“Take a step back, take a minute and realize that you didn’t just survive through the pandemic; you actually thrived, and awareness of your value and the value of what we all do is at an all-time high,” spoke Emily Scheiderer, director of education, sales and services at Destinations International, during last week’s Smart Chat Live! webinar, “The RFP of the Future.”
Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board Senior Vice President of Sales and Services Darren Green joined Scheiderer to talk about the evolution of how meetings are planned after all the industry has been through.
In addition to brainstorming what post-pandemic proposals should include and what elements of the event and its preparation should be emphasized, both leaders zeroed in on the power of partnerships amid conversations over RFPs.
An Appetite for True Partnership
Events touch every industry. Building stronger partnerships, then, is a planning strategy that can touch every aspect of your event. “The partnership is really a lot deeper…than it was in the past,” Scheiderer remarked. “And that unity is adding strength to the industry and it’s creating a new perception of value to stakeholders on both sides.”
As events return and instill hope in many hearts, RFPs take new shape. The value of working closely and collaboratively with CVBs, DMOs and other partners supporting your event—and doing so with not only consideration, but care for how your event may affect their city, business or organization—is clearer than ever.
“You can touch those in the community with a real-life experience. Nothing else equals that, and that’s why you want to leave that lasting impression,” Green said. You want to leave the right impression on both your attendees and the people who want to be your resources.
Developing a better RFP entails reevaluating your business events strategy, Scheiderer explained. What is producing the ‘RFP of the Future’ “is [the] stepping away from copy-and-paste RFPs and really looking at how you can partner to really make change,” Scheiderer continued. Forming strong, mutually beneficial partnerships and creating more thoughtful RFPs go hand-in-hand when you’re taking a more holistic approach to planning that focuses on intentional collaboration.
More than ever, planners are turning to CVBs and recognizing them as an invaluable resource. Moreover, RFP talks between planners and partners are leading to less of a simple “transactional exchange” and more “reciprocal value” in their relationship, as Scheiderer termed it.
Everyone’s needs look different; everyone is keenly aware of the intricacies of liability clauses, and uncertainty still lingers in some areas of global business and events as industries readjust. That is why an honest and meaningful dialogue is pivotal at this time.
Strengthening Trust Through RFPs
Both you and your partner want to ensure safety and accessibility at the event—it’s a liability issue. But community also means something different to us now than it did two years ago. Green initiatives, Covid safety protocols and accessibility for attendees spend more time on the table. The event production team and partners, alike, want to prioritize public, economic and environmental health, whether that’s for attendees or the destination’s residents and local businesses.
We’re seeing the CVB assume greater importance as a go-to resource for planners. “We were the trusted sources,” Green said. “We work very closely with our county boards and the state.” Travel bureaus are your best friends, giving the most accurate, current information on what regulations need to be in place—a major concern on the minds of many event attendees (and event production personnel).
“In terms of building a relationship with a CVB right now, it’s more important than ever,” Green began. He told us that his average seller has been partnered with the tourism and convention board for at least five years. “But that time has allowed us to build relationships with our customers,” Green added.
Investing time, business and genuine concern in your relationships with CVBs, sellers and other partners improves the experiences of your attendees, your resources in the destination and those relationships with partners, clients and attendees. It’s time to include the host city’s CVB in your RFP planning.
The pandemic has rewritten how we address topics like the environmental impact of our events on the host city, the economic impact of both parties and building trust with our collaborators through DEI, having the right protocols in place and having real conversations. A stronger, successful partnership takes a holistic RFP.