The RFP Sets the Stage

Preparing a thorough and accurate RFP when you are shopping for a hotel or other venue for your events is the critical first step to the financial and programmatic success of your meeting.  The RFP forms the basis for the proposals you will receive from the venues you are considering and  if written correctly, can outline and limit your financial exposure.  

Spend time to create a model template for your largest event and then tailor smaller events around it.  Every meeting you conduct should have an RFP.  It assures that all your venues are working from the same information and gives you the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison, category by category. 

Your RFP should be prepared and sent on your organization’s letterhead with your name (email) and title if you are receiving and/or reviewing the proposals.

Here are the key items to include --- and be as specific as possible.

·        A brief description of your organization, its goals and history.

·        The name of the meeting along with its purpose and history.  If conducted previously, provide the names of the last three venues (the hotels will verify room performance, etc.).

·        The proposed dates along with any flexibility you might have with the dates and/or the pattern of events.

·        The expected guest room block, by day.  Be sure to specify types of accommodations and then total everything in a table or spreadsheet.  Indicate if you are handling housing internally or if the guests will be contacting the hotel directly.  If so, request a direct link to hotel reservations for your registrants to use. Clearly state your expectations for how the hotel will handle oversold situations when your attendees may potentially be “walked".   Don’t forget my advice on attrition --- (see previous blogs) and ask for an 80% performance clause with your room pick-up calculated on a cumulative basis (not by night).

·        Require that the room rate be confirmed 12 months out. If you are booking many years in advance, agree on a baseline that will increase no more than 2-3% per year.  Also remember you should be seeking the lowest rate in the hotel over those dates for any group of comparable size.

·        Your meeting room requirements.  This should include a preliminary (but specific) schedule of events that includes the day, time, and room set-up (theater, classroom, hollow square, conference, rounds, etc.).  If you have concurrent sessions, indicate how many.  Be sure to include a registration area with a general idea of the size and  set-up and your preferred  location. Try to make maximum use of the meeting space to avoid unnecessary room re-sets.  Be sure to specify which, if any rooms, are required on a 24-hour hold (like your staff office, A/V storage, etc.).

·         If you have exhibits and/or general sessions, be sure to provide both square footage and number of booths for exhibits or the stage size, set and number of guests for the general sessions. Build in set-up and dismantling dates and times  for both.  But speak with your production company and/or exhibit contractor to determine what they need.  Don’t assume you can guess at this!

·        Expected food & beverage spend and a request for at least a 10% discount off the prevailing catering menu prices.  Request confirmed menus prices one year in advance.

·        Payment and billing arrangements – what are you, as the organizer covering, and what is billed to the individual guests.

·        The concessions you require (review previous blogs for a starter list).

·        The date by which responses must be received and when you expect to make a decision.

·        Are you making a site visit in advance?  You may select a hotel subject to a site visit to assure yourself that the venue is exactly as advertised, that the guest rooms are in excellent shape (when they were last refurbished), and that the meeting space you will be assigned is in the most desirable location, offers a good flow and are also in good shape (carpeting, chairs, tables, etc.).

Of course, after the proposal comes the contract, by which you will be bound -- so be extremely diligent in comparing the proposal (with your changes) to the contract you receive.  Review previous blogs on hotel contracts to be sure you receive exactly what you need from the venue.

And remember, you are partners with these venues and success comes when business benefits both parties.  Hopefully your first experience with the venue will provide a long-term & model relationship with the hotel.