by Mimi Almeida | July 01, 2011

One of the most important partners of any large-scale meeting is the production company, a firm that handles elements including videos, scripts, lighting, sound and staging. Choosing the right partner to produce your event can be a daunting task. Following are tips to ease the process.

Creating the RFP The first step in crafting a request for proposal is to consider what type of event will be produced (product launch, educational or scientific symposium, virtual or hybrid conference, etc.). Send RFPs only to vendors who are familiar with events that match yours in type and scale.

To find vendors, seek recommendations from other meeting professionals you know and trust. Other good resources are industry organizations such as Meeting Professionals International or local convention and visitor bureaus.

Be sure to include the following in your RFP:

• State your budget. If you don't know exactly what to allocate for production, provide a rough range, perhaps 20-25 percent of your overall program budget. This will save time as you evaluate proposals and will also put forward a reasonable working vision for the vendors.

• Provide specifics.
Include program objectives, history, the number of participants, attendee demographics and essential media elements, along with the agenda.

• Ask for details. Request line-item detail of overall costs, including setup and teardown within suggested time frames; staging and décor concepts; specific equipment recommended; and labor estimates, including specific staff and crew members and cost of overtime. Anticipated tech and speaker rehearsals also should be incorporated into the RFP, as costs for these activities can mount quickly.

• Seek suggestions. If you are looking for vendor recommendations on the latest equipment or the best type of media to deliver your message, state so in the RFP under the category "request for vendor suggestions or creativity."

• State conditions. Spell out the requirements vendors must meet in order to win the bid (e.g., response within specified time, proposal within your budget range).

• Be reasonable. Give bidders ample time to research and produce a comprehensive proposal for your business.

Selection Criteria Once RFPs are received, evaluate the completed proposals. Typical criteria includes vendor quality, as evidenced in samples of work, pricing, understanding of the subject matter, track record within your industry, the quality of the proposal, creative use of media, etc.

Be diligent about checking references. Some good questions to ask:

• How did the vendor team handle last-minute changes from a logistics and budgetary standpoint?

• How effectively did they interface with the client team, speakers and management?

• How did the audience respond to the productions?

A talented production team will have the proven ability to deliver your message in a creative and technically flawless manner, leaving an impression on the audience that supports your program's goals.