Contracts are the in the everyday fabric of all meeting planner's lives. They are the wheel that makes things happen.
Yet, according to Joan Eisenstodt, Chief Strategist of Eisenstodt Associates, LLC they are the most overlooked and misunderstood part of the event planning process. She stated in The Meeting Professional magazine, "We tend to ignore what we fear and don't understand….the only thing you should fear is the outcome of not paying attention."
Here we go:
- Carefully review the contract.
"Red-line" any changes, additions or deletions.
Identify the person who is authorized to make binding commitments.
Make sure that all terms have been clearly defined and explained. If you don't understand any part of the contract, ask questions until they are answered
Don't be in a rush to sign the contract; take your time and make certain it has everything in it you want and need to run your event.
Eisenstodt suggests reading the entire piece out loud twice and I would go one step further. Let 2-3 other people in your organization read it as well.
- Consider legal advice and ask for clear contract language that will enable both you and your partners to understand and meet their obligations.
Attorneys can assure the contract language does not have conflicting wording and can prevent liability loopholes.
- Make sure all contracts are in writing.
Oral contracts can lead to confusion and be costly in the long run. In addition, you are relying on memory in order to fulfill the agreement. When renting audio visual equipment and trade show technology, where configurations can be complicated, get the order and contract in writing so you can avoid "last-minute" add-ons.
- Make sure full contact information for each party including company name, contact person’s name, and mailing address are included in the contract.
- After the contract is signed, regular communication between you and your suppliers, regarding changes in the scope of the event, can help you address potential problems before they arise.
However, remember that once the contract is signed, you are no longer in a position to negotiate. You can ask, but you cannot force things to go your way. Try and work toward a "win-win" solution with your partners.
- Make sure you have a signed, final contract on hand at all times – especially at your meeting.
- All information and correspondence related to any contract should be retained at least until the conclusion of your event – including full and final payment to your partner.