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This past week was very interesting,
philosophically for me as a technical production services vendor.  We
provide technical production and management, plus other event/meeting planning
services from staging and decor, logistics to on line registration and catering.

Although, we prefer to work strategically
with a client, making it a team effort, to help them achieve their
vision, like looking at a map to see where you want to go and making the
plan on how best to get there.  Quite often a corporation or government
agency, does not allow discussion with them. All they want is the bottom line
without much explanation. 

When we receive a request for bid, whether or
not we have the opportunity to strategize with the client we do our homework
and due diligence to be sure that we are creating a bid that answers the
request as best we can determine, but we make sure that we have the right team and
equipment to execute that event and all team members know what is expected of

This leads me to relate two incidents that
occurred last week.

The first incidents we were asked to bid on was
a project that that included technical production and management and catering
for a half day event.  We have done
numerous projects with the client, generally for separate independent departments.  We know that this client is very budget
conscious and took that into account. Extremely vague verbal instructions were
given, with emphasis on this being a most important event with major guests
coming from other agencies.  Then
the bid decision was held up for more than a week.  As it turns out, we were not awarded the contract, as we
were not competitively priced.

The second incident helps me to understand
why we may not be competitively priced. An event and meeting planner that I know
often calls me for advice on where to find things and how to do things but
never asks me to bid on her projects. This time she called me regarding a
problem that she was having with her on line registration vendor for an event
this Tuesday. Part of her contract stated that she was to have sent a
confirmation to each attendee along with a copy of the sessions that each
signed up for. It seems that she had sourced a vendor in another country, as
that person was 2/3 less expensive than the local American vendor.  (Disclosure – my company had never been
asked to bid on her registration).  She was very unhappy with the selected
vendor and let him go. Now, she had to get the confirmations done with sessions
and didn't know where to begin.

We determined that the information she had
would not be sufficient to just add to ether of the Registration systems we use
and email the needed result.  We told I suggested to her that if she
hired several people to pump out the emails the cost would get up to nearly the
same as the American vendor. Due to our own scheduled projects, we did not have
time or staff to do this for her for such a last minute rush. This is a one-day
conference and a little fewer than 400 had registered.

The planner obviously won the contract based
on lowest price and probably was able to offer a very low price as she was not
using reliable vendors or US based ones and/or didn’t delineate the needed
parameters of the service. I have no idea how she has resolved this, but here's
my question?

Do you "low ball" on a bid in order
to get the job and either     

a) Figure out how you'll achieve that low
price later or

b) Use vendors just because they have very
low prices or

c) Use vendors who will strategize with you
to make sure you get the best results or just go for price.

Do you look for value in a bid? Clearly on a
bid, each bidder is should be bidding
on providing the same elements. 

Do you allow a bidder to discuss a bid to
help you discern between bid A at $1,000 and bid B at $900? 

Is their value in the slightly higher bid
that makes it worthwhile to award the contract to not the lowest bidder, but
the right bidder?

Whatever the answer is, I feel that my
company must plan in a way that every aspect of what we are providing is
executed seamlessly without a hitch. 
That, in itself, is worth the extra few dollars, because in event and
meeting planning you have only one chance to get it right.

Are meeting planners and their procurement
departments going down the same road as the financial firms by gambling on the
outcome by saving a couple of dollars?