Creating Effective Design Proposals

 ”Proposals increase a businesses closing rate by 58%”. -Harvard Business Review

How do you present your ideas to your clients?  What is the process in which you engage, interact, and, communicate with your clients?  How do you remain consistent with this philosophy throughout the entire design process?

Our proposal process is ever changing at PARAS Events.  The proposal itself remains an ever evolving document based on client feedback, its continual overall effectiveness, and the success of our closing rate.  Although the proposal process is based greatly on the verbal presentation of ideas, service experience, and fostering a personal connection -today’s entry focuses on the written document.

There are many ways to present your ideas in a written format.  When determining the proposal format that works best for you or reviewing your current proposal style, consider the following:

-Is the proposal easy to follow?  Have you clearly and concisely presented your ideas in a manner that your client understands?

-How do you communicate your ideas visually?  Do you provide a custom rendering of a unique concept or incorporate inspirational images from other sources?  Does your proposal process also include tactile storyboards?  How do you communicate the ‘experience’ of being a guest at the event?

-How does your proposal communicate the value of your art and your expertise?  Does your proposal provide a glimpse of the service experience clients can expect when working with your firm?

-Is your proposal visually appealing and consistent with your brand identity?

Overall, a successful proposal communicates: the event vision, service experience, the value of your expertise, your level of competency and confidence, investment, and brand identity.

It has taken me several years to develop a proposal style that works well for our clients, our staff, and our suppliers (from an operational perspective).  It has simply been an exercise of trial and error.

The following is a basic review of the key elements of our design proposals:

1) Title page.  Don’t underestimate the value of a well-designed, well-appointed title page.  An effective title page incorporates well positioned graphics and dynamic photography communicating your brand identity,  The title page is personalized to reflect the client -this can be in the form of their actual names and/or a unique name for their event.  Be creative.

2) Set the tone.  Our proposals incorporate preliminary imagery that capture emotion.  A brief summary of our firms qualifications and the ‘Design Process’ are outlined in the proposal.  In addition to this, we incorporate a short, dynamic statement that communicates our commitment to each and every client.  We highlight this statement in our proposals for maximum impact.  Our statement reads:

To create events that are fun, meaningful, elegant, and customised to reflect your personal style.  Prompt, personable, and professional service is our top priority.  

3) Create a Design Profile.  Our design profiles communicate the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of an event in six (6) images or less and include a colour story.  The purpose of the ‘Design Profile’ is to clearly establish your event design concept and communicate the nuances of the overall design scheme.

3) Effective written and visual communications.  When writing a proposal, tell the story.  Take your clients through the experience your guests will have in attendance at the event.  Use appropriate imagery, renderings, floor plans, sample critical paths, etc. to communicate your ideas.  Ensure that you are using vocabulary that your client will understand.  Write in the present or future tense.  Romance the details.

“Upon arrival to the venue, guests are greeted by a whimsical place card table that is draped in luxurious rose gold sequin specialty linen.  Atop the table, a large 8′ grapewood tree is adorned with a cascade of hydrangeas, peonies, cabbage roses, and clematis vine.  A base of moss anchors the tree to the table, creating a landscape of textural interest and organic lines.”

4) Conclusion.  The last page of our proposals incorporate three distinct elements a) thank you message, b) personalization, c) a summary of the key elements of our service contract (as applicable), and d) a call to action.

By no means is this the definitive guide to creating design proposals.  The contents above represent what have been very effective for our business.  I hope that you find this information helpful as you reflect on 2013 and look ahead to your business strategies for 2014.

How do you present your ideas?  What process works well for you?  Please share below!

Have a great weekend!


Lessons Learned

2013 has been a year of transition and personal transformation.  I have come to understand who I really am as a person and the extent of my resilience.  There have been many lessons learned, challenges overcome, and triumphs celebrated.  I have a new found respect for myself and my journey and as I look ahead to 2014 and the opportunities that have been presented to me, I can’t help but be overwhelmingly positive.  Looking back, I can appreciate the 20/20, but I have to admit, this year has tested me in many different ways -both personally and professionally.

