html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Will anybody come to my party?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Will anybody come to my party?

When I was fully in the swing of my Sacramento social life, I threw several parties or events per year. They were usually well attended, but I don’t think this is because of my innate popularity as a host. I read or talk to people who are disappointed by their party turnouts, and think that it is a reflection on them. I’ll tell you who doesn’t think that. People who throw a lot of parties don’t think that your turnout is a reflection on you. People who throw a lot of parties think that novice party-givers do not put nearly enough work into their invitations.

For reference, I had a large local circle of friends and the parties were usually annual events, so they had reputations of their own. Working from that relatively strong position, here is what I would consider the minimum effort required to get more than your close friends to attend:

Pick a convenient day.
Craft an invitation specific to the event. Chris makes fantastic flyers for his parties. Roxie’s evites are particularly clever. I try to write up something to set the tone.
Start talking about it a month or more before the event. Talk about it often, with everyone you see.
Send out pre-invitations by email a few weeks in advance.
Send out real invitations by email a week or two in advance.
Remind people with an informal hope-to-see-you a couple days in advance.

That’s right. To get acquaintances to a party, I tell them around three or four times each, at least by email, and hopefully in person. Do you want to know what my response rate for a party is? For a large party, I would guess about four hundred people get two or three invitations from me and the co-hosts. A large party is eighty to a hundred people, so that is a low twenties percent response rate. That’s high, and draws on past success*. If you are bummed that you didn’t get many people to come to your party, it is entirely possible that your response rate was normal. It is hard to get people to a party.

Baby party-throwers make a number of mistakes, most of which are easily overcome by booze, food and a good playlist. But the mistake that shortcircuits all of that is thinking that party attendance just happens and that it means something about the party-giver. Low party attendance doesn’t mean anything about the host, and no one knows that better than people who throw lots of parties. High party attendance does mean something. It means your host worked at it for weeks. If you’re feeling bad about a party that didn’t turn out, and all you sent was an email announcement or two, you should let yourself off the hook. It wasn’t about you. The people I know who throw successful big parties co-host, have a good hook for the party, have party-reputations and put more work into the inviting stage than you ever noticed.

*Response rates among close friends will likely be higher, but even for a small gathering of friends you should get buy-in before choosing a date or event. Easiest is if you move in a crew of people used to coalescing. That's hard to come by, though. Mostly, it is rare that people have enough close friends to throw a large party. So you have a smaller party or you either have to lure acquaintances (hard) or co-host (yay!). Special events, like weddings or the season party for Ultimate, get disproportionately high response rates.


Blogger scott said...

(I thought I already left this comment. Maybe I've become confused.)

I always throw two parties at the same time. I always position one as the "cool" one against the other "lame" one. It makes the cool party a raging success.

Or so I've heard. I always attend the lame one.

Do you think this two-party system is bankrupt?

Hello, Megan.

6:46 PM  
Blogger scott said...

Oh. I figured out my mistake. Two posts about this topic. Sorry for the double post.

Hello again (again).

6:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I think your two-party system is brilliant. You'll invite me to both, right?

Tom, I wasn't so much asking as trying to catch the insecure googlers.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Oh, I know.

6:52 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

When we send out surveys for people to fill out while they are at work, we send out three copies and a reminder postcard. Additionally, sometimes we call them up to make sure the mailing address is right and that they qualify.

Our response rates are in the 10-20% range.

I wonder if it is the same 20%.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you once say something about bacon being an indispensable ingredient in getting people to come parties? No? I bet if you added the promise of bacon to your invitations your response rate would go way up.

5:45 AM  
Blogger TonyT said...


You have to be willing to throw a lame party every so often if you expect 50 people to fill up your duplex and stay until 3AM every so often. :)

Miss ya' Megs.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

TONY! I miss you too, hon.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

Crap, I totally forgot. Happy birthday!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Dory said...

Good advice, especially the co-host part. You might, just might, have inspired me to reinvigorate my party plans....

8:49 AM  

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