Tips on Throwing a Unique Holiday Party From Dropbox’s Experience Manager

Anyone who’s ever planned their company’s holiday party knows it’s no piece of cake — especially, when that company is over a thousand people like Dropbox. To find out how to plan a successful holiday party for a growing company like Dropbox, we turned to their Manager of Events and Experiences, Lauren Lee, to get her planning tips.

While logistics are important, Lauren’s top priority is to make each holiday party uniquely different from years past. Whether that be the DIY mashed potato bar or built-in after party, Lauren shares her secrets so you can make this year’s company holiday party an A+.  

Location and venue considerations

Capacity, location, and sound ordinances are the first things to consider. Then you’ll want to understand what comes with the venue. Are AV built-in and included? Is there in-house food and beverage? You’ll need the answers to these questions as you build out your budget to be able to breakdown the venue fee.

In San Francisco, the number one priority is finding a space that is unique. This is especially true if you work for a rapidly growing company because you don’t want to miss out on a really fun space that you’ll no longer fit into the following year. The most unique venue Dropbox has booked was at AT&T Park! 

historic downtown landmark venueBook this historic downtown landmark for your holiday party.

Important questions to ask:

  1. What is the purpose of the holiday party? It could be to celebrate a year well done or come together.
  2. What makes for a successful event? Does a 90% attendance rate = an A-? Or will you send out a feedback survey and a 9+ score means it was a success based on a 1-10 scale? Your team should agree on this answer.  

Budget breakdown

It varies a lot but I’d say something along the lines of 5-10% for the venue, 40% for food and beverage, 15% for design and decorations, 25% for activities and entertainment, and the remaining 10% is likely made up of operational costs, photography, additional staffing, supplies. Also, always make sure to buffer for contingency.

If the venue includes food and beverage, décor, in-house AV, etc. the distribution will be very different. It truly depends on the location and overall experience you’re looking for. I tend to go pretty heavy on the food because I like my guests to have full bellies and never want anyone to leave hungry!

food and beverage holiday partyBook this bright event space for your holiday party. 

Food and beverage

It’s best to start with the venue’s preferred supplier list to get quotes and menu drafts. My most memorable dish was a potato bar. We had a mashed potato bar with all the toppings — I was in heaven!

When choosing food and beverage, I’m fortunate to have worked with internal food and beverage teams, so I tend to defer to them. I’m never afraid to ask for second opinions and advice though! Sometimes, we’ll bring in bartenders for events. It’s typically about a one bartender to 100 guest ratio with additional or less depending on bar locations and passed drinks.


Ideally, we try to have a mixture of entertainment. If it’s feasible in the venue space, we’ll build separate areas with different music. When choosing the DJ, we’ve gotten some really great referrals from friends and coworkers. I’ve also worked closely with an entertainment production company that has a lot of great relationships with musical artists. They’ve been incredibly helpful because they’re able to work with artists who they know will already be in the area — this cuts down costs quite a bit!

Advice for other event planners

I’m always giddy with excitement when I find that I want to work with the other vendors that are scheduled to be in the same space leading up to my event or following — this could mean no setup time or breakdown, and the vendor is likely to cut you a better deal for more business. It’s a win-win for everyone!  

Explore the most unique holiday party venues in your city.