venue will likely be posted there.
  • Ask any questions you may have in that group.  Talking with people who’ve been there can prove helpful.  Alternately, message the event organizer(s) but make sure you give them plenty of time to answer as they’re usually quite busy.
  • Pre-charge- The day before and day of the event, make sure you’ve gotten enough sleep, and try to de-stress as much as possible.  Otherwise, you’re starting the weekend off from a deficit.

 

During the Event

  • Go to orientation.  They’ll give you a run-down on the venue layout, rules, fill you in on any non-official happenings, and maybe even have some drawings/giveaways.
  • Hit the vendors early.  Since they’re traveling, they usually bring only limited stock of each item.  The good stuff goes quickly.
  • Bring cash.  Many vendors have credit card payment options now, but some don’t.  Also, if you visit a bootblack while you’re there, you’ll need to be able to tip in cash.  (If you’ve never had a bootblack work on your leather, just ask them how it works and they’ll be happy to fill you in.  Or ask the internet machine- it contains much knowledge.)
  • Your name badge holder is a handy place to store that cash.  It also serves as storage for your hotel key and raffle tickets.  This proves useful if you’re running around naked all weekend.
  • If you’re going the naked route, bring a towel to sit on.  Do you really want to sit in a chair that had dozens of naked asses on it before?  Then don’t contribute to the problem; cover the chair first and avoid spreading your ass-plague all over the land.
  • Volunteer-
    • You’ll save money since you’ll get a full or partial comp.
    • It’s a terrific way to meet people.
    • Volunteers are the lube that make events run smoothly.  You’ll be contributing to making a fun event.
    • Just remember that it is a responsibility.  Show up on time and focus on your job.
  • Go to classes even if the topic isn’t your thing.  Some presenters are so entertaining that you’ll have a blast even if you’re not interested in experiencing what they’re talking about.  Two I’d recommend checking out are Laura Antoniou and Midori.  I’d listen to them talk about tax law.
  • Take notes in classes.  Most presenters are going green.  They used to give away 2-4 page handouts to every attendee for every class.  Hundreds of pages per event per presenter.  This is because all presenters secretly hate trees.  Take that, rainforest!  Lazy leafy bastards with your fancy “oxygen”.  Personally I’ve never seen oxygen, so I think its existence is a myth.
  • Ask questions during/after the class rather than leave wondering, or ask the presenter privately afterward.
  • If you want a hard copy of the material presented, message the presenter for info/outline or just ask them after the class.
  • If you stayed up late the night before, feel free to skip the first class to sleep in.  Sleep is important.  Likewise, if none of the classes in a certain time slot interest you, skip out and do something else- nap, go grab food, explore the city, etc.
  • Most events don’t allow phones and the staff will kick you out if they see you with one.  But lots of events also don’t put up clocks in the play space, so there’s no way to know what time it is.  A possible solution to this is to go the Flavor Flav route and wear a clock around your neck.  But if only they made a small version of a clock that you could strap to your wrist.  Should you come across such a wondrous invention, put it to good use.  Just make sure it works before you leave for the event.  I’ve taken a watch to an event only to realize the battery was dead once I got there.  Wearing a watch can also be a good conversation starter since a lot of other people might not be wearing one.  If you don’t feel like wearing it, just strap it to the handle of your toy case.
  • On the subject of toy cases, mark yours.  There are so many black bags and silver cases at these events, it’s easy to get yours mixed up with someone else’s.  Especially in a dimly-lit dungeon.
  • Since many play spaces are so dimly lit, hook a flashlight to your toy case.  Digging around inside a dark bag in a dark room when 90% of your toys are black isn’t the most efficient process.
  • Take a break from people, especially if you’re an introvert.  Escape to your room, go sit on a couch somewhere, go for a swim if the hotel has a pool, or go for a walk outside.
  • Consider whether you’ll spend your meal breaks with others or alone.  Keep in mind that if you’re trying to get a semi-large group together, it can be like trying to herd cats.  The more people you add, the more difficult and time-consuming it is.
  • Talk to people you normally wouldn’t.  It’s easy to be comfortable & over-rely on the “anchor people” you already know.  You’ll make new friends, have fantastic play, and open up new doors.
  • Don’t sit in a corner with your head down.  You get out of these events whatever you put in.
  • Business cards are becoming much more common in the BDSM community.  Consider picking some up.  They provide a way of keeping track of any new people you might meet.  Trying to remember all those screen names is hard, so when it comes time to send out some friend request after the event, you’re screwed if you didn’t write them down.
    • You can go the traditional paper/cardboard route for very cheap.  Many printing companies will send you a few hundred cards for under $10, and they have tons of templates to choose from.  If you want to spend some more and go a more memorable route, they also make them out of clear or translucent acrylic, metal, and wood.  Some info worth including on your cards are fet name, any groups you may run, your city, or email.  You could also add a title such as, “Domliest Domly-Dom that ever did Dom.”  Mine say, “Pervert Extraordinaire.”
    • At munch, it’s not uncommon to see people pull out their phones and send out friend requests with whoever they’re talking to right then and there.  At phone-free events, this isn’t an option.  Cards provide an easy alternative.
    • Put some in your badge holder and you won’t have to carry them around.
  • Ask people to play.
    • Watch them play first if you’re able.  That way you’ll know their play style and get a better feel as to whether you’ll be a good match for a scene.
