Thanks to the incomparable value of face-to-face meetings, the demand for event space continues to grow. Because of this, planners should focus on creating strong requests for proposal to ensure secure partnerships with venues near and far. This article will look at the RFP process from beginning to end: delving into the purpose of an RFP for meeting planners and providing a complete checklist of proposal requirements.
What is an RFP?
An RFP is a solicitation by the meeting planner to potential suppliers (hotels, convention centers, venues). In terms of the events industry, the planner creates an RFP because they are interested in the procurement of services -- hotel guest rooms, meeting space, food and beverage, etc. -- and ask prospective locations to submit proposals for hosting an event.
The information requested from all venues is the same in order to evaluate responses in a comprehensive and measurable apples-to-apples manner.
Why Send an RFP?
Most meeting planners send RFPs when organizing an event in a new city and/or when they do not have an established relationship with a specific venue. An RFP might also be used following a significant change in meeting requirements (size, budgeting, etc.) from year to year.
Every RFP has certain features that, combined, make it a comprehensive whole. The creation process can be lengthy, but a well-executed RFP can save time and money for the meeting planner and the venue in the long run. The following best practices are easy to follow and will get you well on your way to an effective RFP.
How To Write an Event Venue RFP
1. Display the Details
When it comes to designing your RFP, take the time to give recipients a comprehensive overview of your organization as a whole and the specific meeting/event you are asking them to bid on. The goal here is to have the hotel or venue understand your needs and why you feel their establishment is aligned with what you're looking for.
"Avoid generalities. In other words, give vendors an overall sense of your event," says Tom Sant, CEO and co-founder of Upland Qvidian. "Be specific about themes, attendee demographics, the amount of transportation involved, the range of activities, the number of educational sessions, etc."
The more in-depth and accurate the information, the more precise the return proposals should be. Though all of the details might not be known at this stage, share as much key information as you can.
2. Define the Purpose
Let the venues know exactly what you need from them in all senses. Is this a one-off event or are you looking to hold this meeting annually at the same destination? Is there a possibility that if everything goes well, this venue could be put into your ongoing meeting rotation?
Don’t forget to include your event objectives. Answer this question: What are the top five things your organization hopes to accomplish from this event, and how can the venue help you achieve those goals?
3. Create a Complete Event Profile
Here is where the meat of the RFP will come to life. The following is a checklist adapted from Event Manager of key components in a venue RFP. As you create your request, this checklist can be referenced to determine whether or not you have defined the appropriate information for venues.
- Include inquiry reference(s).
- Choose a deadline for proposals to be received.
- Give details of where and how proposals should be returned.
- Indicate when a final venue decision will be made.
- Give dates and times for the event.
- Indicate amount of setup time/days required.
- Include breakdown time/days required.
- Indicate how early you will need access on the day of the event.
- What type of event are you planning?
- What will its format be?
- What is the event's topic and vision?
- Give any history for the event or other background information available.
- Are you searching for a specific ambiance (e.g. a modern look and feel)?
- Does the event have a website and social media handles already set up?
- What are your minimum and maximum numbers anticipated?
- What are your room-layout preferences?
- What are the demographics if your target audience.
MEETING ROOM DETAILS
- How large of a main room do you need?
- How many breakout rooms and how large should they be?
- How much prefunction space do you need for your registration area?
- Where will refreshments be served? Does this need a separate space?
- What are distances between meeting rooms? Can floor plans be provided?
- Do you need a speaker green room?
- Do you need an organizer's office?
- How much, if any, exhibit space do you need?
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
- What do you anticipate in terms of catering spend?
What type of refreshments are you looking to provide?
TECH, AV AND WIFI
- Try to give an idea of the audiovisual setup and equipment required for each room.
- Is WiFi required?
- Should there be a dedicated network with specific security?
Provide details of any tech you are looking to incorporate (such as audience response
systems and social walls). What extras will your speakers need?
- What will your total number of anticipated rooms and nights be?
- How many staff and speaker rooms you need?
4. Disclose Budgeting
Within the RFP, it is important to lay out budgeting guidelines and bottom lines. Determine and include price lists for resort fees, parking (including valet services), internet/utility fees, F&B, union labor fees and so on.
"I am a huge proponent of being as open as possible about money with the venue," says co-founder and CEO of Eventinterface Al Wynant. "Being open about pricing will allow your venue sales person to work with the required departments on suggestions, and give you a much better proposal."
Share your sleeping-room rate range and whether or not room reservations will be taken by your organization, a housing bureau or made directly with the hotel. Share your overall F&B budget and ask the responses to include tax, service charges and gratuity.
5. Be Available for Communication
As venues look over your RFP, questions are very likely arise. Be sure to include your name, company name, mailing address, email address and phone number in the request. Disclose your preferred method of contact and include a back-up contact in case you are unavailable.
Use RFP Tools
There are a number of tools available to planners for sourcing venues. Convention and Visitor Bureaus or Destination Management Organizations are a great resource. Aside from venue sourcing, these organizations may also assist you in providing destination materials, connect you with off-site venues and activities, local talent and vendors.
You can also use the Northstar Meetings Group's event venue database to search for, connect with and request proposals from venues throughout the world. You can also use the database to compare venues against each other.