Like many regional businesses, I had to make some important business decisions, gain some clarity, and put things into perspective.  Today, I want to share some lessons learned over the past year:

1) Continually Evaluate Your Business Model and Its Effectiveness.  Make the necessary changes.  Is your current business model relevant to your regions current market conditions?  When our organization was re-branded earlier this year, Design2Decor became our rentals division and PARAS Events became our sole creative services division.  I had to re-evaluate our operations, the client experience, and our methods of client communications.  We elevated our social media strategy and blogging profile.  We analyzed our current market conditions and made the necessary changes to appeal to our target client demographic.  In addition to this, we re-evaluated our marketing methods and put energy into the media and advertising outlets that provided the best return on investment for our business, but more importantly those that personally connected with us and took the time to understand our business and marketing objectives.

2) Be Transparent.  Concentrate on being the best version of you.  This came down to being honest with myself, my clients, and my network.  This blog has become the outlet I use to voice my perspectives on the various issues that are of concern to business owners in the events industry.  This blog remains a true reflection of me and my business.  Being true to myself and who I am as a designer and establishing my ‘signature’ in the industry has been a liberating, eye opening experience.

Life has taught me that the human qualities of being real and being YOU far surpass the ‘smoke and mirrors’.

3) Don’t Allow the Opinions of a Few to Affect Your Self Worth and Your Journey.  This, perhaps, has been my greatest hurdle in 2013.  I wrote about this on the blog earlier this year.  It affected my confidence, my ambition, my enthusiasm for my craft, my passion for events, and consequently my business operations.  I adopted a ‘whatever’ approach to my business operations and the affects slowly began to surface.  This was most apparent in my communications with clients and colleagues whilst affecting my overall sense of being.  I began to shut myself off from everything and everyone as a form of ‘protection’ or ‘shield’.

There will always be criticism.  Someone will always be there to knock you or your ideas down.  You will second guess yourself multiple times.  Turns out, this is a true test of your resilience and ability to persevere.  It feels amazing when you come out the other side feeling like you are on top.  Ten months later, I am a different person.

4) It’s Okay to Fall Down.  We all make mistakes.  This year has been about really learning from my mistakes.  Its not a sign of weakness.  Its the catalyst for future change.

Embracing humility, gratitude, and appreciation was the turning point towards my inner happiness and being at peace with myself.

5) You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone.  Its Okay to Say ‘NO’.  In my effort to please, I took on more than my firm could handle and over extended myself.  The increased workload exhausted me and pushed my staff and suppliers to their limits.

Earlier this year, I blogged about this topic specifically:

I have come to realize that it [saying 'no'] comes from a mindset of ‘missed opportunity’.  We are afraid that if we are not everywhere all the time or everything to everyone we will ‘miss out’.  Whether that means a missed business opportunity or what (at the time) may seem like ‘burning a bridge’.  Like many, I am programmed to please, so saying no makes me feel like I am letting someone down.  It is only over time that I have come to realize that part of the work-life balance is learning to say no when it pushes you to your physical and mental limits.

6) Use Your Voice and Don’t Allow Others to Compromise Your Voice. 

7) Do What Makes YOU Happy.  Take care of yourself.  When I began in the events industry, it was my passion for events and design that got me through the tough hurdles and growing pains of owning a business.  Passion fueled the growth of the business and kept me going.  When it seemed the passion was dying, so did my ability to manage a business and produce events with enthusiasm and efficiency.

I re-visited my business model once again.  I made a list of what I enjoyed about my business and what I felt needed to change to ensure the future success of the business and my health and well-being.  I developed a ‘Strategy for Change’ that we are now beginning to implement at PARAS Events in anticipation of the 2014 events season.

I am very excited about the 2014 events season.  I will be working on some of the largest events of my career and will continue working internationally.  I have prioritized my life and narrowed my focus on what matters the most.  My universe is aligned once more.  This time around, I will be more conscious of the shifts and actually listen to what the universe is telling me.


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