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Event Tradecraft – Special Details

In previous Event Tradecraft posts, I’ve covered everything from duffle bags and buffer time, to dress code and dealing with the unexpected. I’ve also talked about location, and how the venue can help make an event particularly memorable.

Today, I want to point out how other special details can further add to the distinctiveness of the occasion, using the launch of The Reprisal, the third book in the His Majesty’s New World series, as an example.

As explained in the earlier post, because of the event’s unique location, guests were able to step onto the exact type of train used by the soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to travel on a different planet, some 90 years in the past. But attendees didn’t just get to sit in the same kinds of seats as the members of the Newfoundland Regiment; we worked hard to get other details right, beginning with some special guests who were on hand.

Thanks to members of the Canadian Military Heritage Society, who donned their uniforms and boarded the train with us, guests were also able to meet some of the soldiers –– including Mike Strong, who features prominently in the follow-up Champions series.

Members of the Canadian Military Heritage Society march through the ‘grasslands’ during the original photo shoot for HMNW.

These gentlemen had, a few years earlier, said yes when we’d asked if they’d be willing to play the role of the Newfoundland soldiers in a photo shoot for HMNW’s book covers and promotional materials. Four of the original group joined us for the Reprisal launch. They arrived early and milled about outside, speaking with guests as they arrived and posing for pictures. They also joined everyone on the train for the event itself, helping make the stories come to life even more. The benefit to the event was immense –– people got the chance to come face-to-face with the men from the books, and make a personal connection.

And while they did that, another extra added to the experience: the food.

When it comes to events, refreshments aren’t too complicated –– the choices tend to be around what kind of food and drinks to have available, and whether to have guests help themselves, people serving, or a combination of the two. However, when the event is in a train car, with no room to lay out food and drinks, or to have servers walk through, it gets a little more complicated.

The solution was found within the HMNW stories themselves. Food plays an important role in Newfoundland culture. Even to this day, when you visit relatives in my home province, not only are you fed more than enough for two or three people, you rarely leave without a ‘taste of home’ to take with you. Although (or perhaps because) the Newfoundland soldiers would have been far away from home on the grasslands of another planet, arrangements would have been made to ensure they also have a ‘taste of home’ for their journeys, provided in the form of snack packs available in the train’s tiny canteen.

As our guests boarded the train that evening, they were invited to the visit the canteen where they were given small snack boxes of Purity cookies, before making their way to their seats. Based in Newfoundland, the Purity Factory is the producer of a number of products –– cookies, crackers, hard bread, jams. In the alternate timeline of HMNW, these were the kind of treats most likely available to the b’ys, so that’s what we gave our guests: Jam Jams and Tea Vees (my favorite) in small Purity-labeled boxes.

These sorts of details don’t make sense for all events, of course, but when they do… when special guests, an unusual approach to food, or things like music and unique program elements can make an event both unique and memorable… they’re definitely worth the additional effort. The key is never assuming you can’t do something; just figure out a way to make it happen!

And to be as fortunate as we were to have such wonderful people to work with.