How to Draft a Contract That Protects Your Meeting

17 tips to protect a meeting or conference from being open to serious cost overruns -- or worse

Beginners Guide to Contracts opener

An effective contract protects your meeting but creating one is no easy feat. All the possible what-ifs must be considered. "To build the best contract possible, a planner should have an industry expert acting as their advocate with the hotel while negotiating the very best possible business terms, and a lawyer advising on the legal terms," says Brooklyn, NY-based Roxane Kramer, CDS, global account executive at ConferenceDirect, a full-service meetings solutions company. "The old adage of 'hope for the best but plan for the worst' should be kept in mind with every contract." She adds that each clause is a commitment and is included to protect either the hotel or the group or both.


Why Use a Contract?
A contract is an agreement enforceable by law. "Simply put, a contract outlines responsibilities and rights of respective parties, preferably in writing, as memories get short when there is controversy," explains Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., founding partner and president of Howe and Hutton, the Chicago and Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in meetings, travel, and hospitality law. "It is a roadmap to a successful event outlining what will happen and when and who will be responsible when something goes amiss."

 

Contracts have become voluminous and harder to understand as planners have had bad experiences and have added clauses to prevent them from ever happening again. "The purpose of a contract is to clarify the intent of the parties. Putting the terms in writing forces the parties to be clear about what they will do regarding performance expectations and what they expect the other party to do in order to make the arrangements successful," explains John Foster, Esq., CHME, attorney and counselor at law of Atlanta, GA-based Foster, Jensen & Gulley, consultants and counsel to associations, nonprofit organizations, trade-show and event sponsors, and meeting and convention professionals. "Agreements that cannot be performed within one year from the date they are made must be in writing to be enforceable. Also, contracts for the sale of goods, including food and beverage $500 or above, must be in writing to be enforceable. In some states the threshold amount is higher."

A contract should include:

 The parties in the agreement. For example, who is a vendor, who is the client, and what relationship does each have with the other?

 Who is going to do what, to whom, and when?

 What is the desired outcome?

 Set dates and create a timeline. What happens and when?

 Define venues and their responsibilities.

 Define the logistics of how the contract will be carried out.

"It is better to spend time on the front end of the negotiations to insure that the contract is thorough, comprehensive, and inclusive of all necessary terms in order to ensure the intent and the enforceability of the agreement," says Foster.

He recommends that meeting professionals not depend on third parties -- who are not lawyers -- for expert advice on how terms should be written. "Non-lawyers can be relied upon for negotiation advice but should not be relied upon for so-called legal advice about contracts. Many third-party non-lawyers hold themselves out as contract experts when they really mean they are negotiation experts. I've seen too many pitfalls overlooked, causing heartache to meeting sponsors who relied on bad advice," adds Foster.


How To Draft a Contract
"The basic premise of knowing the specific legal needs of an event is more of a focus than ever these days," says Becky Bromberg, vice president and associate general counsel of Maritz Holdings, parent company of Maritz Global Events based in Fenton, MO. "It's important to have content in all necessary provisions that cover the needs of both the event and the suppliers."


TIP #1 Keep it short
Although Bromberg says it is essential to have a contract that specifies what must be delivered and the needs and wants of all parties, it doesn't need to be a huge document.

"Maritz has reduced the length of our contracts and I would like to see them reduced even further," she says. "We have to get somewhere between a contract that is hundreds of pages and a handshake."

Some contracts have links to a company's code of ethics, its security documents, etc., and when all the documents are pulled together, it is massive. "Many can find it difficult to deliver from a business perspective, especially when you have so much extraneous legal content," explains Bromberg.

The essential information that must be included is the who, what, where, when, why, how, and how much.

"It benefits both the client and hotel to really understand the numbers as well as the language in a contract," Bromberg says. "It is also important to state the actual dates of events with month and year, not just 90 days out or 30 days before."


