What is the difference between a risk, an issue and an opportunity?

By Rob Davison | Jan 18, 2021 2:18:08 PM

Line Type 1.
line-test-2 Line Type 1.

What is the difference between a risk, an issue and an opportunity?

By Rob Davison | Jan 18, 2021 2:18:08 PM

We discuss the difference between a risk and an issue in our bigger blog piece on best practices for managing risk in your event planning, but here we want to dive in a little deeper, and look at opportunities too.

The distinction between risks and issues is relatively simple, but needs to be understood so that you can manage each effectively; similarly, you need to understand the possibility of opportunities that you might be able to exploit to your benefit.

  • A risk is something unplanned that might happen that could have a negative impact on your project;
  • An issue is something that is currently happening and is having a negative impact on your project;
  • An opportunity is something unplanned that might happen that you could exploit to have a positive impact on your project.

Let's look at an example of each of these.

logo line

You're hosting an outdoor show in the height of the British summer - so there's a strong chance of rain. That rain is the uncertainty that you're addressing.

chatsworth house showA risk would be that it might rain on event day. You might take mitigating actions to eliminate or reduce the risk, such as setting up marquees or providing your staff with branded raincoats.

An issue would be that on event day, it starts raining. You might enact a contingency plan, such as moving more of the show under marquees or delaying part of the show while your visitors take shelter.

An opportunity would be that it might rain on event day, so you seek to exploit that by setting up a stall to sell umbrellas and raincoats at the show. That way, you stand to benefit if the uncertainty of possible rain does end up happening.

logo line

A key difference, therefore, between a risk, an issue, and an opportunity, is the strategy you deploy to address each item type. Most people are familiar with mitigation steps and contingency plans, and we've just identified 'exploit' as a key strategy when you see an opportunity arising out of uncertainty. This is a fuller list of the strategies you might employ to deal with uncertainty:

  • Mitigate: a mitigation plan is a series of actions that you take in advance of a potential event that reduces the probability and / or impact of that event.
  • Contingency: a contingency plan will identify the likely actions needed to resolve a potential issue, including who is responsible for enacting them. The plan will be actioned if the issue does actually occur.
  • Exploit: opportunities arise when you have the chance to benefit from an uncertainty. It is therefore wise to pursue a strategy that allows you to make the most of the opportunity for your positive gain.
  • Avoid: this involves removing the risk entirely, in taking some action that results in the uncertainty no longer posing the same threat to your project(s) or event(s) that it previously did.
  • Insure: this strategy might apply when you are able to take out some sort of insurance that eases the impact of the risk becoming an issue. It allows you to pass the risk onto a third party.
  • Share: this lets you spread the risk or opportunity amongst a supply chain, taking actions that acknowledge that this is a risk that is not solely up to you to deal with and that is not solely yours to be harmed by.
  • Accept: a risk can be accepted after all other viable strategies such as mitigation, avoidance or insurance have been enacted; the risk still exists, but there is an acceptance that no more action can be taken to manage it.

The key to dealing with uncertainty in your project and event management is to meet it head-on. Be aware of how risks, issues and opportunities might affect your operations in different ways, and adopt suitable strategies to deal with them.

logo line

If you are interested in learning more about WeTrack's risk and issue management software, click here.


We have also produced a comprehensive white paper aimed at helping events, venues and organisations to deal with uncertainty. Click here to read The Complete Guide to Risk and Issue Management.


Subscribe to the WeTrack Blog

Fill in the form to receive updates, news and articles via email.