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Effective Meeting Execution

"How to Create a Compelling RFP"
By Lindsay Groff, Vice President, Premier Meeting Solutions

The first, and perhaps the most important step in finding the perfect location for your next conference, convention or tradeshow begins with creating a request for proposal (RFP). Creating a compelling RFP is both an art and a science, and should not be taken lightly.

Consider these 7-Tips before drafting your next request for proposal:

1.  The Devil is in the Details

It is tempting to dismiss the seemingly mundane details as unnecessary fluff, but hotel partners argue that it's often the small things that help clients get the best deals. By noting the nuances, such as higher activity in the lobby bar during free evenings, hotels can see the total value that the group brings. The ability to back up this claim with data from past events is even better. The RFP is also the place to note any known "hot button" issues. List any deal breakers within the notes section to give advance notice of any items that could potentially cause the group hesitation in signing the contract.

2.  History Repeats Itself

Displaying a few key stats from prior meetings on the RFP will help the hotel get a better understanding of the group's preferences. A chart can be inserted with the following information about past conferences:

  • Dates
  • Hotel name
  • City/state
  • Room rate
  • Number of rooms blocked
  • Number of rooms picked up
  • Food and beverage minimum
  • Food and beverage actual

These key items help paint a picture of your group and will allow the hotel to see if they would be a good fit.

3.  Who? When? Where? Why?

Take the mystery out of the situation and let the reader know upfront the: who, when, where and why questions surrounding your meeting.

  • Who will be making the decision? Is it the Executive Director, the President, or both? Express what is important. State the driving factors behind the decision making process.
  • When do you anticipate the contract will be signed? Is this a quick turnaround or a long approval process? Be sensitive to end of month/end of quarter pressures that hotel salespeople face.
  • Where will the contract be signed? Sales territories are divided by region or state. Where the client is based sometimes dictates which salesperson you are assigned.
  • Why should the hotel bid on your business? That's the question you should ask yourself during the entire process to create a compelling RFP!

4.  Communication is a Two-Way Street

Hoteliers often express disappointment in the communication process with meeting planners after a proposal has been sent. They liken the deafening silence to their proposal being lost in the abyss. Remember to keep your hotel counterpart in the loop with a simple email notice about the progress, however insignificant it may seem. Doing so alleviates some of the pressure that is often placed on hotel salespeople from their higher-ups who want to know if they think they have made a sale.

5.  Walk in the Hotelier's Shoes

Think about your RFP from the hotel's perspective. It sounds simple, but it is often forgotten to think of the person on the other side of the negotiation throughout the process. What information does the hotel need to offer the most attractive proposal? At the end of the day, hotels are in business to satisfy their customers and make a profit. Thinking of the process as a win-win will almost always make the process smoother. To take it one step further, engage in conversation with one of your friendly hotel salespersons. Ask them if your client's business is desirable. You might be surprised at the response and the willingness to share in order to mutually meet the needs of the group.

6.  Take a Cue from Gumby

Be flexible! Every group wants the most desirable location for their meeting, whether it is downtown in a first tier city or an oceanfront luxury resort. Just as in the real estate market, top locations come at a premium. A quick education on the benefits of locations that don't exactly meet the criteria might cause the group to consider alternate options. Information such as public transportation, recent suburban developments and, of course, the potential dip in room rate. On the flip side, if you know your group will reject any location other than downtown or on the beach, note this explicitly on the RFP to avoid wasting time on everyone's part.

7.  Give your RFP a Makeover

Increase the desirability and overall attractiveness of your group's business. Sometimes, as a meeting planner, you need to have a frank discussion with your client. If they are rate sensitive, meeting space intensive and have a mile-long concessions wish list, they may not be getting many bites for their business. Taking the time to explain the rooms-to-space ratio, as well as other key components that hotels use to evaluate the desirability of the business, will lead to a more attractive RFP. In times of economic downturn, hotel salespeople must answer to revenue managers. Brush-up on the key factors involved in the hotel bidding process to educate yourself on what makes one group more attractive than another.

In summary, the RFP process need not be daunting, or something that you push to the bottom of your to-do list. Instead, follow these suggestions to help navigate you through the challenges of finding an opportunistic match for your client's next event. What you'll find waiting on the other side of this equation are appropriate proposals from fully informed hotels who cannot wait to do business with such an organized and knowledgeable partner.

Premier Meeting Solutions provides expertise in hotel site selection and contract negotiations to clients representing a wide variety of industries and professions in both the corporate and non-profit arenas. Premier Meeting Solutions is a strategic business partner of Fernley & Fernley, Inc., America's First Association Management Company.