There’s no doubt that more meeting planners are using online request for proposal (RFP) systems. Just look at the stats shared by McNeel Keenan, a sales executive for Cvent, the country’s largest event management software company.
Two years ago Cvent received 16,811 online RFPs. This year, it expects to process some 800,000, according to Keenan.
Several industry trends are making online RFPs more popular. Because of budget constraints and tight schedules, meeting planners are making fewer site visits, Keenan said. Because staffs have been cut, there are also more nonprofessionals in planning roles. And as booking windows have gotten smaller, geographic considerations for venues have widened, he said.
Cvent’s online RFP system is only one of the event management services the company offers, and more planners are using it. One reason is that the service is free to meeting planners.
Another is that Cvent’s Supplier Network also gives meeting planners access to a large number of possible venues, more than 100,000.
The Cvent’s system is also easy to use, providing aids to meeting planners. A four- to five-step proposal wizard guides planners as they prepare their first RFP; Cvent reps will also stay on the phone with planners as they create their first proposal.
Proposals typically return quickly. Although Cvent recommends that planners allow about a week, many venues respond within 24 hours. The RFPs that planners receive in their Cvent accounts can be compared side by side in an easy to view format.
Keenan had several recommendations for planners who want to use electronic RFP systems like Cvent’s. Among them:
• Be thorough. Gather all the information at the front end.
• Be flexible. Flexible dates will yield the best results.
• Be realistic. Look at venues that fit budget and mission.
• Show event history. Provide background from past meetings.
• Set a reasonable deadline.
• Get multiple bids
• Compare bids wisely, from the costs of gratuities and taxes