TIP#2 Be ready for tweaks
Most contracts are constantly changing. Dana Toland, founder of the IT Exchange Group (ITEX), a meeting management company based in Weymouth, MA, started writing her own contract on behalf of her clients 15 years ago. ITEX specializes in helping clients identify the best hotel to meet their budget needs, as well as the conference goals and objectives. As a value-add to the site selection process, which is a no-cost service offered to its clients, ITEX will also draft a 20-plus-page hotel contract at no cost. Toland justifies doing so because a properly written contract cannot only realize a company the most favorable terms, but can help to substantially reduce its risk and liability.

It's not just planners who constantly tweak the contract process. Take Convene, a company that runs more than 120 meeting spaces across 10 locations in three cities. "By September, all Convene locations will be using a contract with an e-signature format. As we develop and grow our partnerships with clients, there's no reason to suddenly get into an adversarial relationship at the contract phase. If we follow the spirit of the relationship into the contracting, we can get to a win-win," says Convene's vice president of sales, Steve Sackman.


TIP#3 Be specific
Joan L. Eisenstodt, founder of Washington, D.C.•based meeting consulting firm, Eisenstodt Associates stresses the importance of being specific in what you are buying. "Use meeting room names and a diagram of the space with the rooms circled. And language that says that the group must approve in writing any changes to the space," she advises. "Plus, a contract isn't a place for cute or marketing language. I remember a proposal that was to be signed to become a contract from a D.C. hotel that noted its four-star restaurant and the D.C. cherry blossoms. Legalese isn't needed, but clear, concise terms and language is."


TIP#4 Do not use a contract and an "addendum"
Industry experts agree it is best to use one mutually agreeable document. "Negotiate one complete contract bringing together the terms from each party's document that both parties can agree upon. An 'addendum' is really supposed to be used where there is a contract in place, and something needs to be clarified," explains Lisa Sommer Devlin of Phoenix, AZ-based Devlin Law Firm, P.C. She has practiced hospitality industry law since the early 1990s and opened her boutique law firm in 2003, where she exclusively represents hotel clients regarding convention and group matters, as well as speaking and training for both hotels and meeting planners across the country.

"In a contract to buy 50 bicycles, an addendum would be used to say that 10 will be green, 20 will be blue, and 20 will be red. An 'amendment' is a change made after a contract is signed, like changing the order from 50 bicycles to 40. Most meeting planner documents are neither an addendum nor an amendment, they are pretty much a complete contract in and of themselves. Instead of slapping together two contradictory documents, the hotel contract and the planner's addenda, negotiate the terms into one document that both parties accept."


TIP#11 Don't stop at force majeure
Force majeure gets all the attention, but there are other, far more common, reasons for canceling a meeting besides an "act of God." Be sure to include mutual cancellation and mutual indemnification clauses as well.


Mutual Cancellation
"Of course, most meeting planners would say the force majeure clause should be at the top of the list -- and although very important, there are other clauses that I think are vital to include in contracts with hotels," says Marty Streeper, president of Meeting Management Group, a Tampa, FL-based meeting planning and association management company. "Mutual cancellation clauses are very important. Why should the client be penalized when the hotel may not be -- especially if the hotel cancels a meeting for a reason that is not due to force majeure?"


Mutual Indemnification
"Mutual indemnification means the hotel and group will mutually hold each other harmless and indemnify one another from any and all demands, claims, damages to persons or property, losses, and liabilities," says Streeper.


Attrition
Typically, this is evoked when a portion of a hotel's room inventory is set aside under a firm agreement with a planner for a set period of time. When a group doesn't live up to its room-block commitment, a payment is required to make up for the rooms not sold, according to the terms of the contract.


TIP#12 Keep an eye on all of the hotel's inventory, not just your room block
If the hotel sells out, any attrition charges that would be owed to the hotel should be waived, says Streeper. "This part of an attrition clause must be included in your negotiated contracts with groups and hotels."

The contract should also include a clause addressing mitigation and/or resale of rooms. "If the hotel sells your unused rooms to other groups and/or clients, monies received for the unsold rooms should be credited to you," adds Streeper.


