8 Must-Have Elements for a Kickass Meeting Production RFP
“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.”
– Robert Half
Robert Half might not be a thinker that’s on your radar, but he should be. In his time, he was a pioneer in the human resources and hiring field – so if there’s anyone who knows a little something about finding the right people or team for a job, he’s that guy.
So it’s unsurprising that this little nugget of wisdom is the perfect way to start a conversation about a kickass RFP for your next meeting. Because, let’s face it: an RFP isn’t that different from writing a job description. And when a budget of six or seven figures depends on the success of an RFP, what goes into it is important.
That said, an RFP is less about answers than it is about questions – but in order to tailor an RFP precisely to the kind of meeting you’re after, you need to start by asking yourself and your team a few questions about your goals, limitations and considerations.
Now for the good stuff: how to write a good RFP for meeting production services? Well, that comes down to what AlterEgo have gotten to an exact science. Before you write the first word of your RFP, consider these 8 must-have elements.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
Getting a great proposal from a vendor starts with great information. Give as much detail as you can. Provide all pictures or videos of previous events that you can find. Tell us what worked, what didn’t and why. Provide previous theme ideas or creative treatments. Illustrate your expectations by communicating thoroughly. If you’re able, maybe even show winning submissions from the past.
Also, be sure to provide a coordinated time to ask questions. This should happen as early in the process as possible.
Finally, allow the submission to be “walked through” versus simply sent. There are often important nuances buried within that need a person to unpack.
The sword cuts two ways when it comes to time; ask for a proposal in a very short amount of time and you’re likely to get just okay thoughts /ideas / solutions. Ask for a submission far in the future, and you might be surprised by the awesomeness that ensues, making your decision easy.
At AEAV, we believe a middle ground exists. Depending upon scope and scale, 2 to 4 weeks to reply seems about right.
In’s and Out’s
One main ingredient to any meeting or event is the physical space it’s to occur in. From hotels and convention centers to interesting event spaces, one thing is never changes; there are only 24 hours in a day.
Setting up and tearing down any kind of meeting or event takes time. Be sure your RFP clearly states exact in and out times. Be sure your RFP clearly indicates the space where things are to happen. And be sure to include exact start and stop times of the event or meeting itself. Don’t forget opening receptions, meal functions or rooms with partial availability.
All of those factors inform how the production needs to be handled and ultimately budgeted. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that access time matters… not just to the production company, but to your bottom line!
Open Up About Unknowns
Lots of meeting professionals send out RFP’s without complete knowledge of the final program. For example, outside keynote speakers, award winners and entertainers may be unknown for months to come.
Typically, that’s okay! But only if there is collective agreement on “wiggle room”.
Everyone needs to understand that costs will change depending upon factors that were unknown at the time of the RFP. By acknowledging that in advance, you’ll score valuable points as an “experienced buyer”.
If you don’t open up about unknowns, we’ll have to plan for the worst case scenario. Of course, that really means the most expensive.
Provide Decision-Making Criteria
Is your decision based primarily on budget? Maybe it’s on creative. Maybe it’s on experience of the team or knowledge of the venue. Whatever factor or factors are most critical in your buying journey, be sure to express that in the RFP.
This will allow vendors to tailor their proposals to best align with your needs and wants.
We lost a piece of work because the client felt like our lack of international experience was an issue. Here’s the thing: we’ve done work in 46 countries on 6 of 7 continents! The event we were bidding on was domestic, it never occurred to us or even seemed appropriate to discuss our worldly adventures.
Why did that matter to the client? Because the CEO was from Europe and wanted a more globally-focused provider. Had we known that single nuance, the entire RFP would have been handled differently.
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Nothing screams “I’m clueless and simply looking for the cheapest option” than an RFP which is actually a gear list with the prices removed.
Of course, some providers think this method is the cat’s meow. We think it’s dreadful.
The essence of what you’re trying to accomplish is (usually) far more important than any specific piece of hardware. Providers can find you quality solutions that fit your needs without necessarily finding you the exact piece of gear.
For example, do you need a basic stage wash or do you need 14 Altman Steel par 64’s? You probably need the wash…but if you request a specific type of lighting instrument you may actually be incurring additional costs for no apparent reason.
It’s all about the Benjamins
If you have a number, and you’re willing to provide it, do so. Over the years we’ve learned that more often than not, we can do a far better job by backing into a number. We can find creative ways to cut expenses and sometimes even rob Peter to pay Paul. Ultimately this allows us to maximize the final expression, not cut it.
With a known, target budget, all vendors are working on an even playing field. You can judge people on other criteria; criteria like creative treatment, people running your project and additional elements you never thought of.
Ask the question: “Why?”
Many qualified vendors exist all over the land. Many options will look, feel and cost about the same. Tons of smart, dedicated, able people are available to work on your project. In short, sometimes it’s tough to decide who should be awarded the business.
By asking the simple, but not easy question “WHY?”, you find out who believes what you believe.
At AlterEgo AV, we’re actually not driven by money. We’re not driven by the latest technology or the coolest new gizmo. What floats our collective boat is building relationships that matter. We want to establish relationships with people that see the world the way we do. We desire clients that become actual friends. We want to create programs we’re all proud of, put on by people we like, with working conditions that are enjoyable.
Ask why and you just might be surprised by the answer!
About to write an RFP or struggling to find the right guys with an existing one? We’ve got a few secrets for you (and psstttt… they’re free). Set up a call to pick our brains!