Solid legal advice from industry powerhouse Jonathan T. Howe and words of wisdom from a panel of experienced independent planners highlighted Northstar Meetings Group's Interact Independent Planners event, which welcomed 42 industry professionals Tuesday for networking, hosted-buyer appointments and education sessions.
In a discussion led by Loren Edelstein, vice president and content director of the Northstar Meetings Group, the panelists -- Deborah Kuns, CMP, of Origin Event Planning; Tracey Bockhop, CMP, of Meet Meetings; and Walter Galanty, of AIM Meetings and Events -- all revealed that they are not booking any meetings right now. But Brockhop is hopeful: "I'm very optimistic for 2021," she said. "Being on so many virtual meetings is just going to resolidify the worth of in-person meetings.”
Like the others, Galanty started out the year with high hopes. "We were fat, dumb and happy around President's Day, when we had our last live event," he said. "And then everything pretty much fell off the table." Of necessity, he has learned to run digital events and sat through countless platform demos. "What we've found is one size doesn't fit all," he added. "And you unfortunately have to go through a lot of these presentations in order to figure out which platform is exactly right for each particular client."
Howe, president and founding partner of Chicago's Howe & Hutton firm and Northstar's longtime legal expert, discussed force majeure and other important contract clauses that offer protections in uncertain times. "Put a purpose clause in your contract right up front, right after you tell who the parties are," he advised. "Say, 'The purpose and mission of this program has to do X, Y and Z.'…Make your purpose very clear, be concise. And if that purpose doesn’t come about, for example if it’s a product launch for a product that was not approved, you now have a frustration-of-purpose opportunity to get out of the contract without liability."
He also spoke of commissions, and advised listeners to address payment terms in contracts, and consider fee-based pricing. "What we have seen over the years is that the successful independent has protected themselves by saying, ‘Here is our fee for doing this job for you.’ That's the smart way to go."
For independents who prefer to stay with a commission model for their business, he suggested, "Make sure that in your hotel contract you have stated that the commission is earned -- key word 'earned' -- at the time the contract is signed."
For more advice for this pandemic year from Howe, read Event-Contract Advice: Force Majeure and Sample Hotel Clauses for Getting Back to Business.
Next on the calendar for Northstar's summer Interact series of digital events is Interact Small Meetings & Unique Venues, to be held July 21. The full series schedule can be found here.