Expert insights

10 top tips for the perfect venue contract

18 January 2018 by Nicola Johnson

Booking a venue? Don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve read our expert checklist for what to look out for.

Nicola Johnson, conference consultant at Capita Travel and Events, has overseen hundreds of venue contracts for events. Follow her at-a-glance guide to checking over your venue contract, for smart and efficient event management.

1. Master the venue contract basics

A venue contract should include the name of the space being booked and the times that it’s needed between: remember to factor in the time taken to set up and clear the space before and after the event, especially for blank canvas venues where you are bringing your own equipment.

Also, some venues state that they can change a room without your approval, so make sure you specify that you are able to approve any changes in writing.

2. Look out for the cancellation clause

Cancellation clauses vary between venues. You’re likely to be responsible for the full cost of venue hire if you cancel within 60 days of the event, so try and negotiate flexible terms. We aim to reduce this to 30 days. If a venue is resold after cancellation, state that the amount recouped should be reduced from your charges.

3. Remember the permission slip

If you’re planning on filming a video of your event or taking publicity photographs, include this in your contract. The venue might have confidential information that it doesn’t want to share with the public, so needs to know in advance.

4. Note the food and drink rules

A venue will often want to name its preferred food and drink suppliers for health and safety reasons, and a lot of venues will not allow delegates to bring their own refreshments. If you want to arrange your own catering, discuss it upfront.

5. Detail the logistics

Make sure you include details of how your guests are arriving in the contract. That way, if the venue is a busy one, you’re guaranteed a time slot for parking or any other access you need. If you’re planning any team-building activities or audiovisual equipment, it’s vital to agree this, too, so the event can run without a hitch.

6. Read the liability jargon

It’s crucial to define who has liability for health and safety issues or damage at an event. The venue is usually responsible for risks under its control, but you may need your own cover when taking delegates off-site. Check with your procurement manager. Also, ask that the venue tells you if there are any competitive companies on-site – it might be a confidentiality risk to your business.

7. Know your costs

The key factors are the venue cost and whether it is paid in instalments. Beyond that, ensure that the company’s legal address (rather than office of the person who is signing the agreement) is on the contract. When we, as a travel management company, are responsible for the funds, we always make sure customers see a copy of the contract by email and authorise us in writing to pay the bill. Be aware that if booking an event the following year, the total cost might be subject to price changes or VAT increases – the venue should flag any potential increase.

8. Scrimp on the guests

Bear in mind that it’s often better to agree your minimum number of delegates for an event, rather than your maximum – to limit your cancellation charges if numbers change.

9. Be ready for attrition

Each standard contract should include an attrition clause. This clause will allow you to reduce numbers by 10% or 20% (industry standard) up to seven days prior to an event taking place. As with most things, this is open for negotiation.

10. Confirm in writing after receiving your venue contract

After your contract has been issued, expect to confirm final details in writing seven to 10 days before an event. This is your opportunity to tweak details mentioned in the contract, such as the timing of tea and coffee breaks. Essential aspects of your event should go in the original contract, but flexible arrangements and contact details on the day can be added in here.

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