In the meeting and event industry, there are a couple of standard practices that need to be re-assessed:
- requesting proposals with detailed creative briefs and venue suggestions
- asking speakers and trainers to work for free “to gain exposure”
These practices lead to a number of abuses yet they are so common that one dare not challenge them without developing a reputation for being “difficult.”
Let’s look at each of these practices and consider some alternatives.
A broken RFP process
For planners, preparing detailed RFPs requires laboring for many hours and sometimes days—this amounts to giving away one’s work for free. The following video highlights the absurdity of this practice.
Often, the organizations that request detailed RFPs, seem to fall of the face of the earth. It’s called “mining proposals” and the proposals are subsequently handed over to an internal employee or an external planner with lower rates for execution.
Speaking for free
We have previously highlighted concerns about asking professionals to speak for free. Experienced speakers and facilitators are invited to speak for free in order to “gain exposure.” (This is particularly absurd when the speaker has decades of experience.) The premise is that this free engagement will lead to future business—but this rarely happens. Conference and meeting participants don’t pay hefty fees in order to scout talent. They expect to receive value.
People don’t just mosey on down to the Lamborghini dealership and see if they will give you a free car as a method of promotion. One would never think of going to an expensive restaurant and asking for a free meal to determine if you want to eat there in the future. (Some venues do give taste tests for weddings or events but this is either for a fee or as part of the menu-selection process after the venue has been booked with a deposit.)
Speaker Tarran Deane discussed this absurdity aptly.
What are some alternatives?
Bring in the RFIs
A better approach is to use requests for information (RFI) process. The RFI addresses some key questions that are crucial for decision-making. The goal is to uncover enough information to determine whether or not the event professional would be a good fit for the assignment.
- Outline your requirements including preferred dates, group size, goals and objectives and budget.
- Describe the group.
- Describe what you have tried in the past including what worked well and what you don’t want to repeat.
- Ask for brief examples of work on similar assignments or projects.
Request information about:
- the length of time the meeting planner or event company has been in business
- experience in serving clients in your industry and your area or country
- travel expenses and accommodations required
- payment terms and conditions
If the planner has video or photo examples, it’s a good idea to request them.
Once you have identified your preferred vendor, ask for references as a final check.
If you have narrowed your selection down to a couple of vendors, pay a consulting fee and ask for a more detailed proposal or creative brief. This fee will be deductible from the final invoice for the selected vendor.
Alternatives to free speaking
Sometimes budgets are tight and event planners make an argument for asking speakers and facilitators to waive their fees. Consider the following strategies in addition to the options that we previously discussed.
- Reduce the length of your meeting or conference and adjust the scope of the agenda accordingly.
- Increase the admission price.
- Offer something of tangible value to speakers. (e.g. ads, a complimentary trade show booth, distribution of promotional material before or after the conference or meeting).
These strategies should reduce stress for event planners, speakers and facilitators. Have you ever tried any of these strategies? Please weigh in and give your point of view about current industry RFP and speaker engagement practices.