What to include on your event RFPs

At Connect Spring Marketplace citywide meeting planners and convention & visitor bureaus gathered to discuss what information event RFPs (requests for proposals) don’t often include but should.
Hearing this information from the perspective of the meeting planner and the CVB was enlightening. For citywide conferences, meeting planners will almost always submit their bid to the local CVB as they can act as the primary liaison between the convention center and hotels (and there is no one better to sell a destination!). As such, this blog post is geared toward citywide conferences but can easily be applied to all event RFPs.
This post will cover what information to include on your event RFP, preferred RFP formats, the ideal RFP-to-contract timeline, and tips to expedite the process.

Information to include on your event RFP

The CVB and/or venue needs to know the entire value of the meeting so that they are fully equipped to offer the best concessions and rates. Detailed event history and upcoming meeting requirements are vital to prove the value of your event.
Make sure to include the following on your next RFP:
Number 1
Meeting Space Requirements

  • Include a full breakdown of all meeting space requirements with first preference and alternative preference dates.
  • It’s also vital to include rental history; historically, what did you pay at other Convention Centers? This can be tough for meeting planners to share as you want the best rate possible and may feel fearful that showing the (sometimes vastly variable) rates you’ve paid in the past may skyrocket the quote. But the CVB is in a tough position if they approach the Convention Center each time asking for a $0 rate. By sharing what you have paid historically, or even a ballpark of what your budget or ideal spend is, the CVB can quickly estimate if they can match or beat that price in their destination.

Number 2
Event Housing Requirements

  • Room block pickup history. Pace reports & room block pickup reports are ideal.
  • Room block requirements. Typically the CVB will expect that 85% of your block will pick up. This allows the CVB to approximate what your rebates and commissions will be. Typically, room rebates range from $5 – $10/night depending on the destination.
  • Guest room rate history and target rates. This information allows CVBs to quickly compare their hotels’ going rates over your preferred dates to see if they are within target.
  • Housing requirements. Are you planning to use a third party, the CVB, direct-to-hotel links, or manage it yourself through room block management software?

Number 3
ICW (In Conjunction With)
List every event or function that occurs because of, or at the same time as, your primary event. This can quickly add up to increase your event’s overall value. Typically, this includes food & beverage, audiovisual needs, additional meeting space, and transportation.

  • F&B history – this is vital for the value of your event and helps the CVB and/or hotel determine the amount of credit available for your event.
  • AV needs and if you have a preferred supplier.
  • All additional meeting rooms you require for breakout sessions.
  • Transportation needs for the event.

Number 4
Future Locations
Citywide meeting planners typically book their events 2 to 6 years out. It helps to let the CVB know which future locations you are heading to prior to their bid. This gives the CVB a rough idea of how their destination compares to your previously selected destinations.

Number 5
Competing Locations
Typically meeting planners go to bid at 3-5 locations. It helps the CVB if you share the competing locations so they can see who they are up against.

Number 6
The decision process and ideal timeline are helpful for the CVB to be aware of. A timeline ensures they are responding to your RFP within your desired timeframe, or if the request for turnaround is too quick the CVB can let you know a more realistic timeline based on the number of bids before you. Refer to the Event RFP to Contract Timeline section below for more tips on this!
Ultimately anything that you have budgeted for your event should be shared with the CVB as it will paint a picture of the overall value of your event. The more value that you can prove to bring to a destination, the better prepared they are to offer deeper discounts and increased incentives.

Preferred Event RFP Formats

The RFP format is up to the meeting planner, but the most important thing is to have one RFP with all of the information above. If you forget something and start multiple email threads, then things get lost. One clearly laid out RFP with all requisite information is ideal.
Have fun with it! Consider writing your event RFP like a resume that includes a story of the company, company values, event history (both pre, during, and post-Covid), and then all of the necessary information for the bid.

Event RFP to Contract Timeline

The short answer is that there is no ideal timeline from RFP to contract as it varies vastly depending on the size of the event, how busy both the meeting planner and suppliers (CVB/Convention Center/Hotels) are, and how demanding the board is for options. But there are some best practices that can speed the process up including…
Number 1
Send a Complete RFP
Ensure all important bid information is included in the initial RFP. Starting with this off the bat eliminates the time-consuming back-and-forth emails from the CVB who is trying to gauge the full value of your business.

Number 2

Share Your Bid Timeline
Provide a decision process and an ideal timeline for the CVB. Often CVBs are presented with unrealistic turnaround times on RFPs (think under a week). This may work for smaller single-property events, but for citywide events requiring large meeting space, there are many parties involved from the convention center to hotel partners. Additionally, if your preferred dates already have first option holds, then the sales manager needs to reach out to that party to confirm if the dates are in fact available. All of this takes time! The consensus was that 3 weeks is a realistic turnaround time for a citywide event quote.

Number 3
Share Your Decision Timeline
Once a quote is received ensure that the meeting planner continues to communicate with the CVB on the expected decision time. At this stage the meeting planner needs to evaluate all quotes, often transitioning key data points to a spreadsheet for board review. The board and meeting planner then need to review the options & recommendations, compare them to the budget, and make a final decision. The consensus was that 2-3 months was a realistic turnaround to finalize a contract with the desired destination.
Number 4
Transparency is Vital
If both parties are vulnerable enough to show their cards, they are much more likely to reach a preferred deal faster.

Number 5
Relationships Matter
Industry trade shows are important to build and foster relationships. Many meeting planners spoke about meeting CVB sales managers at shows for years prior to signing contracts in their destinations. Having pre-existing relationships makes transparency much easier as trust has been established.

Number 6
Over Communicate
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. When sending your RFP include everything that is in your meeting budget that helps build a case for the value of your event. Any additional information that proves the positive economic impact that your conference will have in the destination will help the CVB secure the best possible rates & concessions for your event bid.
There you have it, our best citywide event RFP tips. Is there anything else that you would include? Feel free to DM us on Instagram and let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

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