I Just Planned a Staff Christmas Party For 9000 People – Here’s What I Learnt

Cloudstaff has always had a tradition of memorable end of year celebrations. Last year we had about 4000 people attend our Carnival 2018 end of year party in an outside setting at Astro Park – the largest and most visible party in the city. At these events, we like to involve the family so every staff member is entitled to bring one additional guest.

At Carnival 2018 we had famous artists like a Bamboo perform, as well as circus performers and a new car to give away as the grand prize. Everyone had a great time, but during the show as I walked around the back of the audience, I noticed that it was hard to see the stage from the far end, the sound wasn’t all that great, and the ground was getting a little muddy. So if you were upfront, close to the stage, it was a great experience but if you were in the back of the crowd it wasn’t as good as it should have been. 

After the show, I was wondering if this was one of those traditions that, as the company has expanded, we had simply outgrown?  When the company was smaller, we used to have BBQ parties on the rooftop but we soon outgrew that. We also used to have the staff from the Cloudstaff house make milkshakes in all the buildings but as we’ve grown, we’ve also outgrown the ability to make and deliver shakes for so many people. With this in mind, I wondered if we had also grown so much that the end of year party needs to be tuned down or made smaller? Or perhaps we needed to stop allowing staff to bring a guest and just have the party exclusively for staff members only?

Halfway through this year, a Cloudstaff cornered me in the hallway and interrogated me to see if I would give any secrets away about the end of your party. She wanted to get a hint about what famous artists would be performing this year. She went on to explain that she has two children, and each year she alternates her children as her +1. She told me that her children had already started pestering her about the Christmas party and she said that they are “so proud their mommy works at Cloudstaff”. 

It was at that point that I realized that the end of year parties mean something special, not just to the staff but also their family. I decided then that we needed to find a way to make sure that this year’s party would be able to support the increasing numbers of Cloudstaffers and their family members. 

When we did the calculations and realized that we would probably need a venue that would accommodate around six thousand people, we found that there simply wasn’t a lot of options available, particularly given the unsuitability of the outdoor party settings. We were struggling! 

While performing inspections on potential locations, the moment we walked into the Philippine Arena, I knew straight away that this was going to be the venue. The only problem was that it was expensive. This is, after all, a venue that is designed to cater for 55,000 people. It’s completely undercover, air-conditioned, and is the largest indoor arena in the world. 

To ensure we use the venue to its maximum potential it was quickly apparent that one-act wasn’t going to be sufficient so we decided to have three of the most popular most talented artists in the Philippines as the main attraction. December Avenue, Ben&Ben and Arnel Pineda – the lead Singer from the legendary 70s and 80s rock band Journey. 

The next trick was trying to figure out how to make the budget work. As usual, we gave the staff the option of inviting one free guest, but this time we gave them the action of bringing additional guests for a nominal fee which could salary sacrificed. We also allocated some of our recruitment marketing budget and invited graduate students from some of the local universities. With the budget exhausted we needed to use our internal teams for all the creative materials needed, the ticketing marketing, legal, and production. 

The final hurdle was that we didn’t realize that around 90% of the staff had never been to a major concert inside a large venue like Philippine Arena. When they’ve attended a concert it was in the middle of a shopping mall or in the middle of an outdoor oval like the ones at previous Cloudstaff party events. We needed to educate the staff about why an arena offered a completely different experience and would be an  electrifying experience that they would remember for the rest of the lives

Needless to say, we had potentially bitten off a lot more than we could swallow. 

I spent many sleepless nights wondering if we had made a mistake. Wondering if we should just cancel, lose the deposit on the venue, and then do something smaller. But then one night, I just thought ‘what the heck, let’s do this crazy thing. Let’s make it work!’ 

In the end, our hard work paid off and we had over 9,000 people attend the concert. There were one hundred buses shipping people in from different Cloudstaff locations. One staff member even bought 20 family members!

It was one of the most rewarding experiences that I will ever have – seeing so many smiling, happy and excited staff and their family members. I have always known that the family plays an important role in the life of the staff here but now I think I truly understand that we are not a corporation of employees but we are a family of families.

Lloyd Ernst is the CEO and founder of Cloudstaff

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