How To Write An Audiovisual (A/V) RFP
Nathan Honeycutt (MPI Tennessee Chapter) has been in the events business for about 20 years, many of those in corporate event production. Through his time working with meeting planners across the country, he has a great perspective on what planners love and hate about audiovisual production. What planners love about AV is quite simple--not having to think about it. As for what planners hate about AV: “It’s confusing. It’s complicated. It’s expensive.” He also heard statements such as, “We send out a bid. We get 10 responses back and either pick the cheapest or somewhere in the middle for no reason at all other than we don’t understand what we’re seeing in the responses and don’t know enough about AV.” Well that’s just depressing, isn’t it?
To Nathan, an audiovisual production professional, this type of feedback seemed unnecessitated. So, he set out to be part of a solution founding Macro Productions in 2015. You could consider Macro Productions a new generation of audiovisual production. Like many young companies, Macro questions the status quo and approaches the way it works as a disruptor in an industry ripe for change. Macro’s approach is fueled by what would make their planner clients happiest and what is most efficient operationally. To that end, one of the things Nathan has done is develop a framework or template which helps meeting planners write better RFP’s and in the process hopefully brings transparency to what many times is shrouded in mystery. “I once knew a salesman in the industry who said ‘Confusion is a salesperson’s best tool,’ and unfortunately it seems much of the industry agrees. This is simply unacceptable.”
Meeting planners have a responsibility in getting past the status quo, too. Copying and pasting from old RFP’s or forwarding bids from last year’s event will likely not get you what you’re hoping for in your mind’s eye. Planners have a responsibility to annually look at their RFP’s and ways to improve/streamline so they can get more clearcut responses and ultimately a seamless AV experience.
So here it is-- a better way to write AV RFPs in order to help you get AV bids you understand, better communicate your needs and vision to production companies and reduce this area of frustration in your job.
How To Write An Audiovisual (AV) RFP
Start with the big picture. Even if all you’re looking for in your bids is AV services, it will help your prospective partner to give them context.
- Location (city, venue, rooms)
- What is the overall goal for your upcoming event?
- What type of event will this be (i.e. clinical meeting vs. sales meeting)
- A clinical meeting likely means we need bright clear screens because we’re looking at charts and graphs all day. A sales meeting will likely need moving lights, subs to motivate the room, etc.
- How many attendees will there be?
- How will attendees be seated?
- For example, 500 people in a room seating theater are way different than 500 people sitting two per 6-foot table.
- Meeting agenda/schedule
- Knowing breakout times, the number of presenters in breakouts, who is speaking when in general sessions, etc. are all very important for letting a production company know how many techs they will need for the engagement, as well as feel more confident in the gear being suggested.
When it comes to details, many planners tend to include detailed equipment lists in their RFP’s, many times copy/pasting from old bids or previous events. While well intended, giving an equipment list to your prospective production partner is not necessarily the best idea. Letting your prospects know what gear you’re thinking about in terms of the number of screens, gobos, and things like that are great, however, detailed equipment specs are not. If you have a direction you’d like to go with gear, a description of what you’re asking for and why will give the best info and context to help your production partner collaborate with you on the best solution. This can be done in everyday language. For example, if you are an association and have equipment you plan to use for your event, you could simply state, “We will be bringing  projectors and will need from you microphones for  speakers and a moderator who will be on stage in a panel, and  tripod, and  flip charts. Please bring back-up projectors should ours fail.”
Just because you had a 10’ screen and 4,000-lumen projector last year does not mean it would be the best solution this year. Screen size should be based on viewing distance and content. Projectors are based on ambient room light and size of the screen. Instead of listing “42” monitor for video loop,” which gives not context, how about “I need two screens to display PowerPoint and an opening video.” This type of statements gives a very clear idea of the entire video system (computers, slide advancer, etc) which will best serve this need. Instead of listing “dual wireless microphone and presentation kit,” how about “We’re going to have up to five speakers in one session and need appropriate microphones and speakers for the size and shape of an audience of 350 members seated theater.” Many companies like to throw around non-specific terminology like “Getner.” Getner has been out of business since 1992. And still, you’ll find AV companies charging $300 for a “Ghetner.” AV is very technical and your AV production partner should be able to advise you on what gear best serves your event and hopefully, it’s not old gear they’re trying to wring the life out of.
Much like innovations in how we get around town (Lyft) and find overnight lodging (Airbnb), we could dream of innovation in the way we procure and judge AV partners….perhaps that time is now. Let’s each do what we can to demand transparency in the industry and also set our future vendor partners up for success.