RFP’s – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

As business owners, we all love receiving those RFP’s (Request for Proposal) because when they cross our desks because they mean there’s an opportunity to win some business.  But I’m not going to lie, there are times they make my heart sink.    A poorly written RFP can drive me over the edge of a cliff in frustration.  It costs time and money when it’s not complete and thorough.

A well thought out RFP makes me smile…it means we can be more creative, more productive and save our clients extra phone calls, emails and often times MONEY.  Most importantly, our clients receive better quotes to help manage their budgets.   Let’s face it, these days it all comes down to the bottom line after all is said and done, doesn’t it?

RFP’s area consistently hot topic and one that will most likely keep coming up over and over…so in the meantime, until we figure out a solution to fix the problem, here are some things that MUST be included when putting together an RFP for a program.

  1. Include the program and its history.  This should include destinations and locations where you’ve held the program before (especially if it’s in the same city every year and you are looking for a venue or theme that’s different).
  2.  What are the dates of the program?  If you don’t know, then give your preferred dates.  When dealing with destinations and hotels, rates can change between high and low seasons which can have a major impact on the overall budget.  If you start planning early enough, there are many ways that event professionals can help you save money when choosing a destination or venue for your program.
  3. What’s the objective of the program?  Is it a sales meeting or an incentive trip? Tell us why you are having the event.  There are many different ways we can tailor a program to deliver your message from start to finish.
  4. Tell us what’s important and what’s not.  What level of food and beverage do you like?  What amenities do you want the hotel or venue to have?  Do you want room gifts?  Group transfer or individual car service.  Do you want headline entertainment or a show band?  Every detail helps an overall picture emerge that will help us provide you with exactly the right program.
  5. Tell us about the demographic of the guests that are attending.  How many people will be attending?  What is the age range?  Level within the organization?  All men?  All women?  Will there be spouses or significant others? Can they understand or speak English or are they all from Japan or France and we need to consider translation in the budget? I would propose a completely different idea for a Japanese client than I would for a Turkish client.
  6. PLEASE give us a budget.  It saves time to know rather than guessing and redoing a proposal and budget over and over.  Even if it’s a first time program, there is still money allotted to it, so put it out there.  I promise we will still be creative no matter the budget!
  7. Give us an agenda or outline of the program. If you don’t know, then we can assist you in creating one from those objectives that you’ve given us above.  That way we have parameters to base the proposal on – again saving time and money!
  8. Do you have any existing contracts that you need to respect which could impact your program?  It’s important to consider anything that could have an impact on your budget for your program.
  9. What are your audio/visual needs?  We’re going to ask questions like how many speakers?  How many awards?  Do you need A/V in breakout rooms?   No detail is too small.
  10. Do you need Team Building? What about recreational components? What have you done in the past?
  11. Tell us what worked and what didn’t in past programs.  Share as much information from your last program as possible.  We need to know so we can either capitalize on them or stay far away from them. Investing the money into a proposal and then pitching something the CEO hates or was disastrous hinders our ability to win the business.  In addition, we like to be original, if we know what you did last year, we don’t want to suggest the same thing again – we want to raise the bar!

Great RFP’s set your suppliers up for success…and when we are successful…you ARE the star.  As an event planner, I realize I have sounded like I’m addressing only clients, but we all must pause and remember…we are OUR suppliers, clients…all of us need to be specific and thorough in requesting proposals.  If we do that, we all will win in the end.

While I realize that these ten questions are just the tip of the iceberg, I’d love to hear what questions you think are good to include in addition to the ones I’ve listed out here.  Perhaps once I your suggestions, we can begin to create a standard RFP form that will make everyone’s life a little easier.  What say you?

I’ve got to run – that RFP that prompted this blog topic is calling my name.  Please don’t forget to send in your RFP question suggestions to valerie@thevibeagency.com


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