Entertainment
You would be hard pressed to find someone more adept at negotiating the entertainment clause of a contract than Jaki Baskow, CEO and owner of Baskow & Associates, a full-service destination management company as well as celebrity/talent broker based in Las Vegas.

 

When dealing with celebrities and entertainers, it is most important to remember that there will be riders. While these are usually geared toward a concert rather than a meeting, they can include everything from the food and beverage to the type of travel to the furniture the entertainer would like in his or her dressing room.

Some of these requirements can get outrageous. "Riders can be negotiated," says Baskow. Some performers ask for certain lights and sound that may be available in your general session, so explore all your resources, she advises. Once you have made a firm offer, remember it is irrevocable. "You are obligated under those words to book that act if they accept the offer," says Baskow.

She uses her negotiating power and her relationships with today's major acts to help planners. "If the meeting is being held during a time when the performer's schedule is slow, I will use that to our advantage," she says. "The bottom line is to negotiate everything. If you do not ask, you will not get."


TIP#13 Only bow to star power
Unless you are dealing with a major star, the rider should only include the absolute essentials, says Baskow.


Technology
As the pace of technological change continues to quicken, it is challenging for planners to predict what should be included in contracts. "Trying to predict what will apply in five years is like trying to predict a lifetime in terms of technology," says meetings technology analyst Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, owner and cofounder of Corbin Ball & Co.

This is where the help of an attorney is beneficial. "This is one of those clauses that should have a timeline for reviews at scheduled intervals," says Howe.

Planners should consult with their IT team to determine the bandwidth needs of the event based on tracking past usage as well as other technical details. "Wi-Fi is the lifeblood of an event. It is a crucial communications point for almost every event," explains Ball.

Toland recommends consulting the website www.hotelwifitest.com, which ranks hotels by the speed of their Internet connections. Another to consider is www.speedspot.org. What is adequate bandwidth in a facility today may not be adequate five years from now as the streaming of events becomes more commonplace. It would be best to have a technology clause that could be revised as the meeting gets closer, Howe adds.

Another point to address is in a clause is Internet security. The questions that should be asked include: how a secure network will be monitored, and what provisions the facility will take against threats, including viruses.


TIP#14 Be prepared for Wi-Fi jamming
According to Foster, the biggest technology issue is Wi-Fi jamming by hotels and convention centers. This is illegal under federal law. "Although the FCC has fined some hotels for jamming a group's Wi-Fi signals from their modem, it still goes on. A well-written hotel contract will address this prohibition against the hotel and provide for damages to the group if it occurs," says Foster.


TIP#15 Preserve your right to choose A/V vendors
Clauses dealing with A/V companies and other suppliers are important in that you, as the meeting planner, need to have the freedom to utilize the companies that best suit your needs so you are not locked into using a supplier that may be affiliated with the hotel," explains Meeting Management Group's Streeper.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

"It's tricky and first begins with a thorough site inspection, preferably conducted using a mobility device to find out if in fact the hotel is accessible," explains Eisenstodt. "All hotels, some even grandfathered for ADA, will say they are in compliance and their proposals will provide standard language. If you know your group and what their needs are, be specific in your RFP and then incorporate into your contract how exactly [the property is] or will be accessible. For example, does it have or will you need a lowered front desk area? Do you need for them to have interpreters? Menus printed in Braille? Kits to make any room accessible? Be specific about what you need."


TIP#16 Don't accept the standard ADA language of hotel proposals
Tailor your contract to meet the unique needs of your group.


Change of Ownership
Given the volatility in the ownership/management side of the hotel business, with flags and owners changing and so much consolidation taking place, it's good practice to include a "change of ownership or management" clause in contracts. Such a clause can allow the planner the option of canceling the program without any financial obligations if the hotel changes owners. "Plus, many clients buy a brand and if it changes, the client should have the right to terminate that agreement," explains Bromberg.


