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Issues Facing the Meeting Industry


Posted on May 17, 2006

By John S. Foster, Esq., CHME

I'm pleased to be participating as a "Meeting Industry Guru" this week with my colleague, Lisa Sommer Devlin. As Lisa alluded to, she and I are frequently on opposite sides of the negotiation table between meeting sponsors and hotels and on opposite sides of the lawsuit or arbitration when contract disputes arise.

Lisa and I usually agree, with a few exceptions, on what the law is that controls legal issues in the meetings industry. Where we frequently disagree is how to apply the law to specific fact patterns,  both during negotiations and after the contract is signed, in order to avoid the potential pitfalls and risks affecting both planners and suppliers daily in the meeting industry. Just like the complex issues facing the USA and other countries worldwide, our industry has become more complex with increasing risks.  These complexities must be dealt with fairly and legally in meeting industry contracts by each side or else the parties are setting themselves up  for expensive disputes in the future. The effect is that industry contracts have become longer with new terms being created on a regular basis to deal with new issues.  Even if lengthy negotiations on multiple issues are not your preference, remember "John's Golden Rule of Business Agreements": If you ask for something from the other side before the contract is signed it's called " Negotiating "; If you ask the other side for something after the contract is signed it's called " Begging ". Hence, it's  much better to take the time to negotiate all relevant terms up front rather than begging for terms later that you forgot or were too lazy to negotiate before signing the contract. If contracts are not your strong point, by all means seek legal counsel from an attorney that is familiar with the meetings ndustry.

I may disagree with Lisa on how the law should be applied to certain facts and negotiation points,  but she and I agree on what the frequent issues are that take the most time to negotiate.  Lisa has adequately identified some of these key issues in her post. During the next few days we will be posting our "point/counterpoint" discussion of these issues and others as they arise. Feel free to join in the discussion and express your opinion if you have something to say.

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