Guest post: The 5 Counter-Intuitive Signs Your Event Is Cool

This is a guest post by Louise Felsher, CMP, CMM—Director of Marketing at Treasure Island Wines, a winery and tasting room on Treasure Island in SF. Treasure Island Wines consistently hosts enticing, unique—and yes, cool—wine events. Be sure to check out their upcoming Bottlestock 2011 and this summer’s 2nd Annual Harvest Howl.

I am often asked to describe my “coolest event ever,” and I tend to pause a bit too long in response. I appear to be guarding classified information, but the reality is, I have just moved on. My mind is generally locked into possibility mode: transfixed on inventing future events. “Cool” is an ethereal, ephemeral concept, making it tricky to duplicate. For example, “eco-chic” elements may have been mesmerizing when revealed for the first time, but they can become hackneyed with insincere or sloppy emulation.

The real secret to the coolest events is to have people remember how they felt, rather than the specific elements. The higher the emotional influence, the greater, longer and more vivid the recall. I aspire specifically to have attendees retain the distinct sence of originality, and I am utterly content when participants associate our events with invention and ingenuity.

Most importantly, the measurement of the coolness factor is frequently miscalculated. The most important indicators can be counter-intuitive, so don’t underestimate the following concepts:

EXCLUSIVITY

Anyone can hold a big giant bash: just announce free food, open bar, plaster date, time and location with some accuracy all over the internet. In short: ultra forgettable.  Cool Indicator = cultivating the right attendees, the right chemistry, the precise quantity of selectivity.

REFINED, ELEVATED, LIMITED BUZZ

It is not about how much is said about your event—it’s about what is said and by whom (credible, articulate, influencers). One razor sharp accolade from an event writer for a cool magazine trumps throngs of “hell yeah #ginormissbigbash” on Twitter. In short, hundreds of random Facebook fans grunting “party rocked” can create a mind-numbingly dull reflection of your event.

PARTICIPATORY & CHALLENGING

Thinking your guests simply want comfort and to kick back passively at an event at will anesthetize the experience. They can do that anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, we don’t necessarily retain the moments when we are comfortable, but we do remember when we are stimulated and challenged. Give your attendees the chance to participate and take a stake in the event by having them create something or challenging them.

OPPORTUNISTIC GENIUS

How you embrace and reinvent elements that shift out of your control or go wrong is critical. Stormy night? Power go out? At the ready with infrared glasses and illuminated face paint? Some brilliant event producers turbo-power the cool factor by responding to and even procuring such “accidents.

QUIRK & EDGE

Attaining coolness is impossible if you play it safe. You need a brave infusion of both quirk and edge. Cool =  guests who are astonished, shocked, and intrigued, yet challenged, involved and sometimes slightly uncomfortable.

You can read past guest posts by Louise Felsher here. And don’t miss her cover story in this month’s Smart Meetings magazine.