A proposal to bid for a business event is not just a proposal. It is crafted with time-consuming effort, precision in detail and costings sourced from several stakeholders who may eventually be a part of the event. Hard work all around. But do clients assign any value to such effort? Event organisers are asked by clients to present proposals and amendments at the drop of a hat, no matter how many revisions are thrown at them. The event planners do this at zero remuneration.
Making this free and easy for clients without any cost leads to multiple fundamental problems. It leads to situations such as: too many agencies are asked to pitch as there is no charge for this, leading to much duplication of effort down the line. Clients are not encouraged to qualify their briefs internally as stringently given that there is no cost to not doing so. Doing such work, especially with the relatively low chance of winning, is highly discouraging to otherwise good employees who might end up leaving good companies. Also, the quality of work suffers and resource wastage is unsustainable in the long run.
Clients should be made to pay. However, expecting that to happen overnight is an unrealistic expectation. But clients can at least be made to pay for revisions to briefs or additional proposals beyond a set number agreed in advance. This would lead to greater efficiencies and less resource wastage across the industry, whilst encouraging clients to be more precise.
However, the highly competitive and fragmented state of the business events industry is a weakness that leads to clients continuing to exploit agencies. It is too easy for clients to simply move on to the next agency willing to accept their demands, however unreasonable. Hunger to bag more events business often leads to caution being thrown to the wind.
I was in a discussion in Dubai with some heads of Indian PCOs as well as corporate clients who host meetings and events regularly, about the cost that should be assigned to creating a proposal. All the PCOs agreed that such costs can often be completely wasteful and made a dent to their bottom line. Clients nodded and paid lip service to the cause but confided to me that as long as they keep getting it free, they were okay with it! It showed how hungry the agency is for their business!
No input is free of cost, whether it is financial or expertise. There is no such thing as a free lunch so it is about time that the meeting planners were more united in their approach to this problem and deal with it. Industry influencers such as SACEOS, PCMA, MPI, SITE, ICCA and similar associations that help causes for better performance of the MICE industry must encourage and unite meeting organisers to promote best practices. This is vital for the business events industry to thrive.
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