TIP#17 Make sure the clause asks for compensation
"We are encouraging our clients to have language in contracts that allows them to terminate a contract if there is a change in ownership, ensuring the hotel covers the cost of relocating the group," says Bromberg.


Construction, Remodeling, and Renovation
Bromberg recommends contract clauses that state over the specific dates of a meeting, that there will not be any renovation or construction that could impact the event or comfort of the attendees.

Additional contract questions will surely come up, but by following these general guidelines, planners should be able to protect themselves and improve their negotiating position.  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.


TIP#5 Never handwrite changes
"Take the time to retype the contract terms to make them legible, complete sentences, and to make sure that they are properly worded," is another piece of advice offered by Devlin. "If a customer handwrites in the margin of a cancellation clause 'less rooms resold' and the hotel accepts it rather than putting in a clause that defines how resold rooms will be counted and credited, the parties have just bought themselves a legal dispute." Additionally, handwritten changes are often illegible or it is impossible to determine when they were added -- or if both parties accepted them.


TIP#6 Keep it simple
"Always make sure that the signed contract can be easily understood by a party that is not involved with the negotiations. Should you or the person you've negotiated the contract with no longer be involved, you need to be sure that all terms are easily understood and nothing can be misinterpreted by either party," says Glenn Phillips, meetings and conventions manager of Abbey Carpet Company, based in Bonita Springs, FL.


TIP#7 Checklists help
As a planner who isn't full-time, Dr. Robert Hollon, executive director, Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), based in Eau Claire, WI, uses checklist-style profiles of client needs that are integrated with contract must-haves like clear force majeure clauses, attrition language, and nonperformance statements, tailoring them to his organization's needs. "I invest time to keep them up to date. That way, when I am negotiating, it is less likely that I miss something as the draft contracts are set up, and more likely that I will get my language included in final drafts. There are lots of these lists and guides out there, so it wasn't all that hard to develop one that communicated ASTE's needs," he says.


TIP#8 Turn to the experts
"It's important to periodically pay an independent expert to review some recent contracts and point out their strengths and weaknesses," says Hollon. "I've applied the idea throughout my career -- seeking feedback and critique, especially from those who might not agree with me, a great way to sharpen thinking."


TIP#9 Seek balance
"Always ask for strategic contract clauses that are fair and balanced to both the hotel and the client that protect you, especially in this compressed market," says Terri Woodin, CMP, senior director of global meeting services for Meeting Sites Resource, a global, strategic meetings-management organization based in Orange County, CA. "It is a business decision for the hotel to agree to it or not, or perhaps you can find mutual language that you both can agree to, but it never hurts to ask. For example, rebook vs. resell. I want both, but the hotel may only agree to one. Is your meeting more likely to cancel? Then you need rebook. Is it more likely to not pick up? Then resell would be best to get."


Key Clauses To Cover
The key clauses in a contract, according to Foster, are: attrition, cancellation, and force majeure. One thing all those involved in the contract process agree upon is that change is constant.

 

"We are in the midst of a buyer's market, and as a result, contracts are changing," says Leslie J. Blair, CMP, account executive at VIKTOR, a national engagement agency based in Traverse City, MI. "Flexibility and willingness to eliminate certain clauses have gone by the wayside, only to be replaced by stiffer attrition and cancellation penalties and higher rates, just to name a few. As a result, it is good practice to include certain clauses in contracts.


Conflicting Booking
VIKTOR finds this clause to be helpful. Basically it states: "The hotel agrees not to book any groups that are in the same industry as the group during the same or overlapping period of time. The hotel also agrees to discuss with the group any potential bookings that are similar in nature, to ensure the utmost confidentiality of its meeting." The hotel then guarantees that should such a conflicting booking occur, the group has the right to terminate this contract without liability as long as such notice is taken within 30 days of the group's receipt of the notice of a conflicting booking.


TIP#10 Be transparent
Give the hotel stakeholders enough information so they can understand the needs and objectives of the group. This will insure that the responsibility for communicating to the group the existence of a booking that would be in direct conflict with the activities, products, or objectives of the group will lie with them.


