Event Tradecraft – Location
In the first post of this Event Tradecraft series, I shared the fact that colour-coded duffles filled with small boxes of books are a staple of Iceberg’s event system. Another cornerstone of our doctrine is using location to maximum effect. If you’re participating in an event as opposed to organizing it yourself, the venue is obviously set for you. But if the event is yours, the control is yours, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Which leads me to today’s question…
Question: Did you say the book launch is going to be on a train?
The first book event Iceberg organized solo was the Newfoundland launch of Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift. The book was first released as part of a series of events in September of 2002, at Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario, but launching in my home province –– where people who knew my father could attend –– was essential. We explored all the standard venues, most of which were fine… but none of which felt right. Then my friend and former colleague, Michelle Lamarche, had an absolute brainwave –– why not check to see if the St. Johns Land Rover dealership would let us use their showroom. It was the last place you would expect to hold a book launch, but anyone who knew anything of my father’s story recognized it was the absolute perfect venue. We had no idea if they’d even consider our request, of course, but they did –– without hesitation. And so on a snowy January night during Alzheimer Awareness Month in 2003, we celebrated my father in the company of the vehicles he had loved so much.
The special nature of that event convinced us that, whenever possible, we would hold our events in a particularly appropriate location.
Now, when you consider that most of the books we publish are science fiction or alternate history, it’s clear that we set ourselves a bit of a challenge… but we were determined.
Kenneth’s first book was relatively straightforward –– we got approval to hold an evening event in the high school library where he’d worked extensively on The Human Equation. Then, a couple of years later, we went back to Newfoundland to the Johnson GEO CENTRE, an amazing facility built into the rock on the road up to Signal Hill. Michelle identified this one for us again (she truly is a mastermind when it comes to identifying perfect locations).
What made this particular venue beyond perfect was the ceiling. Imagine talking about a series that starts on Earth then moves out to the far reaches of the galaxy, all the while standing beneath our own solar system’s planets. That’s what Kenneth did –– stood on the stage with the planets above while he talked about the Earthers.
But the question at the start of this post deals with a train, so I should finally make my way there.
If you’ve spent any time with the His Majesty’s New World (HMNW) series, and hung out with the b’ys of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during their adventures on the new world, you’ll know that train travel was vital to their ability to deal with the savages of that planet. The first books in the series were released in Newfoundland during the Sci-Fi on the Rock convention, but we wanted to launch the third in Ontario. Call it luck, call it fate, call it a sign, but the Waterloo Central Railway maintains and runs a historical train, built in 1923, that was virtually identical to the ones the soldiers of HMNW rode in 1919. We contacted the railway, booked the train (and although we didn’t know it, a conductor and a whole host of volunteers) for the appointed date. It’s not too often a science fiction/alternate history reader can sit in the same seat as the characters he’s interacting with, but that’s just what happened that night. And it was incredible.
In future notes, I’ll talk about different ways to add to an event –– from the guests you bring, to the food you serve –– but for now, the final piece of advice is this: you can think of venue as simply a place where you hold an event, or you can think of it as an integral part of the entire occasion… a place that adds to the excitement, that helps you tell the story, and helps people in attendance experience it.
You can obviously transform an ordinary space and make it extraordinary –– use it as a blank canvas to create something that suits you. But the more you have to bring in, the higher your costs are going to be… so sometimes, you need to think out of the box, and find the place that incorporates what matters most.
The good news: finding the exact location to authentically fit your story is a great deal of fun –– and incredibly memorable.