The Essential Virtual Event RFP Guide

May 12, 2020
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Are you running an RFP for virtual events? This article (and free RFP template) is everything you need to run a smooth and successful search for the right solution to suit your needs.

Here is what we are going to cover:

In a hurry with your RFP for virtual events?

Jump directly to the RFP template for virtual events on this Google Sheet

What is an RFP? And why run one?

The RFP, or request for proposal, is used by companies who are searching for a vendor to fulfil specific needs and requirements. In other words, the RFP is a chance for a company to set out exactly what it will need from a vendor in order to be successful.

A company will issue an RFP either directly to chosen vendors (i.e. invite them), and/or post the RFP on their website or procurement portal for vendors to find and complete.

Think of the RFP process as the equivalent of posting a job description and inviting prospective employees to submit a cover letter and resume/CV. In the same way, as when you post a job opening, running an RFP allows you to screen out and whittle down the potential vendors to the select few who are most likely to meet your needs.

The RFP process is equivalent to looking for a new employee/team member, in that the end goal is to find the best match

Typically, the initial stage of the RFP process asks for the vendors themselves to complete and send back an RFP pack. The key here is that it is you (or the searching company) who chooses what the blank RFP pack looks like. This means you get to determine and include the criteria and requirements that you need (and discard ones that you do not), making the whole process a tailored and exact match for your needs.

Once you have your initial selection of vendors who passed the first round of screening, then you might start to invite vendors for subsequent meetings, to help you dig a little deeper into their capabilities and likelihood of meeting your needs. Eventually, you will end up with a winner.

Who should be involved in the virtual event RFP process?

Honestly, there is not a pre-defined set of absolute requirements here, and much will depend on the context of the RFP itself. For example, for a shorter-term project, you might have fewer people involved than say a longer-term contract process. Similarly, if the internal footprint of the vendor will not touch many departments or teams, the number of people involved might be less than say if the vendor will touch multiple departments and teams.

Who you internally involve in the RFP process will depend on the context of the project and potential impact

Whatever the context, there are some basic inputs you will need to make a well-rounded decision on which vendor is best.

Here are the types of inputs you will want to consider:

  • Technical expert – someone with the knowledge of the technical details of the requirements and needs. In the case of a SaaS vendor, this would mean someone with the knowledge to decide if the solution can be integrated into the existing tech stack, meets security and privacy requirements, and that the data inputs and outputs are what is needed.
  • Everyday user – you will want someone who will use the solution on a day-to-day basis to input on the usability and impact to daily processes and workflows.
  • Financial perspective – it is important that cost and finances are taken into account during the RFP process. You want to make sure that the solution you choose is the right fit for the budget now, and potentially in the future.
  • Strategic decision-maker – as important as the day-to-day is, it is also a great idea to have a line of sight into the future strategic direction. The last thing you want to be doing is having to switch vendors often as you outgrow them.

Besides these inputs, oftentimes, internal politics (especially on larger and cross-departmental impacting RFPs) may dictate that you will need a high profile champion to help add credibility and authority to any decision making process.

What requirements should you look for in a virtual event RFP?

Here are the different buckets of requirements that you will want to include in any RFP for a virtual event platform (these are also the sections we included in our FREE RFP template):

  • Event management – everything you need to logistically create and run your event, including registration, branding & customization, and ability to send notifications and alerts.
  • Activation & engagement – all the tools you will need to turn your event into an interactive experience for your audience, including polling, Q&A, home feed, gamification, and chatbots.
  • Networking & communities – the features that will help you connect your audience to one another, including recommended connections, 1-1 and group chat, LinkedIn profile integration, contact requests, and audience profiles.
  • Live functionality – everything you need to put on the live portion of your event, including streaming capabilities, live audience reactions, speaker bios, whiteboard sessions, and 2-way video.
  • On-demand capabilities – how you will offer on-demand access, including searchable content library, hosting live sessions and pre-recorded video, offline capabilities, and summary digests. 
  • Optimization – how you can turn your event into business impact, including lead collection, usage and behavior analytics, and audience signals/alerts.
  • Environment – the details of the platform itself, including virtual lobby, web and native mobile applications, language support, and branding & app publishing capabilities.
  • Solution support – how the vendor can support you, including global support presence, email/phone/web support, hours of support (are they 24/7?), integrations, and SSO capability.

How does the RFP template for virtual events work?

We have broken down the virtual event RFP into three sections:

  1. RFP Outline – this is to be completed by the company searching for the vendor. It is your chance to tell prospective vendors what your RFP is all about, set the tone for the responses, detail what you need the vendor for, and what your goals & dates are, etc., as well as a chance to detail logistical things like the contact information and deadlines for questions and responses.
  2. Vendor Response Sheet – this section is the blank template that will be sent or made available to prospective vendors. They will then complete the details, and return their answers to you within the allotted time.
  3. Response Comparison Grid – this handy sheet is a framework for the searching company to compare side-by-side each of the prospective vendor responses.

Putting it into practice

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