There was a key in the envelope and a note that read: “To be continued.”
That was it. Four months earlier, Felix Barrett, a prominent London-based theater director, had gotten engaged. After receiving the envelope, he heard nothing else for many weeks.
“It was blissful torture,” he later recalled, “the whole world suddenly took on a heightened hyper-real feeling, and everything was shrouded in mystery,” writes Priya Parker in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.
As the artistic director of Punchdrunk, an immersive theater company in Britain, Felix was well-versed in creating mystery and intrigue. For his daring, interactive production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, titled Sleep No More, audience members had their belongings taken away at the entrance, were then separated from those they came with, provided a shot of liquor, given a white mask to wear for the duration of the show, and then invited to explore five floors of an abandoned warehouse in Chelsea.
Now, Felix was the one feeling disoriented. Months after the first envelope arrived, he received another: “Now we can begin.”
One day, “a suitcase was delivered to him at work. Inside, he later told The New York Times, he found a tide table, map coordinates, and a small shovel. He followed the coordinates and found himself on the banks of the River Thames,” Priya writes. “There, he dug up a box full of photographs of words on a computer screen. Those photographs told him that if he completed a series of challenges, he would be welcomed into a secret society.”
In the following weeks, he would receive curious prompts from people he didn’t know, words on a cat collar, letters in remote vacation spots. “Each prompt included some kind of challenge that he would have to complete were he to enter this secret society.”
He followed the instructions and found himself running half marathons and climbing between boats on ropes. Each challenge brought him one step closer to joining the secret society.
“Then suddenly one day he was blindfolded, kidnapped, and taken to an old manor house where he was greeted by thirty men in hooded robes. They were his best friends. He was at the bachelor party of a lifetime—his own,” writes Priya.
Felix’s friends understood two things well in organizing his bachelor party, notes Priya: “First, a gathering starts long before guests walk through the door. The clock of the gathering starts, so to speak, from the moment a guest becomes aware of its existence.”
Second, “his friends knew that they were hosting [Felix] all the way to the actual gathering. And that how they hosted him would shape how he showed up to the gathering.”
Reflection: Look at my calendar and consider the meetings and events I lead. How can I best use the time in between when the attendees learn of the event and the formal start to make it more impactful?
Action: Do it.