By most forecasters’ accounts, organizations will be getting back to mass, in-person gatherings by the fourth quarter of this year or in early 2022. And for the planning of these events, many are going to need event planners. Typically, event hosts see their first step in getting the right event planner as calling for an RFP (Request for Proposal), but to that I say, “not so fast.” Here are a few reasons why you might want to re-think that step or choose to take it later.
Why the RFP might not be where you want to start
Traditionally, the RFP (Request for Proposal), has been the starting point for selecting and engaging vendors for the planning and production of your mass event, both in the corporate and non-profit arena. While the RFP is a structured way of getting specific vendor information, it is not always the most efficient way of assessing needs for your event and determining how well-suited a vendor is to fulfill those needs.
RFPs can be expensive and time consuming to create and often require an undue amount of time on the part of the preparer. Creating and responding to them can easily become complex, cumbersome and time-consuming endeavors. The process itself has often proven to be a stressful undertaking for both client and preparer, oftentimes rendering unsatisfactory results for both.
In addition to the demands they place on time and resources, many of the standard RFPs require a lot of extraneous information that does not help you in defining your specific needs for the event or in assessing the planner’s ability to deliver on services.
Overuse of the RFP process can potentially alienate prospective bidders when they find the demands of the process to be unreasonable, when it interferes with their productivity, or when they perceive an overreliance on unnecessary paperwork on the requestor’s part.
The RFI – A Call Your Planner is willing to take
While there are several good reasons not to start with an RFP, it just simply may not be the best way to get the information you need to get the ball rolling for your event. When you’re looking for general information, have questions about where to begin, or need help in assessing your specific needs, you may need to start with a Request for Information (RFI) instead. That is a call that a potential event planner would be willing to answer.
An RFI is the formal means of getting general information from vendors and can help clarify your own needs as well as assess the potential planner’s ability to meet those needs. This could be gathered from a conversation, an email, Zoom Call, or through some other means of direct communication with a possible vendor.
Your bidders’ responses will not only demonstrate their expertise, but the faster turnaround in responses can help you in determining next steps to meet your planning needs. With what you learn from this initial step, you may, if warranted, move on from there to the RFP.
Now we can talk
A much better use of any organization’s time and resources, whether it be corporate or non-profit, is for them to really dig deep into the general idea of what they need, to find potential event planners already in their network and then reach out to them to have a general conversation. This can lead to getting proposals that aren’t just filled with useless information but are more targeted towards their actual needs and what they’re really looking to do.
In reality, the best use of everyone’s time is to have a conversation first and allow the experts to dig deep into your needs, so what they’re supplying you is not just some pie-in-the-sky idea, but what they’re supplying you is a direct answer to what you need to execute whatever the event may be.
There needs to be an exploratory conversation that happens between any event planner and a potential client to understand their needs, understand what they’ve had in the past, what’s worked and what hasn’t. This can help you determine if you need help with fundraising, have A/V needs, need help with securing a venue, or even if you need a production company at all. After having such a conversation, it just might turn out that what you need is not a full-service event planning and production company – a conclusion that could have more easily, reasonably, and economically been determined by using a simpler process than the RFP requires.
Who to call
Move within the network you know. Believe it or not, your network is probably going to be the best resource for you in locating any good service provider. People, not paperwork, can often help you in determining who the best contenders are to get the job done that you need done. Your own network is likely going to be the best resource for you in locating any good service provider – People whose events you have attended – People who have attended your events – People you know who know of good event planners and are able to refer them to you.
If you are an organization who thinks you are looking for an event planner, you may want to hold off on issuing an RFP just yet – at least until you get a clearer understanding of what your needs will be. Then, we will gladly take your call.