Resources and Tools

RFP Techniques

How an RFP Can Help You

A Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a great tool to help you and your organization get what you want from your service partners. The following tips may help as you go through the RFP process.

Why have an RFP?
An RFP serves as a good starting point for any negotiation. It allows you to define your terms and get exactly what you want. It also allows you to comparison shop based on what is most important to you and your organization.

When might you use an RFP?
  • Site selection
  • Hotel/convention center
  • General service contractor
  • Audio visual service contractor
  • Registration services
  • Destination management service
  • Security
  • Transportation
What belongs in your RFP?
  • Your organizational overview - who you are and what you're about.
  • Contact information for the primary decision maker(s).
  • Event specific information including the event's purpose and details about the attendees.
  • The event schedule- details about show dates and times, including move-in and out schedules so services can be accurately quoted.
  • Budget information and the value of the business.
  • Other revenue opportunities - the more information you provide about your requirements, the better information you should receive back about a service provider's capabilities.
  • Any unique challenges your event will pose including time lines, language needs, simultaneous events, specialized attendee requirements, etc.
  • Decision criteria and time line- let them know if there will be an opportunity to present in person and when you expect to receive the proposal.
Other important information to include:
  • How will the contract be awarded?
  • Where and in what format should the proposal be submitted?
  • Who can answer questions that may arise?
  • What is most important to your organization - is cost most important? Experience in a particular facility or city? Overall capabilities of provider?
Do's and Don'ts
  • Do identify and pre-qualify vendors so you don't waste time.
  • Do tell the vendors as much about your requirements as possible.
  • Do send the RFP out with plenty of time to respond, especially for large or complex requirements.
  • Do your budget in advance.
  • Do award the project on the date indicated.
  • Do award the project based on the criteria you specified.
  • Do tell vendors why they didn't win the project.
  • Don't use the RFP to get new ideas for your event.
  • Don't expect a response tomorrow.
  • Don't use the RFP to plan your budget.
  • Don't award the project based on favoritism or politics

Site Selection Tips


This is a broad checklist of basic items you might consider or inspect when evaluating a facility. Using this as a starting point, you can create your own show-specific checklist.

Citywide considerations

  • City building codes
  • Exclusive availability of city-owned parking lots
  • Fire and safety requirements for the convention center or hall
  • Fire and safety requirements for exhibits
  • Interstate transportation situation
  • Local ordinances governing alcohol service
  • Local events during show dates
  • Planned construction and/or street repair near facility during show dates
  • Taxi regulations and contracts
  • Traffic control procedures during move-in/move-out

Labor considerations

  • Labor situation/work stoppage possibilities
  • Union contract requirements
  • Union jurisdictions
  • Policy on portable exhibits (drayage, installation & dismantle)

Facility specifications

  • Access and accommodations for the disabled
  • Available equipment and services for exhibitors
  • Available equipment and services for show management
  • Business services
  • Catering facilities - capabilities, distance from food function areas
  • Ceiling heights
  • Column placements
  • Concession stands - location, number
  • Crate and other storage areas
  • Distance to airport/train station/bus terminal
  • Elevators/escalators
  • Emergency medical facilities
  • Entrances to hall - accessibility, locations, number, number of required open entrances
  • Exhibit area limitations
  • Exhibit hall "dead" areas (those in front of emergency exits, airwall storage areas, fire extinguisher locations, etc.)
  • Exhibit space location in relation to entrances, meeting rooms, food function areas, etc.
  • Expansion or remodeling plans
  • Fire safety management systems
  • Floor construction material
  • Floor load limits
  • Floorplan of exhibit area
  • Freight acceptance
  • Hall damage (dock doors unable to open or close, forklift holes in walls, etc.)
  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning control - number and location of vents
  • In-house services available (audio visual, security etc.)
  • Lighting - task and auxiliary lighting
  • Service desk areas
  • Shuttle bus access
  • Signage
  • Soundproofing/acoustics
  • Storage and other specialized areas for exhibitor's lounge, press rooms, secured storage areas, show management offices
  • Telephones - in hall line availability, number and location of public phones
  • Trash storage areas and pickup schedule
  • Truck/car access to exhibit floor - locations and number
  • Utilities - availability, type available, water, drains, compressed air, electricity

The Great Freight Debate


"Why does it cost me more to move my shipment from the dock to my booth and back again than it does to ship it across the country?"

You probably hear this quite often, and so do we. The following background information might help you answer that question.

Material handling is labor intensive. There's more "handling" in material handling than there is in shipping. Labor and equipment are expensive; therefore material handling is expensive too.

When an exhibit is shipped from Los Angeles to Chicago for example, the materials are picked up by a driver, but loaded by someone else. The driver hauls the materials from Los Angeles to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago, someone other than the driver unloads the materials. The cost for shipping includes services limited to the transport of materials from one point to another and typically requires only one person - the driver.

Material handling can require the use of many trade unions and requires:

  • Labor and equipment to marshal the vehicles bringing freight to show site
  • Labor and equipment to unload and deliver the materials to the booth and verify the shipment against the bill of lading
  • Labor and equipment to collect empty crates and load them onto trucks for storage during the show
  • Trucks and drivers to haul the empties to an off-site storage facility
  • Rental of storage facility
  • Trucks and drivers to return the empties to the convention center
  • Labor and equipment to unload the empties and return them to the proper booths
  • Labor and equipment to pickup the repacked materials, check them, and re-load them onto the trucks for outbound shipments

Frequently, material handling will take place during overtime hours after the close of a show. The return of empty containers generally takes place throughout the night after the show ends. It can take up to an hour for a forklift and crew to deliver or pick up one single crate between the area where a truck is unloaded or loaded and an exhibitor's booth space. This delay is caused by narrow aisles and congestion due to crates pushed into the aisles during short move-in and move-out schedules.

Today's shows are becoming larger and turnaround times are tighter. Convention center expansions are putting the squeeze on land previously available for marshalling yards and storage facilities, and a boom in construction limits the availability of heavy equipment in major cities.

In the past, trucks would either be staged along the convention center dock area or on an adjacent street. Now, with so many trucks and so little space adjoining convention centers due to expansion, space must be leased or purchased by the contractor. The cost of workers' compensation and liability insurance has increased dramatically in recent years, increasing material handling costs overall.

The challenge is to find enough space, labor and equipment to meet the material handling requirements of shows, while working with show managers to develop pricing plans that offer exhibitors the best value. Service contractors will continue to look for ways to improve processes and handle today's increased freight volume more efficiently.

American Society of Association Executives,ASES
Association for Convention Operations Management
Association for Fndraising Professionals
Association fo Bridal Consultants, ABC
Association of Destination Management Executives, ADME
Connected international Meeting Professionals Association
Convention Liaison Council, CLC
Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives, CESSE