Dear Event Doctor:

We have tried but just missed out on several potential hosting opportunities that we thought we had a good chance of winning. Some of the sports organizations we were hoping to host have not been forthcoming on why we lost the bids, even after we sought feedback on what we could have done differently. Is it fair for us to expect them to tell us? Do you have any advice on the best way to approach an event organizer for that kind of feedback?

—Breaking the News

Dear Breaking:

Event organizers are just like most people. They don’t like to deliver bad news. When they turn down a city’s bid, they would like the conversation to begin and end with, “Thanks for playing, but no thanks.” For them, the work ahead is in another city.

I know each city that has invested a great deal of time and effort in an event proposal also has a great deal of pride in their hometown, and it is difficult to say no to their enthusiasm. Unfortunately, some bid postmortem discussions become contentious. The event organizer may feel the hotels in the bid are not of sufficient quality, too distant from the event venue or too dispersed throughout the region. The city may feel differently. The worst outcome for me is when the feedback conversation becomes a “yes they are/no they’re not” conversation. The best approach is a willing and open ear, and an expression of a city’s enthusiasm to get back in the hunt as soon as possible.

If your city would like to bid on the event again some day, there is no disagreement that the best way to succeed is to understand how you fell short. Start the conversation with a note of sincere congratulations to the winning region (organizers like to feel like they made the right decision) and your belief that they will do a great job. You would like to learn from them so your city can make a future edition of the event even more successful. Organizers also like to feel that their events improve the quality of life in host cities. Tell them how important the event could be to your city or region and your commitment to only preparing bids that will provide the organizer with the best possible options.

Make the conversation brief and to the point, but start broadly and work your way toward the details. The key question, if it wasn’t addressed during the bid process, should be: “What three things are the most important to your event in selecting a host city?” Reflect on the answers. They could decode whether there were fatal flaws in your proposal. What did the organizer like about your city?

If they are important attributes, you’ll want to put more emphasis on them in future proposals. Then you can focus on the less attractive particulars, if they have not already surfaced at that point. Tease out their perception of flaws in your proposal. Some can be addressed (participating hotels), and some may not be so easy (the airport is too small). Always close with, “It was a pleasure to work with your organization. When can we get started on the next bid?”

This first appeared in Sports Travel Magazine and appears here courtesy of SCHNEIDER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.