November 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November 2002 Current Issue
November 2002 lawandplan.gifPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

The Law & the Planner

By Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.


Answers to planners’ questions on exhibitor contracts, deals in progress and room-block tallies

Q: I am trying to keep my contracts current with my clients. A need has arisen to define the word “exhibitors.” I have looked everywhere, including the dictionary (which defines “exhibit” but not “exhibitors”), but I have not had any luck. Is an exhibitor a company that exhibits or an individual representing a company that has exhibits? Does it refer to an individual person or a group of persons?

Elizabeth E. Porter, CMP
EP Productions Inc.
Atlanta, Ga.

A: There are several sources for industry definitions. In fact, the Convention Industry Council is in the process of updating a complete glossary. Currently, a glossary is included in the seventh edition of the Convention Industry Council Manual ( There, an exhibitor is defined as a “company or organization sponsoring an exhibit booth.” The “exhibitor” is the person (such as a sole proprietor) or organization paying for the exhibit space.

Q: What rights do I have if a hotel sends me a contract, I sign it, and then the hotel says the contract is not valid because they didn’t sign it? I had verbal definites from the sales manager.

Renee Lavoie
Events Manager
American Youth Soccer Organization
Hawthorne, Calif.

A: Unfortunately, what you received from the hotel was an invitation to make an offer. Until both parties have signed on the dotted line, there is no contract.

The oral statement does not carry much weight. By sending you a written proposal, the hotel clearly positioned itself to override any oral commitments that might have been made.

In the situation that you have described, I am not so sure I would ever want to do business again with that property or organization because of the approach taken. While legally correct, the business relationship is certainly tainted.

When you get an unsigned proposal, view it as just that. Until the other side agrees with the terms and conditions that they have proffered, there is no contract.

A lesson here: Do not rely on oral representations. Deal with people you like. Don’t be taken off guard by the fast-talking individual who promises you everything but cannot deliver anything.

Q: A persistent question we receive concerns attendees who book outside the block. Can the group get credit for rooms booked on the Internet or by some other means? And how can planners verify the numbers the hotel presents as the final room count?

A: The key for the meeting professional is to contractually provide for credit for any attendee who shows up, regardless of how the room reservation was made.

This is important not only to avoid attrition fees, but also to obtain perks that depend on rooms occupied, such as complimentary sleeping and meeting rooms, as well as commissions that might be due under the contact.

Some ways to verify the room block: At registration, ask attendees where they are staying, and do your own count. Also, be sure your contract gives you access to housing information from the hotel on a daily basis.

Even with these efforts, the system is rife with glitches. In the future, planners might just book a few rooms for speakers, directors and VIPs, and let attendees book their own lodging in the same way to book their travel to the meeting. In other words, it could turn into a real jungle.

Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., is a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel and hospitality law. Legal questions can be e-mailed to him at

Back to Current Issue index
M&C Home Page
Current Issue | Events Calendar | Newsline | Incentive News | Meetings Market Report
Editorial Libraries | CVB Links | Reader Survey | Hot Dates | Contact M&C