ASAE: Designing better RFPs

This was a very practical, useful, lively session! The session leaders gave us all copies of different types of RFPs, and we went through them to find what they were doing right—and what needs improvement. "People are afraid they'll lose bargaining power if they give too much information up front," said session co-leader Karin Soyster, CAE, CMP, vice president, membership services, American Bakers Association, so they skimp and end up having to answer a bunch of clarifying phone calls. Another thing that planners complain about with RFPs is that they often get a ton of responses from properties that are just wrong for their meetings. Again, she said, you can minimize this by getting very specific about what you want and need.

Some things to include:

Full contact information

Submission and decision dates

Room rate range

History, including ancillary spend (spa, gift shop, restaurants, etc.), block and actual pickup info. If it's a new meeting with no history, include history of similar events your organization has held to give them some idea. About three years or three previous meetings is sufficient.

Where you can and can't be flexible (if you have a dealbreaker, let them know in no uncertain terms)

Break out singles, doubles, double-doubles, etc.

Type of attendee (student, CEOs, construction workers, etc.)

A little about what your organization is and does

A little about the topic of the meeting

Specific type of hotel you're interested in (airport, downtown, resort, etc.)

Preferred patterns and dates

Who in the organization they should respond to, and the preferred method of response (e-mail, fax, etc.)

Detailed meeting and exhibit specifications, including square footage, tabletops, number of exhibits, etc.

AV needs

F&B revenues (especially important if you have a history of lower room rates and make up the difference with lots of F&B)

Required concessions and wish list

Meal function times

Setup schedules

Size of booths for expo

Other items of note:

• Ask attendees to charge as much as possible to their rooms, so the hotel can track their ancillary spending.

• If you're sending the RFP to a CVB, be very specific about what you want (i.e., ask them to only send it to their downtown properties, if that's all you will consider).

• If you say "no calls" but get calls anyway, tell your CVB who didn't comply with your request so they can follow up with a reprimand.

• For your post-con, ask the property for: Singles, doubles, suites used; F&B guarantees vs. actual numbers; ancillary spending.

• Tell the hotel up front that you want them to track your attendees' ancillary spending so they will be able to do it more easily and quickly.

Overall, this was an excellent session. Kudos to Soyster and her fellow presenters, Angela Rios, account manager with Experient; and Dale Encinosa, CHME, national sales manager, Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa. Keep an eye on the ASAE meeting Web site, where they plan to post a list of all their tips soon.

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