by Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP | October 01, 2007

Question: Do you still go to bid on your A/V, rooms, security, transportation, meeting space, etc., even if you know which vendor you want to use or if your client or organization has mandated one of their own strategic partners?

The answer: Absolutely. Due diligence and accurate market rate analysis require at least three bids, whether or not you have a procurement directive.

Do Homework

If you want to get back decent proposals, send out quality requests for proposal. A superior proposal contains meticulous, accurate and comprehensive information. Here’s what should be included.

* A note at the top of each page stating the information contained is confidential.

* A specific request that your RFP not be shared with other vendors. It does happen, especially if the vendor you invite to bid is unable to do so and passes the bid on to others in hopes that they will reciprocate in the future.

If an RFP is nontransferable, breach of this request is unethical and should be grounds for future disqualification of that vendor.

* Questions that will measure their ability to do the job. Among them:

1) Size of company. Is the firm big enough or too big?

2) Location. Will this affect cost?

3) Experience. Does the vendor know your company/industry?

4) References. Can they provide testimonials?

5) Samples. Will they provide CAD (computer-aided design) drawings, photographs or a tasting?

6) Differentiators. Ask what separates them from their competitors.

What to leave out of the RFP: The company’s name or identity. If you are requesting nondisclosure of the information contained in your request for proposal, be sure to omit all logos and references to your company or client.

Bidding Out

If you want to get at least three bids, request them from a minimum of four vendors. Chances are, at least one will fail to respond.

*Sending style. Will your bid be dynamic (online auction) or static (mailed or e-mailed proposals)? Some large planning firms have proprietary systems to handle the entire bid process online, which streamlines the task to allow for efficient evaluation.

*Timing. Give vendors enough time to respond. Two weeks should be adequate (one week for them to receive the RFP and ask questions/get responses from you; another week to prepare their proposal).

* Fair treatment. Treat all vendors fairly by providing the same information and same advantages to all.

Analyze This

A spreadsheet is the easiest and most accurate method to compare apples to apples (especially in the case of food and beverage bids). Beyond price, be sure to consider the following, which also could impact overall costs:

*A/V and production: Familiarity with your group, the space and/or the industry can translate to many dollars saved, even if the bid is not the lowest.

*Food and beverage. What is the tax and gratuity? Is the gratuity taxed? This can equate to six-figure savings for a large, multiday conference.

*Meeting space. What equipment/setup is included in the cost?

*Sleeping rooms. Are room rates commissionable?

*Transportation. Carefully compare quality and type of vehicles.

Follow Up

Reply to all companies that have submitted proposals. Let them know you appreciate the effort, time and money put into their proposal, and, if policy permits, let them know who was chosen and why.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.