The OMG’s of RFP’s

Part of our job as corporate event planners is to respond to RFP’s (Request for Proposals). These are not to be confused with RFQ’s (Request for Qualifications) or RFI’s (Request for Information). Let’s not forget that each of these is looking for something different from you. Of course every organization creates their own RFP’s, RFQ’s and RFI’s so no two are alike in what they are looking for.

What does that mean for someone, like us, who have to do several of them a year? Well, it means we have to customize each one we respond to. That can equate to several hours of time over the course of a year. In the last few years we have done enough of these that we now have several templates for various styles. We have discovered that there is an actual pattern to some of the verbiage that is needed on these as well.

If you are also caught in the nightmare of having to respond to RFP’s the best advice we can give is to thoroughly read the RFP, RFQ or RFI and ask any questions of the contact before sitting down to begin the process of putting it all together. Have more than one person read the document and discuss it to make sure you both think it is requesting the same information. Then respond to each question or category that the RFP highlights. When you have finished preparing the RFP give it another set of fresh eyes and have them look for everything from spelling errors to grammatical mistakes.

Don’t forget that each organization has specific ways that the RFP is to answered. Some want only hard copies and how many varies too. Some want only digital responses and others want it to be submitted via their own virtual servers. Some want a mixture of both and specific paper, margins, font etc. (Yes, it is a lot like doing a report back in high school).  

RFP’s, RFQ’s and RFI’s can be a PIA (pain in the #*!) but once you get the hang of them they become less of a project to be feared and more of a challenge to overcome.

Event Planner University…oh really?

Okay so I may be old fashioned but I was raised to believe that experience is the best teacher so when I see people advertising a six week course called Event Planner University I have to laugh. Sure you can sit in a classroom with a bunch of other wide eyed students expecting to be primed and ready to be an event planner at the end of the class sessions but that is hardly reality.

No classroom teaching can provide the knowledge of what to do when an event you have planned for months is in jeopardy because the night before the event an unexpected week long, city wide power outage hits.  Nobody can teach you how to handle your caterer showing up with partially frozen ribs, one grill and 1500 people to feed in less than an hour. A classroom setting won’t teach you how to handle being short staffed at an event and then having your temporary staffing show up looking like they haven’t seen a shower inside of two months.

The point here is that no matter what kind of preparation you think you need in order to be an event planner the truth is only time and experience will tell if you can handle the realities of this job. You don’t remember to ask the caterer if they are bringing garbage cans until the first time you find yourself at an event with no garbage cans. You don’t make sure the caterers have enough people to buss tables until you find yourself elbows deep in dirty dishes and glassware clearing tables.

Not to mention that no matter how detailed you are, no matter how many contingencies you have planned for there is always something that doesn’t go according to plan. If you truly want to become an event planner then you need some basic core skills: Organized, Detailed, Researcher, Think on your Feet, Common Sense, and Calm in a Crisis, Not easily pushed around but definitely a customer service pro. Of course, all these traits need to be balanced by self-confidence and courage.

My personal recommendation…Save the hundreds of dollars and get an internship at an event planning company and learn from experience. Better yet, intern at a few places and learn how different agencies handle issues that arise. You’ll thank me later.