Our first Advisory Board feature of the year is Chad Montgomery, Co-Founder of Big Texas Beer Fest taking place on March 31-April 1 at the Fair Park Automobile Building in Dallas. 2017 will mark the sixth annual edition of Big Texas Beer Fest and we talked to Chad about his plans for this years festival, the biggest challenges that he faces as an event organizer and the role that marketing plays in the success of the Big Texas Beer Fest.
Tell us a little about Big Texas Beer Fest and what your team has on tap for 2017
Big Texas Beer Fest was initially born out of love for the craft beer industry. We went to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and wanted to create something similar at home in Dallas. We feature 500+ beers from all around the world across two days. Some of our latest initiatives are improving the guest experience by adding new components. Locally, we've seen a resurgence in vintage arcades, so we're working on a cool activation for this year's festival and haven't told anyone yet!
What was the first event you ever attended and what was your impression?
The first event I ever attended that I can remember was Disney on Ice. My mom was a hard working middle-class nurse, but made sure to get us seats towards the front row of the arena. The package she bought included the opportunity to be on the ice with some of the characters skating around. It was one of the most mesmerizing experiences a kid could possibly have.
What were the most memorable events you attended last year, and what made them exceptional from your point of view?
XLIVE was super memorable to me, because it was a room full of people just like me. It was neat seeing other people who face the same challenges, and who try to do the same thing every day. I knew everyone in the room had a unique understanding of the challenges we face. I also attended a metal show by a French metal band named Gojira. You wouldn't expect a French band to have such an incredible production value, but everything from the sound to the stage production was flawless.
How are emerging technologies impacting how Big Texas Beer Fest approaches your audience activation strategies?
We finally got introduced to Feathr at XLIVE and they're helping us with our re-targeting efforts for 2017 which is something we've never done before. We explored RFID bracelets as well, but as a mostly all-inclusive event we determined that technology really isn't a fit for us right now.
What do you view to be the most exciting experiences at Big Texas Beer Fest that sets you apart from others?
Our complete focus is on beer and we make sure that part is perfect. The beer list has to be exceptional, and the vendors we choose are almost always very closely tied to the beer industry. We won't accept vendors like Green Mountain Energy, despite the fact they love to try and market to our attendees. I dont think anyone wants to be hassled about their energy provider at a beer festival.
What role do you think marketing and content development has in the overall production of Big Texas Beer Fest?
Marketing is ultimately a means to an end, which is getting attendees to your event. The messaging and content so to speak, just helps prepare people for what they're going to experience. We'd still communicate with our attendees regardless, but what they remember about you is going to impact their experience at the event to some degree. All of that is only a small portion of what someone might or should experience at a beer festival because its important to remember that the goal of a beer festival is to give people a chance to experience beer in a unique, communal environment that's unlike anywhere else. They get to find out what they like, without making a commitment to a full pint or large pour.
Looking back on your career in the industry, what has been the biggest learning experience for you personally?
Perhaps understanding the complexities that go with organizing an event. Whether it's fire, security, police, TABC-compliance, tax compliance, finance, marketing, or whatever other aspect you're dealing with that day, it's all a trial by fire. There's no event organizer school (that I know of) so you basically teach yourself as you go.
What is the biggest challenge that you are currently facing at Big Texas Beer Festival?
In Texas we're seeing serious challenges from the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) with regard to beer festivals. I suspect that the amount of beer festivals will shrink due to legal compliance and not understanding that arena. I'm not saying they won't happen, but a few will set the standard with how they're organized, and others will hope to follow suit. For some, they may choose to close their doors as a result.
If you werent involved in the festival industry, what job or field would you attempt?
I really like the world of beer and coffee, so perhaps owning a brewery, coffee roaster, or some other retail outlet where people can come enjoy one or both. I'm also a technology nerd, so maybe some useful application for the beer or coffee world.
If you could meet one person from your industry who would it be and why?
I suppose if you're referring to the 'beer industry' and not necessarily the 'beer festival' industry I'd have to say Armand Debelder from Drie Fonteinen. Drie Fonteinen is a small beer producer in Belgium that makes a style of beer called lambic. Lambic is a very unique type of beer, because it blends 1, 2 and 3-year old oak-aged beer that's been spontaneously fermented with wild yeast in the air. It's the total opposite of most beer production, which is generally in a near clean room style environment. We don't see their stuff here in Texas, but I'd love to pick his brain about how their operation differs from traditional brewing methods.