Going out to bid for a registration provider can be a daunting task for any show organizer. What should you include? Did you give enough or too much information? How does the process work? All of these are great questions. In this post, Pat Fallon, CompuSystems’ Vice President of Business Development, will shed some light on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of going out to bid. Having been in the registration business for over 25 years, Pat has worked on hundreds of Request for Proposals (RFP’s) from a variety of organizers, including profit, non-profit and corporate events.

1. Begin by researching possible registration companies. Talk to your industry contacts to get a good perspective and reference on the quality service companies you should include. It is important to narrow down the list to 3-4 companies so you have the proper amount of time to thoroughly research the companies who are bidding.

2. Consider the timing of the RFP; allow your selected registration companies the opportunity to visit your event before they bid on it. They will be able to better understand your requirements and make educated recommendations in the proposal for process improvements based on their observations.

3. If you do not have a formal RFP prepared, a registration company should be able to help you. Often times, companies have a standard document that will outline the specification needed to draft a comprehensive proposal. Some key items to include in your RFP are:

  • Event dates and locations
  • Length of potential contract
  • Program booklet
  • Advance and onsite registration forms
  • Is data entry required or is registration 100% web? A quantity breakdown is helpful
  • Amount and type of equipment currently used onsite to service your event
  • Copies of your existing onsite registration layout, equipment and number of locations
  • Registration summary report with the advance and onsite registration numbers broken down by registration category
  • Number of websites required, i.e. attendee, exhibitor, press, speaker, VIP, etc. and respective launch dates
  • Size of badge stock, number of colors and type of badge holders used
  • The number of calls and e-mails for you event if Call Center services are required. This is critical information for the registration company to plan and price accordingly
  • Session tracking information-how many rooms are there and how many scanning devices were used at your last event
  • Is real time access control required for sessions
  • How many exhibiting companies will exhibit at your event
  • What 3rd party integrations are required and with which companies
  • What Association Management System (AMS) you use and if you require real-time integration
  • Percentage of exhibiting companies that order lead retrieval and how many units/apps are rented
  • Is there a revenue share on lead retrieval
  • Does your registration company sell lists to your exhibitors and what the revenue is
  • Housing Company
  • Show app provider
  • Show floor provider
  • Decorating company

4. If you do have a formal RFP prepared, try to include the list of items outlined above. It will save you time in the long run as the registration providers will likely contact you asking about these items if they are not addressed.

5. Lead retrieval data and any subsequent lead participation reports from your current registration company are critical to the RFP process. Most registration companies operate under a similar business model where lead retrieval revenue subsidizes registration costs. Providers need accurate information, including the participation report, to determine their projected revenue and subsequently, your registration fees.

6. Include the following dates in your RFP:

  • RFP due date
  • Deadline for the question & answer section
  • Presentation dates for registration company finalists
  • Final decision date

7. Outline your primary objectives in the RFP, as well as any impetus for change. The more information and insight you can provide relative to your key drivers in the evaluation and decision process, the more it will help the bidding companies align their technology, service and price offering with your organization’s business objectives.

8. Allow the registration company an appropriate amount of time to respond; 60 days for a comprehensive proposal is ideal. It gives them time to research your event and formulate key questions.

9. Once you have sent out the RFP, be open to having some phone calls and e-mail correspondence to provide more insight and answer questions in more depth. Sometimes a phone call can be a lot faster than an e-mail going back and forth. Try setting aside specific days during the RFP period that the registration companies can schedule a call or send questions via e-mail; it will help you manage your time with the question and answer process. Preparing the proposal is a lengthy process. Your help is needed to make sure your business requirements are being met.

10. Allow the Sales Executives from the registration companies to speak to key staff members involved in the RFP decision-making process. They will learn more about the requirement for your event from each business unit that is involved, including convention, education, marketing, IT and finance.

11. Expect registration companies to call you after the proposal has been sent to discuss the questions that surface during the review process. If you’re not on schedule with your evaluation, simply share that information and set a target date for a follow-up call.

12. It is important to select the registration companies you think best fit your needs and allow them to come in to present their capabilities for a minimum of 90-120 minutes. You will learn a lot from the presentation and will be able to make a more educated decision.

13. Once you have made your decision, a personal phone call to the registration companies that have responded to the RFP is always appreciated, whether they were awarded the business or not. They put in a substantial amount of effort in presenting their services and may have questions on where they fell short. Your candor can potentially help their service offering for a future opportunity.

We hope you find the tips above helpful for your next RFP process. They will save you time and ensure you have made a well-educated decision on who can best service your organization as your registration business partner.