5 Contracting Best Practices for Conference Departments

As one conference season winds down, it is time to look toward the next one. For many, contracting your repeat customers happens right away. 

Before you sign everyone on to next year’s camps and conferences with your existing contracts, take a step back and have a look at them. You may want to consider making some changes to incorporate contracting best practices that may be missing. 

We have compiled some of the most common terms and conditions to help you determine what you may want to add to your contracts.

Best practice #1: Attrition Clauses

dreamstime_xxl_82979127.jpgIf you don't have one, put one in. An attrition clause essentially protects you if the actual attendee numbers fall below projected numbers. 

Without an attrition clause, you could end up with empty bedrooms that could have been sold to another group, resulting in lost revenue.

Take a look at your overnight groups from the past summer. How many of them missed their numbers? How much lost revenue did that mean for you?

Best practice #2: Guarantee Counts/Numbers

You should be requiring your client to provide you with a guarantee count for food service. But it shouldn't end there. Be sure you have a minimum threshold for which they will be held responsible.

For example, a fairly common standard is 95% of the guarantee count or actual number, whichever is higher. As with the attrition clause, this ensures you don't lose even more forecasted revenue on an event that has lower attendance than projected. 

Your food service department will bill you for the count you gave them. Without a guaranteed number from the client, you would be responsible for paying the difference.

Best practice #3: Deposits

dreamstime_xxl_84910877.jpgI am always amazed at how many people still do not require deposits with a signed contract (or even non-refundable deposits). Without a deposit, anyone who contracts, but then backs out, means lost revenue for you.

Did you have to turn away another prospect for those very dates? Deposits (especially substantial deposits) help protect you from losses and ensure you are holding space for only those who are serious. Often if a client is reluctant to pay a deposit, it is because they lack confidence in the event. 

Unsure how to introduce deposits or what terms work best? Our contracting best practices guide shares 3 ways to get started. You can download the guide here.

Best practice #4: Cancellation Fees

There are many conference operations out there that do not have cancellation fees built in to their contracts. When asked why, many say they "feel bad" putting them in. They don't want to send a message of being customer-unfriendly.

However, from a business perspective, canceled conferences/events mean lost business for you.

If that cancellation happens very near the start date, it is highly unlikely you will be able to rebook the spaces and recover the revenue. You can be customer-centric, but still protect yourself. You can download our contracting guide to explore more options.

Best practice #5: Deadlines and Penalties  

dreamstime_xxl_84960673.jpgThis final topic can be controversial and therefore is often not as widely adopted as the others. However, having deadlines, and penalties for missing deadlines, may help save your staff last minute runaround. 

The worst offenders are usually rooming lists (housing rosters). You want the list at least a week ahead of time so you have ample time to prepare the rooms. The client gets it to you the day before check-in. 

By requiring a deadline of 14 days ahead of check-in, with a penalty fee of say, $200 for failure to submit by the deadline, could be all the push your client needs to meet your deadline and save your team headaches. 

This one should be weighed carefully as it can often be seen as the most punitive of practices. Be sure if you choose to implement this, you are prepared to enforce it.

Secure Business and Protect Your Interests

Contracting is more than just securing business from your clients. It also needs to be about protecting your interests. Many contracts do a great job at protecting your campus’ interests and mitigates risk, but too often they fail to protect your department’s financial interest. 

By determining and closing the gaps in your current contract, you can safeguard your business (and bottom line) from the unexpected.

Ready to explore some changes? Download our contracting guide to explore term suggestions and why these changes can help protect your business interests.

Download Our Guide

Laura Lafferty

Written by Laura Lafferty

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