by Jonathan T. Howe, Esq. | December 01, 2015
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 In the case of an exclusive A/V contract, if you bring in your own vendor, be prepared to pay a fee to hook into the venue's systems.

 When selecting a venue that has an exclusive caterer, vet the food and the service as extensively as you can before entering into an agreement, so you can make sure the food and waitstaff quality will meet your expectations.

 Don't take no for an answer. If the venue says you can't bring in your own supplier, push a little to see if they will bend in order to get your business.
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Big convention centers, posh hotels, small off-site venues -- any number of meeting facilities have chosen to enter into exclusive vendor agreements, making it difficult for meeting planners to bring in their favorite A/V partners, caterers and other preferred suppliers. From the venue's point of view, these agreements provide another source of revenue, while assuring that the vendor will live up to the venue's standards and  meet its needs.

From the meeting organizer's perspective, it is important to have vendors that can be relied upon to provide consistent services that are within budget, although security and other considerations might require use of the group's preferred vendor.

When a group has its own suppliers and the venue has an exclusive agreement, the result can be a standoff during negotiations. Following are some considerations for those in this quandary.

When an exclusive contract is in place at a venue, evaluate how that will affect your needs. How important is it for you to use your own A/V people or caterer? Are your A/V needs simple enough that the exclusive vendor will be able to handle them without a problem? Do you need to look for a different venue that gives you more control over vendor selection and cost?

At the very least, put language in the agreement saying you will use the exclusive vendor if it can meet the performance and price levels you require. This allows some flexibility, but requires compliance with the needs of your organization. It must be put into the contract in order to be enforceable.

Certain types of exclusives can benefit both the facility and the planner. For example, rigging in a p articular convention center or hotel could require specialized equipment with which the exclusive vendor already is familiar.

It's understandable that many facilities have an exclusive security company. However, if your organization needs special security attention, state in the agreement that you will be bringing in an additional security service to attend to your particular needs.

In some cities, because of union contracts, if you use your own vendors, you might be required to have a "shadow" from the venue's supplier who will oversee your chosen vendor. This increases the cost to the planner, but could provide a very good outcome, since one supplier knows the facility well and the other understands the host organization's needs.

The goal is to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome, but realize that even though the vendor is called an exclusive, you might have room to negotiate around that in the agreement.

Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., is a senior partner of the Chicago, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton Ltd., specializing in meetings and hospitality law. Email questions to him at