This is a guest post by Louise M. Felsher, Director of Marketing at Treasure Island Wines. Treasure Island Wines operates a winery and tasting room in an incomparable setting: the former US Naval Base on Treasure Island, in the heart of San Francisco Bay. Louise was kind enough to share her expertise on one of the trickiest subjects for event organizers: which risks are the right ones, and when does it make sense to take them?

Risk aversion will never shift the ingenuity needle forward, evolve your event or the industry. But breaking free of complacency requires a sincere commitment. Below are some irreverent yet calculated risks that every event planner should dare to attempt – and they are tame enough to tackle all at once.

1. Reinvent Tradition – Almost every event or event department has its own interpretive chorus of “We have always done it this way.” Tradition has tremendous value for events as there is “equity” in the familiar. However, you can amplify this equity exponentially by inventing your own traditions. With an ingenious and fresh tradition you can elevate your event to the level of trend-setting, pioneering, legendary. As long as the newly created tradition underscores the goals and objectives of the event and speaks to the brand and culture – the directions and volume are unlimited: Quirky, clever, brazen, indulgent. Breaking free of repetition and instigating original traditions can do spectacular things to differentiate, activate, and deepen your event and brand.

2. Break Something Unbroken – Just because something is allegedly working does not mean it cannot benefit from disassembly and examination in order to work infinitely better. We tend to leave these perceived functional elements alone, especially during times of economic unrest. But we do this at our own peril, and with great indifference to maximizing potential. Not surprisingly the metrics for these elements either don’t exist or remain inert. Some unbroken elements may seem so innocuous, but neglecting to challenge their worth and effectiveness is ultimately quite costly.

3. Invite a Little Well-Crafted Controversy – The key here is small, calculated, and executed with great skill and thoughtfulness. Simply by refusing to capitulate to the lowest common denominator keynote or shy away from critical (yet touchy) content, or perhaps by bringing competitors to the table with grace and integrity, you can ruffle just enough plumage to increase attendance in the right target market and/or garner admiring attention from media. Make your controversy work for you – it should be inspired by and tied to your goals and objectives.

4. Navigate by Gut – Event professionals tend to be hardwired as control-driven, detail-oriented leaders. However, we also have the innate ability to work well collaboratively, so we often must concede concepts and changes if challenged by committees waving analytics. But there is a time and place to fight for factually unproven concepts and even (when given authority) attempt unilateral decisions just because you believe deeply in something. Although there are exceptions when passion and gut trump a histogram be prepared to back up your argument with credible rationale. You may not have quantified justification but you may be able to transfer and leverage findings and insight from other industries.

5. Give Something Great That “Failed” a Second (or Third or Fourth) Chance – The one caveat here is that you need to believe this element has value and potential and you need to be willing and able to convince other stakeholders. If our colleagues or attendees deem an element of an event unsuccessful, we are more apt than ever to prematurely dismiss the element immediately and permanently. However, some of the best ideas just need some redesign – or the time and opportunity to evolve.

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