Looking for something to do this weekend? Chances are excellent you’ll be able to find a beer festival somewhere in your town. These events have become a major part of craft beer culture and provide excellent opportunities for brands to showcase their products and talk directly with guests on a number of different subjects. In large part, events where organizers bring in a truck pouring one domestic light lager to satiate the thirst of attendees are a thing of the past. Today’s festivals are all about bringing multiple brands and adult beverages together under one roof, exemplifying how fortunate we are to live in a world that offers a plethora of options no matter what liquid you fancy.
I’ve been fortunate to attend, work, and organize many events of various shapes and sizes since joining this industry over four years ago. Many of these events are great. Well-organized, controlled, and a true testament to the businesses and purveyors who choose to participate. But a handful I’ve attended are lacking some simple directives that help deliver a great experience for guests and vendors alike. This makes it hard for a repeat performance in future years as enthusiasts have numerous options in which to invest their hard-earned money.
If you are looking to start a beer festival, do it right. Below are a few points to focus on as you plan and execute your vision:
1) Always, Always, Always Take Care of Your Vendors – In years past, craft beers weren’t overflowing with as much popularity as they are today. Due to this, beer events typically charged a vendor a setup fee to be part of the festivities and billed it as a means of gaining exposure with potential customers. Today, with exposure at an all-time high AND the sheer number of events on the calendar for breweries to support, attempting to get a venue to pay to participate is increasingly difficult (unless they have a license to sell their product on-site, which is a conversation for another day). And speaking to that point, these men and women work long hours and, while coming on board to help your event succeed is something they want to do, it adds more hours to a grueling work week. This means your event has to be worth their time.
How do you make it worth their time? Several ways. Offer a stipend for the liquid they bring. Be sure each vendor has detailed instructions on where to enter your facility, where and when to unload, and how many people you plan to have in attendance so they can bring the appropriate amount of product. Be sure your vendors have ice. Be sure they have drinking water. Partner with a worthy charity and donate partial or total proceeds from your event to said charity. These key factors can go a long way to positioning your event for long-term success and participation.
2) Attend Beer Events Yourself and Get a Sense – If your kid has never driven a car before, are you going to hand him or her the keys and expect him to know how to get you from A to B in one piece? Of course not. If you want to host an event, get out and attend several yourself to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. There are dozens of events of various sizes and themes happening every month, no matter where you are in the world. There’s no reason to ever fly blind in bringing your event vision to reality.
3) Consider Your Space and Don’t Oversell Tickets – Without a doubt, you want to sell as many tickets as possible to your event. Increased revenue = success, right? Well, that’s a loaded question. When planning your event, it’s important to gauge the size of your venue and how many people it can fit comfortably. People need to be able to flow from vendor to vendor, plus have space to gather and mingle without feeling like they’re crammed into a Rolling Stones concert. If you oversell tickets and crush the flow, no one is going to be happy. This results in your event getting a horrible reputation right out of the gates and makes it difficult to host something of similar scope in the future. Don’t be greedy.
4) Price Your Tickets Accordingly – Consider what you’re offering for your ticket price and don’t try to hold people over the coals. Most consumers have a pretty good understanding of how much their favorite adult beverages cost when they visit a taproom, bar, or purchase for at-home consumption. If you try to overprice your ticket based on what you plan to deliver, most people will pass and look at the next event…which could be happening the next weekend or even the very same day. Always keep in mind you’re not the only game in town and focus on delivering an experience that makes people want to attend, thus making a ticket purchase worth the investment for an enthusiast.
5) Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – Don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking too big too fast. Work within your means and give those who do attend an experience they tell everyone about. This will translate to your next event and the event after that. Also, think of your personal research from Point #2 and the little things you liked at a festival you attended. Go the extra mile and have pretzels and bottles of water readily available. If you have music involved, make sure it doesn’t dominate the show unless you’re putting on an actual concert. People want to enjoy each other’s company and converse with vendors. If the music is too loud, this becomes more difficult. Always put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and build an event that you’d enjoy.
6) Market Accordingly – More than likely, you’ll be selling tickets through a 3rd party ticket page for your event. Be sure it contains accurate details and updates about your event. Set up a Facebook event as well so you can share up-to-the-minute updates with those who follow your event. When a new vendor comes on board with you, be sure to give them a well-deserved plug on your networks and get people excited they’ll be in the house with you. Consider a ticket giveaway for those willing to help spread the word about your event.
7) Listen to Others – In every conceivable event-planning scenario, there’s going to be someone who has more experience with one of the many facets of your plight. LISTEN TO THEM. They’ve seen things happen, whether they be good or bad, and can help you do something right or avoid something potentially damning when bringing your event to life.
What other factors do you feel should be considered when orchestrating a beer event? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below!