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by Jonathan T. Howe, Esq. | December 01, 2016
HAVE A PLAN
Vow to be more vigilant than in the past regarding the safety and security of your meeting attendees. Things to do:

Refine your risk-management plans. If you don't have a plan, make one now.

 Ask about hotel security and medical-emergency practices; learn about the area around the hotel.

 Have a duty-of-care clause in your contracts that covers crisis-management roles for all involved in each event.
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The new year beckons. As I look back over the last couple of years, some things come to mind that are important but often overlooked. So, in welcoming 2017, here are some thoughts for you to consider.

1. Contracts do not have to cover every single contingency known to man, woman or child. What they do need to be is a clear and comprehensive guide that will lead to a successful event, while at the same time minimizing possible areas of liability and risk.

2. Force majeure does not cover terrorism.
 Ever since 9/11 we have seen the word terrorism inserted in force majeure clauses, but it doesn't belong there. Force majeure is something over which no person has control, and which makes performance impossible.

An act of terrorism, unless it directly impacts a party's performance (as in the destruction of the hotel), is a cancellation concern, not force majeure. The clause dealing with what will excuse performance without liability, such as a change of flag, losing a rating star, etc., should also describe the excuse of an act of terrorism, such as indicating that the incident has to have occurred within a specific distance of where the meeting is taking place.

3. Transparency helps all parties avoid liability and minimize exposure.
 Inform attendees in advance of any risks (such as the Zika virus) they might confront during the event.

4. Ask for help. Consult your legal counsel about contract and risk issues before you put ink on paper. Don't let time pressures push you into signing on the dotted line before you are comfortable. After the fact might be too late.

5. Remember that every action will be met with a corollary reaction. Before creating riders or amendments, be sure you know what the ripple effect is. For instance, reducing a room block for purposes of attrition might work, but what other impact might it have on your contract? Does it affect your F&B costs? Damages?

6. Privacy and Internet issues are ongoing concerns. Is credit card information safeguarded? Is the hotel appropriating any attendee information?

7. Anticipate market adjustments. A new administration will take over, and the Republicans will continue to control Congress. Expect changes in the tax code, repeal of some executive orders of the past administration -- and the ensuing ripple effects.

8. Look for more consolidation and new hotel brands. The hotel industry is like today's cable TV: We have a lot more channels to explore than before, but that doesn't necessarily enhance the quality of the viewing.

9. Communicate early and often. Generally, you can't be blamed for bad news, but I can blame you if I need to know and you don't tell me about it.

10. Be kind. Remember, it's the hospitality, not the hostility, industry.


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