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by By Jonathan T. Howe, Esq. | April 01, 2011
More Tips

Agreeing in writing to share information on special requests and attendee needs can ensure those requests are satisfied.

Avoid buzzwords. If you don't know what a term means, define it in the agreement. Never sign a contract without understanding it completely.

If it's important to the success of the event, it should be in the contract. Spell out what you want and need, and then you can expect to get what you want and need.

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A number of basic clauses must be in every contract for group business at a hotel. These include the room block, the rate, the dates, F&B requirements, meeting space requirements, and attrition and cancellation clauses designed to minimize or explain the parties' obligations in the event that either occurs. Some other issues that could be imperative to the success of your program, however, too often are overlooked.

Safe Haven Consider including a "quiet enjoyment" clause. This ensures that a rock band will not be rehearsing next door to a prayer breakfast.

Equally important here is the control you need concerning other groups staying at the hotel. This is becoming more of a basic requirement for corporations in sensitive industries. Proper language in the contract keeps competitors out of the hotel when you are there.

Similarly, during a trade show, you will want to control hospitality suites and other gathering spaces at both the hotel and the convention center, where exhibitors sometimes hold competing events, avoiding paying your organization for the privilege. A clause giving your group the right of first refusal over those spaces, pending your release, can help protect the integrity of your show. However, that right comes with a price: If you hold the suites and forget to release them, your organization will pay for them.

Media Rights Do you want a daily publication for your show as well as someone else's distributed at your event? If not, add a clause stating that only organizations authorized by you can do door drops during the time that your group is primarily in the hotel.

Avoiding the Courts Add the requirement that before anybody goes to court or arbitration following your event, the parties must attempt to resolve the dispute. This mandated cooling-off period can be very effective, especially when the parties are suffering from a fundamental misunderstanding.

Failing that, requiring a professional mediator can do much to relieve and save money over a dispute that could and should be settled promptly. Arbitration clauses are common, but often they don't go far enough. Outline where the arbitration will be held, how the arbitrators will be selected, whether you will exchange documents and witness lists before the hearing, and what state's laws will apply.

Seldom do we see clauses that deal with what happens if one party defaults. Planners might want to have a provision outlining the obligation of a supplier should they default or cancel. Traditionally, the basic damage awarded by the courts in these cases rarely covers the real expenses that you incur. It's wise to add a cancellation clause that states precisely what you will be owed should the other side fail to meet quantitative requirements in the contract.

ADA Specifics Clauses concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act should delineate specifically who has responsibility for what services. Generally, this can be done by a simple cause that states "that for which the meeting host controls" and "that for which the facility controls."