If you were suddenly asked to find a hotel for an event with 5,000 attendees, how would you spend your time? What would be your first move? If you answered creating an RFP (request for proposal), hold your horses, and let’s take a step back. The first thing you should do to create an effective RFP is to understand the details of the 5,000 person event. Get all of the information you need. You already know the number of attendees, but what the city in which the event will be held? Will there be any need for workshop or small break out rooms? Has this event occurred before? What about food and beverage needs, audio-visual, shipping and storage, transportation, exhibits, and sleeping accommodations – will everyone need a room or just some? What about Wi-Fi needs of the attendee? By the way, various surveys have shown that meeting attendees find that free Wi-Fi is one the biggest concerns when selecting a meeting venue; as a result, many hotel chains are changing their reward programs to accommodate this demand. The bottom line; there is a myriad of questions to ask about an event before you put a pen to paper and start writing an RFP. I find more often than not, that securing the post event report from the previous event gives you more insight into an event than any question you could ask! Do not overlook this important tool!
Now that you have the event details, you have to add some extras. Adding information that will help the bidder understand how and when you are going to make your decision as well as, who is going to make the decision is crucial. Here are some other items that should included be in your RFP.
- Special considerations such as, the number of airports that service the city and the property’s location in relation to the airport or availability of on site dining options.
- Ask for a detailed description of suppliers who have exclusive rights to operate on the property. Should you choose the location, you may very well have to use these suppliers or pay a surcharge if you choose not to use them as one of your service providers. Sometimes this can be negotiated, but if you don’t know it’s too late after the contract has been signed.
- Wouldn’t you like to know if there is a Star Trek Convention being held at the same time your event is taking place? There’s only one way to find out and that is to request the names and dates of other conventions being held in the city during the dates being proposed for your event.
- A listing of all unions and the expiration dates of contracts in place. You should always be aware of when union contracts come up for negotiation or when they expire (assuming your property is a unionized) for obvious reasons.
After you have amassed the details needed for the event, you can start doing your research. What do I mean by research? I mean getting to the nitty-gritty of to whom your proposal will be sent. There is no better way to get zero responses than to send out what I like to call warm body solicitations. You should know by now in what city the event will be held so decide which properties will receive your RFP. Don’t know which hotels can accommodate a 5,000 person event? No problem. Here are the best ways to get your RFP into the right hands!
- Use the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). They can send out your proposal to all of the properties that meet the requirements of your RFP.
- Send it to the National Account Representative for the particular hotel chain. If you are experienced in the industry, you should have a contact with each of the major hotel chains to whom you can send your RFP. They have the ability to send it to any property that can handle the RFP and what’s best; they’ll follow up to make sure you receive a response!
- Technology can be your best friend in times like these. Here are our favorite and most reliable resources. We use these resources as a “double check” against information provided to us by other sources.
- The use of CVENT’s Supplier Network let’s you create RFP’s and send them directly to hotels and compare bids. The service is free but you have to do the work although they make it relatively easy. They do have an extensive database of properties.
- empowerMINT.com by Destination Marketing Association International is another great resource. It’s free to planners and has a wealth of resources about cities, CVB’s, convention centers and hotels. You can search using various fields and send RFP’s directly to the CVB contacts.
Following these essential steps will eliminate going back and forth over email answering questions from sales executives about information left out of the RFP. It is better to take your time on the front end and put in the necessary information. Put yourself in the shoes of the sales executive and think about if you’ve given that person enough information to properly send you a proposal that addresses every area. If you have the time to do it all over again, then you had time to do it right the first time!