In Part I of this Golden Nugget, we identified the major elements of a facility contract.  With regard to specifics, there are a number of major areas to address to mitigate your risk.

For example, the attrition clause (what happens if your group fails to consume the number of rooms committed to in the room block) must be clearly understood and agreed to.  Some contracts calculate the attrition on the overall pick-up percentage (better approach) but some contracts calculate the attrition on the per night pick-up percentage (not so good).  Attrition clauses usually specify the minimum percentage of room block pick-up required to be eligible for complimentary meeting space.  However, be careful as to the way the breakdown of the attrition break points is indicated.  The attrition clause must also be very clear on the dates when you can release a portion of your block, without penalty.

Another key point to negotiate in your facility contract is the set-up time required for your meeting room installations.  Facilities typically try to book back to back events so that the same meeting room can be turned over for another revenue generating event on the same day.  However, you have to make sure the contract specifically gives you access early enough for your event’s installations.

Your Professional Conference Organizer (PCO) can provide helpful advice on how the meeting space configuration will work best, or why the meeting space proposed by the facility will not work in your favour for your program.  Insist on having floor plans drawn to scale for each of your meeting room set-ups to ensure that the facility takes into account all your room set-up arrangements (including technical and audio-visual installations and staging) so that you can be confident that the meeting space booked in the contract will provide the right physical environment.  If you end up with a long and narrow meeting room, don’t book a panel presentation requiring a head table set-up in that room.  In a lot of cases, the program is developed after the meeting space is booked in which case your Program Committee needs to be fully aware of the space considerations and limitations.

The facility contract is not just about meeting and hotel room space.  Be sure to get banquet price lists before you sign the contract.  If you don’t you might be unpleasantly surprised when it comes time to place your order.

Any clause restricting you to use the facility’s ‘official supplier or penalties or surcharges to use your own supplier should be specifically addressed.  While the use of official suppliers is usually negotiable if it is a “deal breaker”, your PCO should know the flexibility of the facility on these points.

These are only a few elements of the facility selection and contract negotiation that a Professional Conference Organizer can successfully manage on your behalf.  Walk with your PCO and you’ll be off on the right foot.

Written by Hélène Lamadeleine