    • Offer instead of asking. That way, you won’t be putting the other person on the spot by pressuring them for a direct answer straight away.  The default answer is no if they don’t get back to you, and it’s much less awkward for both people.
    • Some events use an arm band system.  For example, a bottom looking for play might wear a blue armband.  This doesn’t signal consent; it simply states that you’re open to talking about the possibility of playing.  Wear one, and approach others who are wearing them as well.
  • There is a substance you can take that has a lot of benefits- dihydrogen monoxide.
    • It is cheap and widely available, at least in the US.
    • It has no side effects and does not interact with any medication.
    • It helps to flush waste from your body.
    • It helps to prevent fatigue.
    • It’s even good for your skin.
    • It assists in transporting nutrients to where they’re needed.
    • Let’s break this down a bit further.  Dihydrogen means “two hydrogen”.  Written in chemical form, it’s H2.  Monoxide means “one oxygen”, written as O.  So put together, it’s H2O.  Water.  Drink water.  It’s got a buttload of benefits.
  • Many events don’t allow drinking.  However, what you do once you’re in your hotel room for the night is up to you.  Just keep in mind that you’ll also need to drink more vaguely water-like substances if you’re drinking alcohol.  And don’t go back to the play space if you’re drinking.
  • Eat.  You need fuel for all the pervery you’ll get up to.  You can go out to eat, bring food with you, or have food delivered to the lobby.  Either way, keep nutrients and calories coming into your body.
  • Meal replacement bars come in handy if you’re in a pinch for time.  These are larger bars that contain protein, carbs, and vitamins.  While I wouldn’t recommend replacing all your meals with them, once or twice over a weekend won’t hurt.  There are lots of brands and flavors to choose from.  Some are better than others.
  • Have a stash in the room.  If you get hungry once you’re back in your room for the night, you may not want to go back out to grab something, whether it’s due to convenience, tiredness, or just lack of time.
  • Caffeine helps plenty of people make it through these events.
    • If you wake up 5 minutes before a class you want to catch, you may not have time to make coffee or tea.  Most grocery stores sell individual-serving drink mix that contains caffeine; it’s sold near the other flavored drink mixes.  Just open the little packet, dump it in a bit of water, and down it like a shot.  Then be on your way.  Just read the label to know how much caffeine you’re getting as they vary in content.  These don’t take up much room in your bag and they are very lightweight.
    • Avoid pure caffeine powder.  This stuff is putting people in hospitals.  Some of it is so potent that 1/32 of a teaspoon, a barely perceptible amount, is 100-300mg.  For reference, most sources recommend keeping your intake under 400mg per day.
    • Know the half-life of caffeine for you.  Everyone eliminates caffeine at a slightly different rate, and everyone has a different tolerance.  Some can drink a pot of coffee right before bed, while others will be up all night if they have any after 10am.  Know your body.
  • Sleep.  It’s important.  You may be tempted to not get enough; if you do so, you may run the risk of really dragging later that night.  Sleep also bolsters your immune system.
  • You may be oddly wired when you try to get to bed.  A new couple at a recent event told me, “We both had trouble getting to sleep last night since we were just so wound up, is that normal?”  Yes, yes it is.  Prepare for it.  Some options-
    • melatonin
    • valerian root
    • herbal teas
    • benadryl
    • sleeping pills.  Just be aware that some sleeping pills do cause a hangover.  Others may cause you to sleep until 2pm the next day.  If you have a history of addiction, it may be best to avoid these as they can prove addictive.
    • ZMA is a pill or powder marketed to those who do strength training.  It’s a combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6.  The intended purpose is to help the body recover after a brutal workout.  This lends itself well to events like this in which you’re wearing yourself thin, expending lots of energy and constantly being “on”.  That takes a lot out of your body.
    • Wind down before bed.  Don’t expect to walk into your room and immediately conk out.  Give yourself some time in that quiet environment.
    • Minimize light.  Pull the curtains shut, and try to avoid electronics, phones, TV, etc. since that light can trick your brain into thinking you should still be awake.  Put a towel at the bottom of the door to your room.  Otherwise, the hallway light can flood your room and keep you up.
    • Earplugs can really help you out here.  There may be people playing or fucking loudly in the next room.  There will also be noise coming from the hallways as people walk to their rooms, slam doors, and use the ice machine.  At one event, someone in the next room was making goat noises.  I’m still not real sure what that was about.
    • Another option is a white noise machine.  They’re widely available online or in stores for roughly $20.  There are also free white noise apps; just remember to keep your phone plugged in if you’re using one.  Both options provide more than just traditional hissing white noise- There are thunderstorms, purring cats, streams, the ocean, crickets, and a large sweaty man named Pete creepily breathing in your ear.  That usually costs extra though.
  •  Con crud is a real thing.  You’re in close quarters with hundreds of people all weekend, shaking hands, hugging, and touching dirty objects.
    • Hand sanitizer is a popular option.
    • Wash your hands, especially before eating.  This is one of the biggest things you can do to protect yourself and others.  Keep in mind that when you leave the bathroom, your clean hands now have to touch the door handle which was touched by dozens/hundreds of others who didn’t wash their hands.  Grab it with a paper towel.
    • Bring cold meds, immodium, pink bismuth, etc.  Sitting on the toilet all weekend can quickly derail your plans.
    • Some find that starting to take an immune-boosting supplement a week or so prior and continuing use until the week after the event is helpful.

