After the preliminary research is complete, create a request for proposal (RFP). This allows a property to see, in writing, the information about your group. Preparing the specifications is a valuable process because it requires the planner to think about all the needs of the group. There are many on-line RFPs available in the industry to benchmark and use. Document all site requirements, including:
- Preferred dates and optional dates (if available).
- Number and types of guest rooms.
- Number, size and usage of meeting rooms and the times they are needed.
- Range of acceptable rates.
- Dates and types of meal functions and breaks.
- Exhibits and any other special events or activities.
- Any related information such as complimentary requirements.
Creating an RFP
Some requests for proposals are short. Others may be dozens of pages. It depends on the nature of the meeting and the sponsoring organization’s tastes. The common denominator is that an RFP, also called request for quote, sets forth how the planner wants a meeting facility to accommodate the meeting and help achieve its objectives. Following are items to include in a comprehensive RFP for a fairly complex meeting. An important note: Sending the same RFP form to every property makes comparisons easier. Begin the RFP for a hotel, conference center or other facility with an overview that includes:
- Group or meeting sponsor: Full name of organization (acronym in parenthesis) and a brief description of the sponsor-structure, mission and purpose.
- Contact information: Name(s) including alternate contacts, title(s), address(es), communication numbers (phones, fax, e-mail) and contact times and time zones.
- The meeting: A brief description— purpose, goals and objectives, general format and audience profile.
- History: Up to two years of meeting history—dates, attendance, facility or facilities used, rooms blocked and picked up, and range of rates.
Information to Provide
- Other sites and destinations under consideration. This allows properties to know with whom they are competing.
- Date selection. Determining the acceptable and unacceptable dates provides a structure for a facility to respond with dates that work for your group. If your group has flexibility in when it can meet, state the parameters of the dates or days that will be considered.
Range of rates
- Determine the range of rates offered during the time of the year you’re holding your meeting.
- Provide parameters for rates that will be acceptable to your group.
- Indicate whether those rate parameters include taxes or any additional fees that may be charged.
- Special requirements. There may be special needs or information that will help the facility understand what will make your meeting a success. For example, you may need:
- A specific number of non-smoking or smoking rooms.A variety of restaurants within a few-minute’s walk of the property.
- Low-cost transportation to and from airports.
- More than one or two rooms for persons with disabilities.
- Request names and contact information for meetings of similar size, focus and scope held in last six to 12 months at this property.
- Provide the date by which proposals must be received and what collateral materials (meeting room capacities, menus, AV rate sheets, labor charges, etc.) should be included.
- Describe your organization’s decision process and the date by which a decision is expected. Note that facilities may not hold the dates proposed until they receive a signed contract.
Complete meeting specs
- Sleeping-room block: Describe day-by-day specifications, including early arrivals/late departures; bed and room types; how many guest rooms and what types (suites, singles, double-doubles, ADA-compliant, smoking, nonsmoking) you need to block.
- Space needs: Provide day-by-day description of space needs including registration area, office space, speaker ready room, lounges and all meeting space. Specify the set-up and tear-down times and the actual time of use. Provide either the square footage for each room or the specific room setup including anticipated audiovisual equipment. For example, if your group uses a schoolroom set, specify the size tables and how many chairs (two or three) per table, and how the room should be set.
- Exhibit/display space: Even if your meeting does not feature a full exhibit program, you may have a need for tables for organization, city or vendor literature. For any exhibits or displays, specify net and gross square footage, move-in and move-out times, and load factors for elevators, docks and exhibit halls.