Meetings + Events

The power of gathering people

room space calculator

Find out how many people will fit in your room or what size room you need for your number of attendees.

Step 1
Choose a Room Layout type:

Step 2
Enter one of the following to determine the other:

Room Size:

sq.ft.

Capacity:

NOTE: This is a starting guideline only. Accuracy for your particular event cannot be guaranteed.

look_for_new_issue

RFP Writing 101

By Connie Jeske Crane

Tried and true, the RFP tool is a powerful workhorse and the foundation of many a successful event. Yet in an industry that revels in face-to-face excitement, it’s safe to say that crafting a voluminous, uber-detailed RFP isn’t always a planner’s favourite task.

Adding to the challenge, there’s a hard truth. Lots of RFPs could do with a few improvements. How so? Ask any vendor who’s wading through a 100-question RFP with a two-day deadline. Or the savvy young hotelier who thought she blew away the competition but is now puzzling over why the same old vendor won the business—again.

While so very useful, RFPs are also time-consuming and prone to particular frustrations and pitfalls. So how to ensure we’re putting out solid RFPs, acting ethically and inspiring the best from vendors? We talked to four event planners and discovered these winning strategies:

Know your “why” and communicate well

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that mindlessly dropping an RFP every three years isn’t your best bet. Invest a bit more thought upfront though, says Kathy Smart, director of marketing and sales for Calgary-based e=mc2 events, and you can really elevate your game. “Clarity on the ‘ask’ is what makes a good RFP,” says Smart, whose company primarily responds to RFPs and monitors incoming opportunities daily. “We want to make sure we’re clear on what the client’s objective is.”

Tailor your RFP according to your needs, says Rachel Gilmour, vice-chair of finance for International Live Events Association (ILEA) Canada, whether that’s scouting out single elements (AV services, say), or venues in other cities. RFPs are “a helpful tool when we’re doing larger events where we have not made a decision about a particular property or city.” RFPs can also keep vendors on their toes, she adds. “That’s the whole point of an RFP, to get the best deal, see new things and what other suppliers have to offer—maybe new equipment, or new services that didn’t exist three years ago.”

Once you’re clear on your RFP objectives and scope, Smart underlines it’s equally important to communicate concisely— which means watch those page counts. “You don’t want to make them wade through until page 23 just to find out what the event is about!”

Choose a practical platform

While the digital revolution has delivered shiny tools—many government RFPs, for example, flow through portals like MERX or Biddingo—several planners we talked to lean towards surprisingly simple platforms like Microsoft Word. Their advice is to choose what works, with these considerations:

STANDARDS: What is the standard for your vendors and particular niche?

SUSTAINABILITY/CONVENIENCE: According to Pearleen Mofford, managing director of Halifax-based Downeast DMC, “in a digital world and one where people are trying to be more sustainable,” uploads and electronic signatures are pretty standard.

CREATIVITY/ACCESSIBILITY: “New tools allow companies to put their best foot forward, and present who they are from a creative standpoint,” adds Mofford, but she advises careful adoption as you can run into upload issues with some technology.

VISUALS: Plan for how you want respondents to forward photographic and video materials, says Mofford.

FLEXIBILITY: Claire Leahy, senior director of business operations and events for Managing Matters in Toronto, says RFP platforms should also be able to accommodate multiple response formats. “If I have my PDF response here ready to go, I would prefer not to rewrite the whole form again on an online platform. There should be an option to let you fill out the online form or upload a file.”

NEED-TO-KNOW DETAILS

Your RFP should outline event specifics to help bidders craft a comprehensive response. Generally, include:

  • Event objectives
  • Target dates (plus dates to avoid)
  • Your event agenda
  • Accommodation needs and number of attendees
  • Additional guest services required (ground transportation, entertainment, etc.)
  • Meeting spaces required (plus seating specifications)
  • Food and beverage requirements
  • AV requirements
  • Requested concessions (VIP upgrades, etc.)
  • Your ballpark budget and payment schedule
  • Profile data for attendees (age, gender, etc.)
  • Reservation and billing instructions
  • Historical event knowledge (previous locations, contracts, budgets, etc.)
  • RFP procedures, deadlines, response formats, etc.
  • Selection process

Play nice

To further improve the process, here’s how to head off some top vendor frustrations:

TIMELINES: While tight timelines seem to be an industry trend, allowing adequate time for RFP responses can pay off. “We try to give properties and venues a two- to three-week timeline if possible for larger RFPs, and as well for things like larger AV components for conferences,” says Leahy, adding, “If you give people a short turnaround time, they may not have the time to put their best proposal together.”

