Five things to consider for your events contract

Event law specialist Matt Crouch says if you get all of these things properly written in your contracts, you'll be well on your way to a good night's sleep!

Event management has its risks, perhaps not up there with tightrope walking (though it may feel that way sometimes), but they are real!

Matt Crouch.

Do your contracts – with your client, attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, suppliers and venues – properly protect you? Event law specialist Matt Crouch from Matt Crouch Legal shares five of the most important things your contracts need to address.

1. Ensure you have the right contract “model” if you are an event manager in private practice

If you provide event management services to clients, what “model” of client contract do you have? The defining feature is the basis on which you will engage with third parties such as attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, venues and other suppliers. Do you “just” provide advice and the client enters into all those third-party contracts? Do you sign third-party contracts as agent for your client? Or do you sign as a principal, in your own name? Your client contract must reflect one of these three models.  For example, if you are going to sign as agent for your client, you will need appropriate authority and much more.

2. Your fees: Beware underwriting the event

Fixed fees and hourly rates usually reflect the commercial value of your professional skills and volume of work needed to do your job. On the other hand, if your fees depend on the number of attendees, or the “profit” generated by the event, you are, to some extent, underwriting the event. If the event is unsuccessful, you may end up being paid a lot less than the commercial value of your services – despite all your good work! We humans are afflicted with an illusion of control! Many things can interfere with the success of an event.  Haven’t we seen that, big-time, over the past few years?

The one thing you should never do, is guarantee or promise financial success, or levels of revenue. Never promise outcomes, financial or otherwise. The event is your client’s business venture and it’s your client that should carry that risk of losses.

3. Specify the goods and services you supply

When you specify your services, be accurate and thorough, describing exactly what you will do and when, allowing plenty of time to complete milestones. If you say you will do “x, y and z”, ask yourself whether your client might assume that you will also do “a, b and c.”  It can be just as important to specify what you will not be doing (for the agreed fee) as it is to accurately describe what you will be doing.

4. Limit your liability

Your contracts are the best place to limit your exposure to legal liability – ideally, to a sum less than your insurance cover. Make sure that you have a bespoke limitation of liability clause written by your lawyer! No two event managers operate identically, so never borrow from a colleague or just copy your contract from the internet!

5. Include proper cancellation, postponement… and Force Majeure clauses

Events get cancelled, postponed and even changed to virtual – sometimes because of “Force Majeure” circumstances and sometimes for commercial reasons.

Event contracts need to consider these possibilities and their consequences. Are there cancellation fees, will refunds be provided, and will you be paid for the additional work that cancellation or postponement necessitates?

Get all of these things properly written in your contracts, and you are well on your way to a good night’s sleep!

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