Event Planning Contracts: 5 Strategies For A Smoother Negotiation

If you’re part of the event industry, you no-doubt understand and appreciate the importance of event planning contracts. They allow us to agree on how things should go. They prevent unwanted surprises and headaches from arising.

Event pros also know that navigating the jargon, meticulous checklists, and back-and-forth communication that often come with negotiating contracts for an event can be stressful and time consuming. We’re here to help with that. I’m bringing you five tips from AAE’s experienced team of contract specialists to make your life easier. Let’s jump in!

#1: Early in the booking process, give a lot of thought to the terms that you have for your event

The contracts phase of your event planning process may be where all the details are put into legally-binding writing. We recommend that you have an idea of your terms and conditions long before then. Think about what may be deal breakers for you and your event. Things like:

  • Would you like to record the event?
  • Will it be public or only available to attendees?
  • How long will recorded sessions be made available after the event?
  • How many attendees are you expecting?
  • Would you like to post about the event and share the name and likeness of the talent?
  • Are there additional requests you have for your speaker, like book signings or meet & greets?

Coming into the booking process with clearly defined terms for your event can help eliminate certain speakers from consideration, saving you time and resources. Because AAE works with many speakers on a regular basis, we are often able to help give you an idea of the terms we know a certain speaker requires, right from the start.

#2: Details are your friend — don’t underestimate how specific you’ll need to be

You know that old saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” With event planning contracts, it’s the opposite. We encourage you to sweat the smallest of the small details, even when it may seem like overkill. Your event plan no doubt lays out exactly how you want things to go, but these plans only get real power when they’re included in the contract.

The more you’re able to get both parties to agree in writing, the more sure you can both be that the event will play out exactly how you’re hoping it will. And this concept is especially crucial when you’re working with speakers in the higher budget ranges. More on that below.

#3: The higher level the speaker, the more requirements you should expect them to have

Everything we’ve covered so far — from confirming dates, times, and locations to agreeing on rider requirements, travel, and more — is essential to ensuring your event runs smoothly and that no conflicts arise between you and your speaker.

If your speaker happens to be an a-list celebrity, superstar athlete, or award-winning recording artist, you should assume that their list of requirements will be more extensive than most and less flexible to changes. And typically, there’s a higher financial investment involved in the deal. These two things combined mean that you should give as much time and consideration as possible into the details of your contract.

Specifically, you may encounter more strict force majeure clauses. You’ll want to make sure you have a clear understanding of the speaker’s terms and conditions. Having a clear plan laid out in the contracts stage protects your organization’s best interest as the event date approaches.

#4: If you are recording, you’ll need extra prep time built into your planning

Recording a session or an entire event is a great way to show attendees that you are respectful of their time and schedules. It also allows them to be more engaged and in the moment, to be able to look up from their laptop or written notes without fear of missing a major point. 

If you’re thinking of recording your upcoming event, understand the impact it will have on your event contract as well. For the speaker, knowing where you would like to share the recording after the event may affect their decision on their preferred format — be it a fireside chat, keynote address, or moderated Q&A. In some cases, a speaker may approve a recording but only allow it to be used only for a specified period of time after the event. Be sure you have an extended timeline if that is your intent.

#5: Always get clear approvals on name and likeness

Our clients book some pretty cool people for their events — keynote speakers, emcee’s, entertainers, celebrity chefs, and so many others. Understandably, event organizers are often excited to share details about their incredible events and awesome speakers with the world. 

But before you’re ready to do that, you’ll have to get specific in the contract — like, really specific. Any time you’re planning on using the name or likeness of your keynote speaker or other booked talent, including photos — whether it be in the leadup to your event or afterward — you must get approval from their team. It’s important to make sure that both parties understand and agree on each of these instances (including social media posts) early on in the conversation.

Putting it all together can be tricky, but there’s hope

There’s a lot that goes into negotiating and creating a proper, exhaustive, and mutually beneficial event planning contract. When it comes down to it, event organizers who think ahead, understand how the talent and talent management operate, and keep these tips in mind will increase their chances of success.

If you’re interested in having a partner who brings all of these attributes to the table and more, then AAE’s experienced contracts team is happy to help. Contact us today to get started booking your next event.

Evan Owens: Evan is a communications manager for AAE. He writing about the latest trends of the entertainment industry and creating engaging, useful content for event planners. In his free time, he likes playing basketball, and spending time with his wife, son, and their two dogs.
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