Michael Begley, CEO of venuedirectory.com
The past couple of years have been a game changer for the business events industry as planners had to learn how best to adapt to an ever-evolving business climate during the pandemic. As the industry powers back into life with a busy calendar of meetings and events, the RFP process evolved and is playing a crucial role in the sector’s recovery.
The RFP is really the linchpin in the relationship between planners and potential suppliers and is often considered the cornerstone to improving the venue sourcing process and maximising ROI.
However, the RFP hasn’t always been so impactful. It used to be a fairly minimal process whereby planners selected venues and requested basic information – about capacity, parking, facilities – and usually via email (or, looking back to my early days in the industry, even fax!). That was far from straightforward and often resulted in long email threads containing spreadsheets and word documents. An arduous and time-consuming way to source event venues, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Integrated RFP – benefits to both buyer & supplier
Thankfully, we’re now in a brave new world and welcoming a new breed of RFP. Digitally integrated solutions are now available which deliver significant benefits for both planner and venue. Planners – whether they are working for agencies or corporates or independent – can now easily can search for venues, enquire, book, track, invoice, report and make commission claims – all in one place. Access to real-time availability ensures the process is easy and efficient and real transparency to the whole process. Put simply, if a venue inputs a price and a description, this is what the buyer will see mere moments later.
Likewise, many venues, from worldwide hotel groups to dedicated venues, can benefit from the digital integration on offer. They can easily track and manage enquiries, benefit from the wider distribution platform and – ultimately – convert more business. Venues can process enquiries without duplicating the information across multiple systems. This frees up a large amount of time and allows venues to dedicate resources in a much more meaningful way.
Buyer questions around inclusivity, accessibility & sustainability
What’s more, the RFP now encompasses a greater level of detail that can be passed between the buyer and supplier. The process now includes a breakdown of charges, the categories they sit in as well as the price along with any commissions or enhancements that might be included. Alongside this we’re now seeing more questions around inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability as these issues move higher up the agenda. These questions encompass many elements ranging from modern slavery, gender neutral toilets, to recycling practices among others.
The level of data is now so comprehensive that planners no longer need to spend time on questions around basic details, allowing them to focus on the specificities needed within the proposal. I’ve seen questions around sustainability crop up with increasing frequency and, as we journey to the Net Zero goal in 2050, I only expect this frequency to increase. However, I have my doubts as to whether planet-friendly practices really influence the buying process. In my experience, location and price, particularly as the economic downturn starts to bite, remain the key considerations. My hope is that sustainability moves beyond being a mere tick box exercise and becomes a much more fundamental and significant part of the decision process. When that happens we’ll see the RFP process evolve once again, no doubt.
‘Great events begin with a great RFP’
An RFP can give planners immense strategic and tactical value. Investing time in the RFP process can deliver major benefits that improve the overall quality of event. It also helps to set the tone and aids in creating transparency so both parties are aware of expectations. In short, great events begin with a great RFP.