After the Event

  • Your self-care is not done.  What you do after the event can make a huge difference.
  • Have a cover story for when your coworkers ask what you did this weekend.
  • Drop is a common occurrence.  There’s sub drop, top drop, and con drop, among others.  It typically manifests as a generally “down” feeling.  You may be more easily agitated than normal, you may be on the verge of tears for no reason, or you may be really tired all the time.  Once you realize that this is drop happening, it’s much easier to deal with. A few options for dealing with drop-
    • Chocolate
    • Caffeine
    • Introvert time.  Have some tea, take a bath, go for a walk, and just avoid people.
    • Others find that getting together with friends can help.
    • Chocolate
    • Keep up on your sleep.
    • Eat, even if you don’t feel like it.  Food helps you recover.
    • Vitamin D is produced by your body when you’re in the sun.  It can contribute to mental well-being and help combat depression, which is why vitamin D is so popular in places close to the poles where there is little sunlight much of the year.  If you start taking it well before the event and keep taking it afterward, that should help keep your levels up to where they need to be.
    • Chocolate
    • Follow up with friend requests and message those you played with.  Not only can this help with drop, it’s the non-asshole way to go.  It’s just good form to message, text, call, or get together with anyone you played with in the days after an event.
    • Take time off from work after event if you’re able.  Even one day off can give you a huge boost.
    • Chocolate