Foster has renamed the force majeure paragraph in his contracts, "Termination and Excuse of Performance." That title clarifies what the intent is: The terms under which either party may terminate the contract obligations without liability, due to acts or events outside their control.

"Parties to a contract need to recognize that force majeure is more than 'impossibility' and 'acts of God,'" says Foster. "These are usually the only criteria referenced in typical contracts prepared by vendors. Contract law also includes two more criteria to trigger excuse of performance, which are: impracticability and frustration of purpose. These latter two criteria must be listed in the contract in order to be invoked by either party."

Keys to Negotiation and Getting the Best Deal
To be successful in negotiation, be tenacious, clear in your needs, and fair to the hotel. "Understand the value of your business to the hotel and be able to show the potential with your actual revenue history. Groups that utilize a third-party advocate like ConferenceDirect have a huge advantage in negotiations, because they have a respected industry expert in their corner with buying power and market intelligence," says Roxane Kramer, global account executive for ConferenceDirect.

"We represent over 10,700 events a year and negotiate over $787 million in group room contracts each year," she says. "We live with our finger on the pulse of the industry and use our insight and influence to save our clients money."

The best time to start negotiating concessions, rates, and meeting space is from the beginning, before a contract is requested. "Ask for what you need and want from the start, by giving your required and requested concessions in the RFP. If you have specific contract terms that you require, give those in the RFP as well and find out if the hotel will agree from the start," adds Kramer. She shows the hotel the overall value of the group by sharing the history of food-and-beverage spend, guest room pickup, A/V spend, and how the group positively drove revenue in other outlets of the hotel. "You want to make the hotel want your business," she says.


TIP#5 Never handwrite changes
"Take the time to retype the contract terms to make them legible, complete sentences, and to make sure that they are properly worded," is another piece of advice offered by Devlin. "If a customer handwrites in the margin of a cancellation clause 'less rooms resold' and the hotel accepts it rather than putting in a clause that defines how resold rooms will be counted and credited, the parties have just bought themselves a legal dispute." Additionally, handwritten changes are often illegible or it is impossible to determine when they were added -- or if both parties accepted them.


TIP#6 Keep it simple
"Always make sure that the signed contract can be easily understood by a party that is not involved with the negotiations. Should you or the person you've negotiated the contract with no longer be involved, you need to be sure that all terms are easily understood and nothing can be misinterpreted by either party," says Glenn Phillips, meetings and conventions manager of Abbey Carpet Company, based in Bonita Springs, FL.


TIP#7 Checklists help
As a planner who isn't full-time, Dr. Robert Hollon, executive director, Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), based in Eau Claire, WI, uses checklist-style profiles of client needs that are integrated with contract must-haves like clear force majeure clauses, attrition language, and nonperformance statements, tailoring them to his organization's needs. "I invest time to keep them up to date. That way, when I am negotiating, it is less likely that I miss something as the draft contracts are set up, and more likely that I will get my language included in final drafts. There are lots of these lists and guides out there, so it wasn't all that hard to develop one that communicated ASTE's needs," he says.


TIP#8 Turn to the experts
"It's important to periodically pay an independent expert to review some recent contracts and point out their strengths and weaknesses," says Hollon. "I've applied the idea throughout my career -- seeking feedback and critique, especially from those who might not agree with me, a great way to sharpen thinking."


TIP#9 Seek balance
"Always ask for strategic contract clauses that are fair and balanced to both the hotel and the client that protect you, especially in this compressed market," says Terri Woodin, CMP, senior director of global meeting services for Meeting Sites Resource, a global, strategic meetings-management organization based in Orange County, CA. "It is a business decision for the hotel to agree to it or not, or perhaps you can find mutual language that you both can agree to, but it never hurts to ask. For example, rebook vs. resell. I want both, but the hotel may only agree to one. Is your meeting more likely to cancel? Then you need rebook. Is it more likely to not pick up? Then resell would be best to get."


