It’s not just enough to network; crafting a winning proposal is also essential to booking the event. Your proposal should pop!

Here’s the scenario. It’s Friday afternoon, and an event planner calls looking for a proposal for a client. She wants it emailed by 10 AM Monday. Yours will be one of the three she will present to her client. And there’s the rub – she’s doing the presentation, not you. So how are you going to make your voice heard at the pitch meeting? With a proposal that is so striking and imaginative the other two just fade away.

Be it a six-figure- wedding or a low-budget event down your street, it all starts with a proposal that describes the event. If you’re in the events business, you must be able to sell your skills to the client by way of a well-written event proposal.

The first step in writing the winning proposal involves having a conversation or researching about the client to find out what she hopes to accomplish at the upcoming event. A proposal is the most client-centric document that your company can create. Each bid must be designed to suit each client’s needs. The best proposals, regardless of the industry follow a similar structure, including the cover page, credentials, and summary of the client’s needs, services provided and pricing.

It is very crucial that the proposal you write is relevant to the client. The client is getting proposals from other companies apart from yours; as such it is vital that you don’t make the client feel like a commodity. Personalize the proposal. The title of the proposal is significant. When you use a personalized title like ‘Jane & Jack Take the Plunge (bride mentioned that in conversation) versus Jane & Jack’s Wedding, it shows that you are tailoring the event to the client and not just treating the client like a commodity. While everyone else is naming their proposal with the event name and date, look for ways to stand out by sending a strong message even before the client opens the proposal. Think differently!

Shea Christine Photography

To craft a proposal that pops, you should know the client’s wishes. During your initial meeting with the client, be sure to take notes besides the time, date, and location for the event. Listen to the client’s ideas for issues pertaining to the theme, color scheme and other aesthetic elements of the event. Your proposal should speak directly to the client and their wishes. The client needs to feel that their needs are understood. Keep in mind that the client may also be reviewing proposals from other companies offering similar services to yours and is likely to pick the one that best understands their needs.

In designing a proposal, you should include a brief introduction of you and your company. This gives the client an idea of who you are and a taste for the company personality. Your proposal should contain a summary of the client’s needs and goal for the event. Be sure to go over what the client told you about the event as regards dates, time, proposed venue, theme and other information earlier provided, showing that you understand what they are looking for.

In a proposal, the most important word is ‘YOU’, that is the client’s name. The proposal needs to be client-centric, being about meeting the client’s needs. The client basically wants to know how you can help them run an amazing event. Prove how you are going to do this by setting the stage and telling the story. Let’s say you’re a caterer and your proposal tells this story: “As guests arrive they ascend the grand staircase to the balcony where our staff greets them with smiles, champagne and scrumptious hors d’oeuvre artfully presented with river rocks & reeds on stylishly polished aluminum salvers”. By doing this, you are putting the client in the scene and feeding their imagination. Proposals must be tailored to the client’s needs to make a winning impression.

Employ creativity. Who wouldn’t rather eat ‘seared garlic and lime scented tenderloin skewers’ than ‘filet kabobs’? And if those skewers are staged ‘in a jewel box with a flashy orchid,’ they taste even better! Your choice of words matters. Especially for those in the catering industry, with food there are so many “yummy” words. Put the reader in the scene by painting mental images.

Describe the design elements of your tablescapes with evocative words and photos. As they read, the client will become more and more immersed in the vision you have designed. It’s not just ‘a vase of red tulips.’ It’s ‘a glass cylinder enveloped in birch bark bursting with scarlet French tulips.’

Pepper the proposal with buzzwords that relate to the client or event. Let’s say you’re catering for an electric power company dinner. You could use words like amps, grid or wired for a clever tie-in. Clients like a witty phrase here and there if it fits. Choice of words matter, regardless of your role in the events industry, be sure to use words that bring what you do to life when you write your proposals.

Your client wants to know what services you will render during the event. Say you’re an event planner, and the upcoming event is significant, such as a wedding with many aspects, it might be appropriate to create headings such as “Cocktail Party” or “Luncheon,” and then describe the duties you will perform for that aspect of the event – such as setting up the tables and serving food. Add photos of similar events that you’ve handled in the past to this section of the proposal. This gives the client a vivid example of what you will do.

You’ve described the event, using language that enables the client to picture the event more vividly. Now, the client is thinking, ‘Beautiful, how much is this going to cost?’ In the proposal, create a section titled ‘Cost Summary’ or ‘Proposed Costs’ or even ‘The Nitty Gritty,’ listing the prices for each item and their purpose to eliminate ambiguity. Tally them up and write the proposed total event cost. In times past, it used to be selling dreams and charging what you want. Long gone are those days. Given the current economic conditions, most clients are taking a closer look and thinking, “bargain.” It is thus beneficial to give the client a choice on pricing or different packages to choose from. Don’t just give the client the stated proposed cost or nothing because the client can easily select nothing and move on to the next vendor who offers similar service for a lesser price. Endeavor to give the client three price points. List the priciest option first so that if the client will have a ‘Wow! That is expensive’ reaction, it will be to your most expensive option. They will then see the other pricing options as much more reasonable. It may be advantageous to offer some discount, like a discount for booking early or a package discount for many events booked at the same time.

Ensure that you provide your full contact information on every page so the client can contact you again. Too often the client prints all proposals and if your information is not on every page it will get lost in the shuffle.

You don’t need special software to make proposal magic. A word doc or PowerPoint will work just fine. Save time by saving descriptions in a folder for easy cut and paste or drop-in. And when your kick-ass proposal is ready, make sure you PDF it before sending.

Trite but true – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

Meryl Snow is a Catersource Advisory Board Member, Honorary Board Member ICA, Founder of www.TriangleMethodTraining.com Sr. Consultant www.CertifiedCateringConsultants.com

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