2 min read


Surprising family and friends over the past few years has become one of my favourite things to do. The latest of which was surprising my best friend in London earlier this week to celebrate his significant birthday milestone.

It all started back for me in 2012 when my now wife and I surprised my entire family in Brisbane. My family had never met her in person before, only over Skype. They had no idea I was in town and thought I was in Minneapolis; only because I Skyped my Mother only two hours earlier in Brisbane hotel which nobody would recognize. More on that later ….

I have come to enjoy the ‘surprise’ factor. In my opinion, life is all about experiences and this type of experience is at the top of my list. Why? First, it typically occurs with family and good friends, second it results in plenty of heart felt emotion and third, if you record it you can re-live the experience forever.

After a doing a number of surprises I have learned a few tips and tricks:

1. Always utilize an inside person that can help with the process, answer questions you can’t ask directly of family and friends. Furthermore are also very helpful in positioning things to go the right way.

2. Send a smoke screen to put the “surprisee” off (as per above Skyping my Mum only a couple of hours prior to surprising my family. She would have told everyone that we Skyped earlier enhancing the impact of the actual surprise.

3. Learn something new. I learned the Harmonica and Ukulele four months before my wedding and sang a number during the ceremony. When you do something that nobody would ever dream you do again makes the surprise that much better!

4. Perform a quick technology check. Be careful of posting where you are and applications that automatically update locations and geo-positioning. I feel I’m quite the professional when it comes to surprises, however, during my latest surprise I didn’t realize the “surprisee” (my best mate) and I were connected with “Find My Friends” and he happened to check it the morning of my arrival into England. It listed me at Heathrow rather than the US … whoops.

5. Don’t tell too many people. The cat can get out of the bag easily.

6. Surprise people in familiar territory if possible. if you know your way around a location it really helps, especially if things go wrong (see 10).

7. Arrive early so you can review your strategy and rehearse the surprise.

8. Get to know people who work at the location. I used a Manager at a restaurant to help me with a surprise once and she went above and beyond what I needed. She even played a part. People are always willing to help when they know they are part of the act.

9. Cover your tracks. Similar to technology, do not leave a trail of crumbs that can be traced.

10. Expect the unexpected. Eisenhower said planning is everything and that plans are nothing. Be prepared with counter measures.

Give it a go, lots of fun although I may have given away too many of my surprise secrets!