Key Clauses To Cover
The key clauses in a contract, according to Foster, are: attrition, cancellation, and force majeure. One thing all those involved in the contract process agree upon is that change is constant.

 

Leslie J. Blair, VIKTOR
Leslie J. Blair, VIKTOR

"We are in the midst of a buyer's market, and as a result, contracts are changing," says Leslie J. Blair, CMP, account executive at VIKTOR, a national engagement agency based in Traverse City, MI. "Flexibility and willingness to eliminate certain clauses have gone by the wayside, only to be replaced by stiffer attrition and cancellation penalties and higher rates, just to name a few. As a result, it is good practice to include certain clauses in contracts.


Conflicting Booking
VIKTOR finds this clause to be helpful. Basically it states: "The hotel agrees not to book any groups that are in the same industry as the group during the same or overlapping period of time. The hotel also agrees to discuss with the group any potential bookings that are similar in nature, to ensure the utmost confidentiality of its meeting." The hotel then guarantees that should such a conflicting booking occur, the group has the right to terminate this contract without liability as long as such notice is taken within 30 days of the group's receipt of the notice of a conflicting booking.


TIP#10 Be transparent
Give the hotel stakeholders enough information so they can understand the needs and objectives of the group. This will insure that the responsibility for communicating to the group the existence of a booking that would be in direct conflict with the activities, products, or objectives of the group will lie with them.


Foster has renamed the force majeure paragraph in his contracts, "Termination and Excuse of Performance." That title clarifies what the intent is: The terms under which either party may terminate the contract obligations without liability, due to acts or events outside their control.

"Parties to a contract need to recognize that force majeure is more than 'impossibility' and 'acts of God,'" says Foster. "These are usually the only criteria referenced in typical contracts prepared by vendors. Contract law also includes two more criteria to trigger excuse of performance, which are: impracticability and frustration of purpose. These latter two criteria must be listed in the contract in order to be invoked by either party."


TIP#11 Don't stop at force majeure
Force majeure gets all the attention, but there are other, far more common, reasons for canceling a meeting besides an "act of God." Be sure to include mutual cancellation and mutual indemnification clauses as well.


Mutual Cancellation
"Of course, most meeting planners would say the force majeure clause should be at the top of the list -- and although very important, there are other clauses that I think are vital to include in contracts with hotels," says Marty Streeper, president of Meeting Management Group, a Tampa, FL-based meeting planning and association management company. "Mutual cancellation clauses are very important. Why should the client be penalized when the hotel may not be -- especially if the hotel cancels a meeting for a reason that is not due to force majeure?"


Mutual Indemnification
"Mutual indemnification means the hotel and group will mutually hold each other harmless and indemnify one another from any and all demands, claims, damages to persons or property, losses, and liabilities," says Streeper.


Attrition
Typically, this is evoked when a portion of a hotel's room inventory is set aside under a firm agreement with a planner for a set period of time. When a group doesn't live up to its room-block commitment, a payment is required to make up for the rooms not sold, according to the terms of the contract.


TIP#12 Keep an eye on all of the hotel's inventory, not just your room block
If the hotel sells out, any attrition charges that would be owed to the hotel should be waived, says Streeper. "This part of an attrition clause must be included in your negotiated contracts with groups and hotels."

The contract should also include a clause addressing mitigation and/or resale of rooms. "If the hotel sells your unused rooms to other groups and/or clients, monies received for the unsold rooms should be credited to you," adds Streeper.


Entertainment
You would be hard pressed to find someone more adept at negotiating the entertainment clause of a contract than Jaki Baskow, CEO and owner of Baskow & Associates, a full-service destination management company as well as celebrity/talent broker based in Las Vegas.

 

Jaki Baskow,
Baskow & Associates
Jaki Baskow, Baskow & Associates

When dealing with celebrities and entertainers, it is most important to remember that there will be riders. While these are usually geared toward a concert rather than a meeting, they can include everything from the food and beverage to the type of travel to the furniture the entertainer would like in his or her dressing room.

