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Procurement: Conduct a Successful Bidder's Conference

April 7, 2023, The Prinzo Group




Best Practices for Conducting a Bidder's Conference as Part of a Procurement

A Bidder's Conference, also known as a pre-bid meeting, is an important component of the procurement process. It allows prospective bidders to ask questions regarding the procurement process and evaluation criteria.


A well-conducted Bidder's Conference can result in more accurate and competitive bids, improved bidder understanding of the procurement requirements, and better communication between the procuring entity and bidders.


This article will discuss the best practices for conducting a Bidder's Conference as part of a procurement.


1. Plan the Bidder's Conference in Advance

The Bidder's Conference should be planned well before the procurement deadline to give bidders adequate time to prepare and participate. The procurement team should provide prospective bidders with sufficient notice, including the conference's date, time, location, and if the conference is in-person, virtual, or both. The invitation should also include any rules, procedures, and expectations for the bidder's conference, including whether conference attendance is mandatory and required to submit a bid.


2. Establish Clear Ground Rules

To ensure an orderly and productive conference, establish clear ground rules for the conference at the outset. This could include rules around speaking time, how questions are asked and answered, and any limitations on the number of representatives from each bidder who may attend. Communicating these ground rules at the beginning of the conference will help manage expectations and avoid confusion or disagreements later. Ask bidders to submit any additional questions in writing before the question and answer for the procurement ends.


3. Provide a Detailed Presentation

The procurement team should provide a presentation that covers the procurement process, response format, deadlines, and other requirements. The presentation should be concise, clear, and easy to understand, providing examples where possible. If Bidders will provide their response using a procurement system, provide a demonstration on submitting a proposal response in the system and the contact for system support.


4. Address All Questions and Concerns

Bidders should ask questions during the conference. Bidders should be encouraged to submit additional questions in writing before the question and answer for the procurement ends. Following the conference, the procurement team should address all questions asked during the conference with a written response for consistency.


5. Follow Up

A recording or minutes of the conference should be provided to all bidders promptly. The minutes should include all questions and answers provided and any additional information or clarifications that were provided. In addition, provide a copy of the presentation or other materials used in the meeting.


Summary

Conducting a well-planned and well-executed Bidder's Conference can be a valuable part of the procurement process and result in more accurate and competitive bids, better communication between the procuring entity and bidders, and a more efficient procurement process overall. Based on observations of several Bidders' Conferences gone awry, here are a few suggestions to make the most of a Bidder's Conference:


Bidders

  • Be prepared. Read the RFP before you attend. Nothing makes you look worse than asking obvious questions addressed on the RFP's first page.


  • Write it down. The client will likely ask you to submit your question in writing for clarification and to provide a written response.


  • Focus on the Procurement. A Bidders' Conference is not a marketing event or platform for you to demonstrate your consulting skills by trying to solve the client's (or other vendor's) issues.

Project Team

  • Provide Structure. The structure will help the conference flow smoothly. If you are going to answer questions by referring vendors to sections of the RFP, provide a verbal explanation of the answer since RFPs can be interpreted differently.


  • Be Specific. Add structure by avoiding posing open-ended questions to your solution request. Otherwise, you will likely have a hard time comparing vendor responses.


  • Don't Read the RFP. RFPs can be painful enough to read on your own. Plus, vendors have likely read the RFP before attending the conference.




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