Pay-for-services rendered may be new normal

When time is short and the to-do list is long, the solution is often to bring in an expert contractor to help with everything from sourcing of space and technology solutions to meeting design and management. To find the right partner, many corporate meeting professionals historically sent the project out to bid to see what interesting ideas came back, otherwise known as the RFP.

This process served a lot of important purposes, including fiduciary (the magic of getting three bids), strategic (it forced the internal team to get their thoughts down in the statement of purpose) and creative (how better to approach discovery that putting out a call for ideas?).

In a post that received over 176 reactions (mainly hearts, clapping and thumbs up) and started a conversation with 67 comments, Mahoganey Jones, CEO of Event Specialists, based in Toronto, Canada, officially “broke up” with the RFP. “If there is one thing I would love to see changed in the event production world in 2022, it is the broken requests for proposals process,” she said.

She was specifically talking about the requirement that the contractor submit a complete, creative, detailed plan for the event with no compensation or assurance that the ideas won’t be taken without hiring the company that put them out there.

Read MoreIs the RFP Dead? Long Live Next Evolution of Booking

To be fair, this model was already problematic before the pandemic, but now that so many events are still being cancelled in their infancy, DMCs that are already often short-staffed are being asked to donate their time in the hopes that all the pieces will align.

“If there is one thing I would love to see changed in the event production world in 2022, it is the broken requests for proposals process.”

–Mahoganey Jones, CEO of Event Specialists

Architects learned long ago how to bid on a project without sketching out where the toilets and light fixtures should go.

Smart Meetings called Jones up and she explained that like architects, meeting consultants are coming to understand that in order to deliver their best work, they need to go through their own discovery process with the client to ask questions, ideate and learn more about priorities, rather than spending weeks guessing based on the templated RFP. “Covid has forced us to look at our number and given us time to think about line items,” she said.

On Closer Inspection

Also under consideration: the site inspection. The time-consuming process of visiting multiple possible destinations and bringing back detailed notes about the line of sight from the stage to the back of the room, the state of the VIP suite and the quality of the canapes is a necessary one. But often it was conducted with the expectation of a percentage of commission or fee paid when the closing session wrapped up.

Read More5 Questions for Your Next Site Inspection

This is an out-of-pocket expense that can run in the thousands of dollars if multiple people are visiting for multiple days. And if the event gets cancelled, how is the consultant made whole?

One solution: A letter of intent with a deposit to pay for creative time if the company “goes in another direction.” If everything works, that money is credited to the program and the new team can move forward confidently.

Nicole Marsh, partner and “keeper of calm” with Imprint Events Group, which works as a DMC in Colorado, Florida and Las Vegas is hopeful that the business model is changing. “We are all smarter now and people see the value of what we do; we hope being paid for our time is a shift that will be permanent.”

Time is valuable when planning an event—corporate meeting professional time and consultant time.

This article appears in the February/March 2022 issue.