by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | August 01, 2008

Mediocrity is safe; to achieve true excellence, you need to take risks. To create superior events, you need to occasionally step out of your comfort zone with a well-thought-out gamble. Risk-taking not only can bring the wow factor to an event, it can pay off by advancing your career. Following are some smart risks planners should consider.

Break Molds

Planning events according to the “if it ain’t broke” adage can be counterproductive. Leaving things “as is” all the time can lead to stagnation. Not to knock the positive aspects of tradition, particularly when they relate to brand consistency, but sometimes the best tradition is change.

Start small; vow to add a significantly new element to each event. Commit to changing a protocol that might seem sensible but likely is outdated or creating pain for another stakeholder. The key is to turn over a few rocks: Those holes you unearth can take you to great places.

For example, that direct-mail promotion might faithfully follow established guidelines, but it could be killing your budget, not to mention attendance growth. Consider going paperless and hiring an e-mail blast firm. And if an awards ceremony is alienating the satellite branches of the company, take steps to make it a more inclusive celebration.

Update Technology

Keeping old software, registration methods and/or websites beyond their expiration date just because they still work can spell disaster. If you cannot afford up-to-date technology, find a vendor who can offer newer, better and faster solutions for the infrastructure you have in place.

Similarly, learn new marketing techniques before they are trendy. For example, have you tried a “peel-down” ad or a “road block”? A peel-down is an ad that folds down from the corner of a web page. A road block is an exclusive headline on a website (usually sold by both time and number of click-throughs) that blocks out any competition. Are you reading the right tech blogs in your industry? Ask your IT department for advice.

Learn From Errors

If you want to give yourself a gift box jam-packed with creativity and innovation, examine an error you’ve made instead of brushing past it. Why did the idea fail? Was it really a failure or was it simply executed incorrectly? Was it introduced too soon? Was it rejected too quickly?

Keep in mind that even Monopoly was rejected for years before it became the best-selling board game in America. You could have nixed the next big thing just because it didn’t have traction out of the gate. In a few months’ or years’ time, it could fly.

Get Wild

Pushing the envelope is another way to spur innovation. Suggest something utterly mad and you will no doubt inspire others to envision something workable. Think along the lines of the crazy fashions shown on runways and then adapted to wearable clothes for mainstream shoppers. For example, you may not be able to have the Rolling Stones perform at your event, but you may be able to turn your executive team into a wild facsimile, creating an unforgettable after-party.

Nix Committees

Punting decisions to committees pretty much guarantees the results will have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The bigger the committee, the more homogenized and excruciatingly dull the final output will be. Have the confidence to make a solo decision or keep your decision-making team ultra lean. Have the assurance to nix your quest to “sort of appease” absolutely everyone (which is impossible). Instead, take a pledge to positively dazzle the core.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.