TRANSPARENCY: If a particular vendor has basically won, be honest. Gilmour says you can choose not to go to RFP at all. “If my business partners know who they want to go with, I don’t do an RFP, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.” Or, if there’s a clear favourite, she says, be very upfront with candidates about their odds. “Yes they have a favourite, so blow them away if you want to get in.”

CONSISTENT RULES: Treat all candidates equally, says Gilmour. “You cannot just give one company an extension, it has to be a fair game. Give everybody an extension.”

CONFIDENTIALITY: While respondents can expect to have formal Q&A responses shared with the group, other than that, you should take steps to respect your respondents’ confidentiality around strategy. Also be aware that, due to confidentiality concerns, respondents may not reveal their full strategies in an RFP response.

FOLLOW-THROUGH: Close off with unsuccessful bidders. Leahy says, “We’ll just advise them that on this occasion they didn’t win the bid. Because we run multiple associations, we can always say we hope to work with them in the future and give them feedback as to why they weren’t a successful candidate on this occasion. It could be price, it could be just their layout didn’t work…It’s good to get the feedback, so we try to give it.”

LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE

Finally, it’s good to step back and remember RFPs are just a tool, so don’t be afraid to change up the process a bit. For example, says Mofford, you might benefit from pre-screening vendors via a sort of request for information (RFI) process. Basically, planners stress, it’s about constantly tying the RFP tool back to your big picture. “I think that the more that a vendor knows you’ve given it some thought,” says Mofford, “and you think they are one of the people you are considering, then that vendor will really lean in and put their best foot forward.”

other articles in this section

Valuable Video

Meetings Forecast 2020

RFP Writing 101

Epic Flight

Events that Matter

Trade Show Secrets

Taking Good Care

Oh Canada

Canadian Teambuilding

The Dilemma

We’re All in This Together

Trend Update

Vision Quest

Turn Off that Phone!

Get Into WEC 2019

No Place Like Home

Get into the Tourney

Eating Cleaner

Marriott’s Bonvoy Launches

On the Quiet Side

Getting to Know You

Lifelong Learning

Dynamic Icebreakers

New Year, New You

The Next Step

Meeting Trends 2019

Dialled In

MPAHT Signs The Code

Holographic Magic

Light Touches

Screening Room

Attendee Survival Guide

Oh Canada!

Supporting Roles

Breaking Down the Barriers

Tour Guides

Happiness Matters

Deals on Meals

You need a ‘Workation’

Pop-Up Events

Green Event Trends

Risky Business

Tee Time!

On the Quiet Side

The Next Generation

First Aid Facts

How to Get your Productivity back

A Sense of Taste

RFP 101

Ignite your Panel Discussions

Stay-Put Strategies

Words of Wisdom

Copyright Knowledge

The Power of Hindsight

Liquid Assets

Grape Escapes

Icebreakers!

Geofencing Technology

Social Media Smarts

Online Registration

Master your MC Smarts

Demographic Shift

Ignite your Hiring Skills

Responsible Food Management

Save your Event from Disaster with Forward Thinking

You’re Virtually There

Event Music

Taking a Constructive View of Negative Feedback

Boosting Numbers for Less-attended Events

Team Mentality

Beyond the RSVP

Langdon Hall, Cambridge, ON

Site Selection Smarts

A Green Seal of Approval

Get to know Natalie Wilson, CMM, CMP

Swamped by short RFP turnaround times?

Meeting Room Design

Embracing Hybrid Meetings

Beyond the Schmooze

Learning by Experience

E-clutter Management

Ignite Your Power of Persuasion

Animal Ambassadors

The Lanyard Problem

Is it time to beef up breaky?

Green Key Meetings

Ignite your Budget Carving Skills

Industry Ethics

Planning Accessible Meetings

Google+ for Event Planning

Short Lead Times

Pinterest your Event Ideas

Guidelines for Ont. Business Event Planners

A Reason to Smile: Developing Guidelines with TICO

TICO, As I See It

Identity Crisis! Ontario Planners as Travel Agents?

Armchair Site Inspections

Planners as travel agents?

Hybrid Meetings

Green Meeting Venues