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Writing an RFP for a Virtual Event? Read This First!

RFPs have a long history of producing mixed results. Well-intentioned authors of RFPs are seeking support from companies they can evaluate and then select the best organization for the job.

Stop and think for a moment. You’d never issue an RFP if you had a life-threatening illness; you’d research the best doctors and treatment options, interview 2–3 physicians, get references, and make a decision based on who has the best track record and who you trust the most. The most important first step is finding a doctor who can correctly diagnose what is wrong. Assuming you know why you’re sick or what is causing it misses the mark.

Think about how you hire real estate agents, contractors, attorneys, accountants, and other professionals in your life. RFPs are a relic of the past and don’t serve the best interest of you or your organization.

There is a better way. Having been on both the sending and receiving ends of RFPs for many years, here’s what I know:

  1. Most RFPs don’t correctly diagnose the problem to be solved and thus resort to asking for a response that answers the required questions rather than allowing the RFP recipient to ask the right questions. A problem well defined is half solved, and most RFPs miss the mark by seeking a solution rather than asking for help defining the root cause of the problem to be solved.
  2. Most RFPs don’t allow the recipients to provide the best advice and solution as a result of rigid response parameters intended to enable the author to make easy, side-by-side comparisons. This leads to a race to the bottom and better sameness rather than allowing the respondent to break the mold and provide a bigger and potentially more effective solution. Don’t ask your RFP respondents to give you the answer – that’s what they get paid for. Ask them how they’d approach the problem, who they solved this problem for in the past, and what their approach will be to make you successful.
  3. RFPs seldom reach the best array of potential firms that could be your best long-term partner. And they also limit firms that have deep category expertise that may not be well known or understood as an option for the author of the RFP. Reaching out to the usual suspects is easy, but is that what you want? Don’t you want to know who can help you redefine the problem and take you to a higher level of success? Of course, you do.

So, if you accept this premise, try this approach on for size:

  • Host a video call and invite the three companies that you have researched and tell them the symptoms of your organization's problem; tell them what you’ve done to address it, explain what has worked and what hasn’t, give them a budget range you’re willing to invest and then schedule an interview with each company a week later allowing them to ask any questions they like.
  • Based on those three calls, formulate a simple two-page problem statement resulting from the above process and send it to the three firms (assuming you still think they all are qualified). Give them 10 days to get back to you with no more than a three-page proposal for what they would do to solve your problem.
  • And finally – and I believe your best option – consider skipping the RFP process altogether and hire a company to define the problem and outline the opportunities to succeed. From there, either hire them to do the work or to quarterback the selection of firms that are best positioned to be your dream team.

Virtual events are here to stay, and you’re going to need a long-term partner who will help you design, monetize, market, deliver, measure, and build muscle for a new future of how people meet, do business, learn, and solve problems.

The old playbook of submitting an RFP is over. Now is the time to adapt to a new way of doing business.

For more insight and details on how to succeed in this new era of live and virtual event transition, please subscribe below to receive more information.

The future is bright for those who are willing to change how they define their event strategy, design, and delivery approach.

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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