Some of these requirements can get outrageous. "Riders can be negotiated," says Baskow. Some performers ask for certain lights and sound that may be available in your general session, so explore all your resources, she advises. Once you have made a firm offer, remember it is irrevocable. "You are obligated under those words to book that act if they accept the offer," says Baskow.

She uses her negotiating power and her relationships with today's major acts to help planners. "If the meeting is being held during a time when the performer's schedule is slow, I will use that to our advantage," she says. "The bottom line is to negotiate everything. If you do not ask, you will not get."


TIP#13 Only bow to star power
Unless you are dealing with a major star, the rider should only include the absolute essentials, says Baskow.


Technology
As the pace of technological change continues to quicken, it is challenging for planners to predict what should be included in contracts. "Trying to predict what will apply in five years is like trying to predict a lifetime in terms of technology," says meetings technology analyst Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, owner and cofounder of Corbin Ball & Co.

This is where the help of an attorney is beneficial. "This is one of those clauses that should have a timeline for reviews at scheduled intervals," says Howe.

Planners should consult with their IT team to determine the bandwidth needs of the event based on tracking past usage as well as other technical details. "Wi-Fi is the lifeblood of an event. It is a crucial communications point for almost every event," explains Ball.

Toland recommends consulting the website www.hotelwifitest.com, which ranks hotels by the speed of their Internet connections. Another to consider is www.speedspot.org. What is adequate bandwidth in a facility today may not be adequate five years from now as the streaming of events becomes more commonplace. It would be best to have a technology clause that could be revised as the meeting gets closer, Howe adds.

Another point to address is in a clause is Internet security. The questions that should be asked include: how a secure network will be monitored, and what provisions the facility will take against threats, including viruses.


TIP#14 Be prepared for Wi-Fi jamming
According to Foster, the biggest technology issue is Wi-Fi jamming by hotels and convention centers. This is illegal under federal law. "Although the FCC has fined some hotels for jamming a group's Wi-Fi signals from their modem, it still goes on. A well-written hotel contract will address this prohibition against the hotel and provide for damages to the group if it occurs," says Foster.


TIP#15 Preserve your right to choose A/V vendors
Clauses dealing with A/V companies and other suppliers are important in that you, as the meeting planner, need to have the freedom to utilize the companies that best suit your needs so you are not locked into using a supplier that may be affiliated with the hotel," explains Meeting Management Group's Streeper.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

"It's tricky and first begins with a thorough site inspection, preferably conducted using a mobility device to find out if in fact the hotel is accessible," explains Eisenstodt. "All hotels, some even grandfathered for ADA, will say they are in compliance and their proposals will provide standard language. If you know your group and what their needs are, be specific in your RFP and then incorporate into your contract how exactly [the property is] or will be accessible. For example, does it have or will you need a lowered front desk area? Do you need for them to have interpreters? Menus printed in Braille? Kits to make any room accessible? Be specific about what you need."


TIP#16 Don't accept the standard ADA language of hotel proposals
Tailor your contract to meet the unique needs of your group.


Change of Ownership
Given the volatility in the ownership/management side of the hotel business, with flags and owners changing and so much consolidation taking place, it's good practice to include a "change of ownership or management" clause in contracts. Such a clause can allow the planner the option of canceling the program without any financial obligations if the hotel changes owners. "Plus, many clients buy a brand and if it changes, the client should have the right to terminate that agreement," explains Bromberg.


TIP#17 Make sure the clause asks for compensation
"We are encouraging our clients to have language in contracts that allows them to terminate a contract if there is a change in ownership, ensuring the hotel covers the cost of relocating the group," says Bromberg.


Construction, Remodeling, and Renovation
Bromberg recommends contract clauses that state over the specific dates of a meeting, that there will not be any renovation or construction that could impact the event or comfort of the attendees.

Additional contract questions will surely come up, but by following these general guidelines, planners should be able to protect themselves and improve their negotiating position.  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.