If you ask most people about the frustrations in their lives, they’ll probably mention things like mosquitos, traffic jams, and overbearing bosses.
If you ask someone in the event production business, you’re liable to get a very different answer: Requests for Proposals, better known as “RFPs.”
Few in the industry doubt the need for the RFP process – in fact, it’s the most common way for event production companies to land new clients.
The concept is fairly simple: a client wants to produce a meeting or event, and seeks a production company to help out. To ensure an “apples to apples” comparison, the client creates a common set of parameters for the event and asks multiple companies to provide ideas and bids. The RFP challenges the event producers to demonstrate their finest creative ideas and budget plans.
In other words, “may the best company win.”
During the process, the client will probably meet with key members of each production company to get a feel for the working relationship. When conducted correctly, the RFP process is positive and fair, providing an efficient way for one production company to rise to the top.
The decision is simply driven by the bottom line. You can pity the attendees at the resulting meeting, which is certain to be boring, uninspiring, and ridden with clichés.
In practice, however, RFPs are ripe for abuse, which can result in confusion, wasted resources, and a big hit to morale.
“The greatest events happen when there’s a close collaboration between the production company and the client,” said Meg Lohr, senior international account manager for Corporate Magic, a leading events production company based in Dallas. “That collaboration begins with the RFP. If the process is done openly and transparently, it usually means that the ongoing relationship will be positive, too. If that’s not the case, look out.”
One of the first things the production company wants to know is: who’s running the show? If the marketing and communication department is taking the lead, it’s probably a good sign. But if the procurement department is in charge, it could be a bad omen.
“Too often, RFPs are created and managed by procurement departments, not the people who are actually responsible for the quality of the event,” Lohr said. “When this happens, the content provided is usually very limited and focused on the price.”
When the procurement department takes the lead, the client might simply be fulfilling a requirement to get multiple bids. The client probably doesn’t care who you are, what you’ve done in the past, or even your vision for their event. The decision is simply driven by the bottom line. You can pity the attendees at the resulting meeting, which is certain to be boring, uninspiring, and ridden with clichés.
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