Thanks to the web and conference sourcing tools, like the Cvent Supplier Network, planners can now send RFPs to a plethora of potential host venues in a matter of minutes - but just because you can, it doesn't mean you should.
With the advent of web tools to streamline bid collection, unfortunately, there are a number of "tire kickers" out there, collecting hotel bids for meetings that are speculative, at best.
RFP? RFI? What's the Diff?
Request for Proposal (RFP): More formal bid process for a meeting that will occur. Scope of work and expectations are more clearly defined. Bid responses cover dates/rates/space availability, pricing and other requirements.
Request for Information (RFI): Less formal, often used for potential meetings in early stages of consideration. Helps meeting organizer to get a quick overview of options and ballpark pricing to inform a future RFP, should it advance to that stage.
If you're working on a "what if?" scenario, the RFI route is a better fit. Let the host venue know that while you're still in the early stages of discussion, you're looking to collect info about their property to inform that decision and move the process along more efficiently. The smart ones will see this as an opportunity to build relationships before a future RFP materializes.
Keep in mind that it's not always feasible for hotels to answer a litany of questions, especially if you're sending this out to a dozen or more venues for a meeting that hasn't been confirmed. They're working hard to keep costs in check and applying resources against opportunities where the likelihood of winning is slim-to-none makes no sense. It hurts everyone in the long run.
There's a world of difference between a conference RFP for an event with approved budget and clear objectives (aka a REAL meeting) and a conference RFI where you're more on a fact-finding expedition, trying to decide IF you should have this meeting.
For more smart sourcing tips, check out the Cvent blog series, RFP & Sourcing Best Practices.