Throwing a big holiday party is part of the Bay Area tech culture. Sure, companies across the country throw holiday gatherings, but the bar is a lot higher in tech. My friends in other cities have a very different experience.
The idea behind a holiday party makes perfect sense. It’s a festive time of year and the year is coming to an end. Celebrate the progress with your peers. Maybe there’s a dinner or a social gathering at a nearby venue.
In tech, this experience is easily executed by startups, and the outcome is likely a great event. For bigger companies over a few hundred employees, they hit a scaling problem. Adding in dates, a quaint holiday party becomes a massive operation.
If a company has 500 employees in a location, that’s 1000 people to plan for. That’s bigger than a lot of conferences! You need a venue to fit everyone, catering that can feed everyone, and a massive operations team. No longer is this a quaint party.
Now factor in the guest experience. Let’s say you only actually know 100 people at your company well enough to socialize with at a party. Factoring in dates, here’s the percentage of people you’d know at a party:
- 100 person company => 200 person party => 50% of population
- 500 person company => 1000 person party => 10% of population
- 2000 person company => 4000 person party => 2.5% of population
With more scale, the “intimate” holiday party becomes no different than a public event. Surrounded by strangers, the only people you know are your date and others who you traveled with. The bigger the party, the odds of even seeing any of those 100 people start to plummet.
You can be the most outgoing and social person, but at some point, the scale of numbers will win out. A party where you don’t know anyone is boring. I have been to a couple and know they’re not for me.
Here’s something for me to think about. When I do a company, I should consider a cutoff point for a holiday party. As in, if the company ever hits a certain size, deliberately do something different instead of a massive party. The intention is right, but the experience doesn’t scale. I wouldn’t want to throw a lame party!