How to write an event proposal that lands more clients
If you run an event planning business or event venue, you already know that client and event management begins long before you start drawing up budgets, timelines or floor plans. In fact, it begins with the first email, call or meeting with a prospective client and extends through the first deliverable, which is usually an event management proposal or estimate.
Often these initial prospecting activities get lumped in with lead generation, sales and marketing tasks, and this is all well and good. However, during those first discussions and exchanges of information, you will need to be wearing your event planner hat as well as your sales and marketing hats because the questions you will encounter and the educated decisions you will need to make all rely on your event management acumen.
Regardless of the types of events your clients request or that you specialize in - concerts, conferences, corporate events, fundraisers, galas, meetings, networking events, parties, product launches or weddings - the same processes and steps apply to learning about their needs and creating a proposal that describes how you will meet and exceed those needs within the client’s stated budget.
Not to add pressure, but your clients are also probably shopping multiple event vendors and are talking to your competitors, so getting this process right and delivering impressive event proposal documents is definitely in your best interest.
With that said, here are 13 critical details you should keep in mind for how to create an event planning proposal that not only sells your services but instills confidence and trust in your new customers.
1. One-on-one client communications
It’s always best to meet new prospects face-to-face so you can get a full sense of who they are and their needs regarding their potential events (plus you can also read their body language and facial expressions). Often clients will come with a list of requirements - and some will even provide you with an event RFP (request for proposal) ahead of time. But if they don’t, here are some pieces of information you will need to collect at that time in order to start the event proposal building process:
- Vision, needs and goals (essentially the purpose of the event and what it needs to accomplish)
- Fears and risks (what could possibly go wrong or if their goals aren’t met)
- Audience type and estimated headcounts
- Dates and time frames
- Theme and design/decor
- Potential locations
- Venue requirements
- Catering and food-and-beverage requirements
- Content needs (speakers, entertainment, etc.)
- Other vendor requirements (AV, transportation, lighting, etc.)
At this point, you will also want to inquire about the event budget that they have to work with. Sometimes they will offer a number or a range, but often they won’t because either they don’t want to divulge this information or simply don’t know how much such an event will cost. If this happens, simply start framing the budget by saying something like "If I came back with a proposal that was around $10K or so, would that scare you off?" This way you can start working up or down based on their reaction to an initial number.
NOTE: It’s always great to write everything down during this conversation, or better yet use a notes tool or event proposal software that lets you type in notes on-the-fly.
2. Handy event proposal templates
If you plan the same types of events over and over or often include the same things in event proposals, it will save you tons of time if you develop one or more event proposal templates that include common line items and language.
The little secret about event proposal templates among event professionals is that, after you have modified and adapted them based on your success with them, they will contain messaging and details that position you in the best light and make it easy for prospects to see the value in hiring your firm or venue. You can also keep a content library of event proposal templates, line item templates, pricing sheets, etc., so you aren’t reinventing the wheel all the time (some event proposal software tools offer these features).
HINT: If you are just getting started with your business, there are many event proposal examples and event proposal sample PDFs online that you can review.
3. Branded documents and portals
From the start you want to position yourself properly and differentiate your business from your competitors, and a great way to do this is with branded event proposal documents. This includes downloadable event proposal PDFs or other documents that you can customize with your logo, colors and contact information. Another event proposal design technique that you can employ is to build spec event floor plans and layout designs in color (or even 3D) to help your prospect visualize your plan for their event.
HINT: Flexible event proposal software can allow you to automate tasks like this. Just make sure that the event proposal generator you choose is mobile-friendly, has data security protocols, integrates with accounting software and offers customer support for their product.
4. Clean design and layout
There are many event proposal design tools (from programs like InDesign and Canva to event-specific tools) that can assist you in creating easy-to-read layouts that are professional and let you apply appropriate themes, color palettes and fonts.
5. Background and qualifications statement
You need to make your customer start to feel comfortable with you from the outset, so in your proposals you should include language about your history serving clients as well as customer testimonials, case studies, bios of your team members and anything else that differentiates you from your competitors.
6. Overview summary that echoes client’s needs
Your event proposal summary should cover everything you covered with your prospect in your first conversation (goals, themes, dates, audience, etc.) and then add your own sizzle of how you are going to pull off their event and make them shine. This is where you can innovate and offer up fresh ideas. In addition, you could include an initial event schedule or timeline to walk them through your plans step-by-step ... this always impresses clients as it shows you have put significant thought into their event already.
7. Well-delineated service and product offerings
Your clients want to know exactly what they are paying for, so don’t hide anything but instead clearly outline exactly what services and products you will be providing (including quantities and hours). These can include:
- Venue Rentals
- Equipment Rentals (tables, chairs, etc.)
If you want, you can break these down into packages or categories for easier comprehension.
8. Clear pricing
Some event professionals try to hide costs at the back of the proposal, but at the end of the day it’s probably the one thing your clients are most interested in, so be upfront and very clear about your quoted costs and fees (this is very important in earning their trust). Also, break them down by line item or service offered so they can see what each one costs.
This step may also require you to get proposals and quotes from your vendors (like catering proposals and quotes, venue proposals, etc.), so be prepared if your clients ask for these pass-through quotes.
9. Vivid, colorful imagery
Another aspect of good event proposal design is to add photos that literally give your clients a clear picture of your ideas and the types of events you have planned in the past. It’s best to use your own photography (not stock photos) as well as videos, and remember that pictures with happy people in them will warm up your proposal! Some event proposal software apps give you areas where you can upload and organize images.
10. Client-focused messaging
Your event proposal language should always focus on the client, not you. This can be difficult to do, so it’s a good rule of thumb that for every time you use the words "I, we, me, us" you should use the words "you, your" at least 2-3 times. And it goes without saying that your event proposals should be free of misspellings and have proper grammar.
11. Clear terms and policies
Nobody wants the worst to happen, but if you have well-defined event contracts and agreements in place ahead of time, if the worst does happen then it isn’t as painful for either party. Such terms and conditions that you can include in your event proposals include policies for cancellations, refunds, insurance and damages.
12. Client sign-off
You should never, ever start work for an event client without having them sign off on your event proposal and contract. This insulates you when there is a misunderstanding and turns your event proposal into a legal document (just make sure you consult an attorney to include the proper legal language to make it binding).
These days, many event proposal software applications offer electronic signature features so your clients can view your event proposals online and apply their e-signature.
13. Accurate reporting and analytics
With prospecting as with many other things in life, you often don’t know where to go unless you know where you’ve been. This is why it’s vital to be able to access data on your proposals and to run reports for things like conversion rates, outstanding proposals, quoted amounts, etc. Again, event proposal software tools as well as event accounting tools like Quickbooks and Xero offer such reporting and data analytics for proposals.