If you’re uncertain about what to include in your RFP — or simply want to make sure you’re covering all the bases — review the four steps necessary for writing a detailed request for proposal.
Begin by giving the selected vendors basic information about your meeting or group:
o Organization name
o Name of meeting
o Your name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and
o Location of meeting (city and facility or facilities)
o Headquarters hotel, if applicable
o Dates of meeting. Be sure to point out if any of the dates are a holiday. Even if your organization doesn’t celebrate a certain holiday, a union might . . . and overtime and double-time can have a huge impact on your budget. It’s equally essential to check for holidays when planning meetings outside the United States.
o Number of attendees
o Attendee profile. The attendee profile is extremely important when putting together an RFP for services such as tours, entertainment, and theme parties. Knowing the degree to which your delegates have “been there, done that” will help the vendor come up with the most appropriate events for your group.
o Previous locations (city and facility)
o Deadline for proposals. Allow vendors at least 10 business days to help ensure that the proposals you receive will be as complete as possible.
List the items for which you require pricing, and remember to be as specific as possible. Let the vendors know, for example, if you would like the audio-visual equipment priced a particular way (a la carte vs. package price per meeting room). We suggest that you provide a template for the suppliers to make their job, and yours, easier. A simple spreadsheet document will help keep all bids in a common format, enabling you to make comparisons more efficiently.
The following is a rundown of major items to include in your RFP:
o Airport Transportation
o Major arrival date
o Major departure date
o Number of attendees
o Specify whether you require individual pick-ups or group pick-ups upon arrival or departure.
o Do you want the meet and greet staff stationed at the gate or in the baggage claim area?
o Type of vehicle requested (van vs. sedan)
o Is a restroom on the bus required?
o Age and capacity of buses
o Do you want driver gratuities included in the price?
o Do the vehicles meet ADA standards?
o Specify the maximum “wait time” for any individual. The shorter the wait, the higher the price since this usually requires more vehicles.
o Do you require a dispatcher at both the airport and the staging area?
o Where will the company stage the transportation?
o Date and time frame available for tours. Are some days unavailable for tours due to meeting activities? Do you want full-day or half-day tours on specific days during the conference?
o Profile of attendees for any specific tour or all tours (spouses or companions only, children, couples, age, etc.)
o Specific thoughts or preferences on tour options. Have museum tours been very successful with your group in the past? Do your attendees prefer more physical activities like biking or snorkeling or even city walking tours?
o Provide actual attendance figures from previous tours to illustrate the type of activities that generally do and don’t go over well with your delegates.
o Minimum number of attendees required to conduct a tour. If you want a lower minimum than most destination management companies normally require, specify this in your RFP. It will increase your per-person cost, but it may spare you from canceling a tour at the last minute due to lower participation.
o Maximum number of attendees allowed on tour
o Lunch, dinner, or snacks to be provided during tour
o What type of transportation will be provided?
If buses, do they have restrooms?
o Specify whether you want all taxes and gratuities included in the pricing.
o Indicate the types of themes and entertainment you have used in recent years so that history is not repeated.
o Provide the entire conference program including:
1. Number and location of concurrent sessions. Indicate whether you have a 24-hour hold on any or all of these rooms since setup and teardown could have a major impact on your labor costs.
2. General session. Include move in, move out, and actual session times.
3. Equipment needs. If you already know your needs for this year, spell them out. If you’re going out to bid before knowing your exact requirements, however, you could use last year’s equipment list (just be sure to alert the suppliers that this is the case) or estimate what you will require this year. The latter strategy works well if you provide the same equipment in each breakout room such as an LCD projector, screen, and lavalier microphone.
4. The cost of tear-down and setup time required to move equipment from one room to another.
5. Are projectionists required?
6. Exhibitor rentals. If your conference includes a trade show and the AV vendor will have an opportunity to provide equipment to exhibitors and generate additional revenue, your overall piece of business becomes more attractive, which could result in a deeper discount. So be certain to include some history on exhibitor rentals from previous years.
7. Obtain standard printed price sheets and explanations of the discount you will receive.
General Service Contractor
o Number of booths
o Size of booths or booth packages
o “Extras” about your show such as the size aisles you desire, number and location of any lounge areas, etc.
A copy of last year’s floor plan may prove helpful.
o Number of registration counters
o Signage needs. This includes not only signs inside the exhibit hall, but also any other signs you may require for meeting rooms, sponsor acknowledgements, banners, etc.
o Drayage requirements. General service contractors (GSC) make most of their money from drayage. As a result, if you know how heavy your show is, you may be able to negotiate more complimentary items such as moving freight from the dock to the registration area, entrance units, etc.
o Labor requirements
o Exhibitor revenue. Specify how much revenue your exhibitors generated for the GSC in previous years. If the GSC can’t provide you with exact amounts, ask for usage figures on items such as carpet, tables and chairs, upgraded furniture, prefabricated booths, assisted labor, etc. Armed with this information, you may be able to negotiate a deeper discount or additional complimentary items.
When planning a meeting and requesting a proposal, compile a wish list. Let the suppliers know what complimentary or discounted items you would like to receive based on the value of your piece of business. You may not get everything you ask for — the vendor has to turn a profit, after all — but if you don’t ask, you may not get anything. An audio-visual vendor, for example, may be able to provide complimentary walkie-talkies, speaker ready room equipment, or even one microphone per day per room. A DMC may be able to supply complimentary tour desk staffing or site visit transportation. A general service contractor may be able to pick up the tab for all or some of your show management shipping needs or furniture or equipment for your show office. It’s almost always possible to obtain a discount off the full price. Be sure to find out how great a discount you will receive.
Finally, ask the vendor to provide a list of references… and be sure to check them before making your final decision.