By Heather Reid
Most venue contracts only capture the basics: the event name, the anticipated number of attendees and the official program dates. Unfortunately for most venue contracts, that’s insufficient. John Foster, a hospitality lawyer and certified hospitality marketing executive, says planners need to include a detailed event description section in their venue contracts that goes beyond the basics to include the particulars. It’s critical toward ensuring that planners, salespeople and venue staff are all on the same page, that everyone’s obligations are spelled out and that the metrics for the event’s success are clearly defined. It’s also important in case things go wrong: Articulating the event objectives and limiting factors beforehand creates leverage to argue one’s case later.
Based on Foster’s recommendations, as well as my own experience, here are the elements that every event organizer should include in their event description.
Type of Event
Identify the nature of the event. Are you hosting a board meeting, conference, fundraiser, religious event, product launch, tradeshow, sporting event, incentive trip—whatever it is, define it.
Frequency of Event
Ensure everyone knows whether your event is biannual, annual, semi-annual, monthly, weekly or a one-time event.
Does the event rotate between geographic regions of the country? Does the event change location in a regular pattern? Does the event move internationally?
Dates of the Official Program
You’ve included the official program dates, but does that include set up and tear-down? Make sure you know how much time you need to prepare and wrap up your event and account for it in the description.
What countries or regions are attendees travelling from? Can you identify approximate proportions of each location based on historical data or estimates?
Unusual Aspects of the Event
If necessary, disclose any unconventional elements you’ve included in your event. If you’ve scheduled any high-risk activities, make sure they’re identified and accounted for.
Components of the Event
Also make sure to include the run-of-the-mill: plenary sessions, breakout sessions, trade shows, fun runs, silent auctions, gala evenings and sporting tournaments should all be there as well.
Need for Confidentiality
If your event is proprietary or demands any sort of confidentiality, include it in the description.
Are there specific competitors or other events that cannot or should not be contracted within the venue or the same dates? Are there any special considerations that the venue needs to be mindful of when booking this event?
The Bottom Line
Yes, event descriptions create more work for time-strapped event organizers and overloaded sales personnel. But, they’re always worth the effort. Your event description ensures continuity between the salesperson who negotiates your contract and the conference services manager who executes your vision. It ensures continuity between your organization and the venue, which is especially important in case you or your venue’s salesperson leaves or changes roles. It’s like a thesis or mission statement that keeps everyone on the same plain. And should the worst happen, it helps event hosts — you — defend their position in cases of indemnification, attrition or termination.
Bottom line: Include this little-known best practice in all your future contracts. You will glad you did!