Dealing with contracts for venue rentals, supplier services, and hotels can be complex and tedious. Rates, fees, cancellation clauses, force majeure, attrition …. The list for what has to be negotiated, reviewed, and often renegotiated can seem endless — as can the time it takes to go through the internal procedure for contract review and approval.

Many corporations use their internal legal teams to review and approve contracts of any type, from product sales contracts for new customers to hotel contracts for corporate events. Often the contract reviews the legal team does for event departments are seen as low priority compared to customer contracts that result in direct sales revenue. But here are some tips can help you significantly reduce the time it takes to get your contracts approved:

  • Develop a relationship with legal

    Acquaint yourself with key individuals on the legal team who handle your contracts. Even if you typically deal with one person, it is still a good idea to be familiar with the whole team. You never know who you may end up working with on a contract, and people tend to react more positively to individuals they know.

  • Understand the review and approval process

    Collaborate with the legal team to determine the most efficient means of working together to streamline the process. Ideally the process includes a “tag team” approach in which the event planner ensures that the event-related details of the contract (i.e., rates, dates, space, services, etc.) are agreeable, while legal scrutinizes legal terms of the contract (e.g., force majeure or indemnification clauses).

  • Identify “hot button” clauses

    Identify which clauses are considered to be deal-breakers by your legal team and work with them to establish pre-approved versions. Once your legal team has pre-approved the clauses, the planner can provide vendors/suppliers with the appropriate verbiage to be included in contracts. Having these pre-approved clauses included in the initial contract expedites the review process by your legal team and limits the number of revisions sent back to the vendor/supplier. It's a win-win situation.

  • Review event-specific details

    There are generally two aspects of a contract: 1) event-related details, and 2) general legal terms. Before submitting a contract for legal review, have a close look at the event-related details of the contract and make any modifications necessary. In addition, check to see that the pre-approved clauses that were requested were indeed added. Once you're satisfied with the event-related details, you should send the contract to your legal team for review with a note saying that a positive review has been completed by the planner. Your legal team will appreciate being able to focus just on the legal terms.

  • Minimize contract revisions

    Too many times contracts go back and forth between the legal team and the vendor/supplier, with the planner functioning as the liaison between the two. This can burn several weeks before a final contract is completed. Rather than losing valuable time with all the back-and-forth, set up a process. Allow for perhaps two revisions to be handled through you and your legal team, then set up a meeting between your legal team and the vendor/supplier's legal representative to work through any remaining issues. The goal of the meeting is to agree on a final contract. As the planner, be sure to include yourself in this final meeting so that you are aware of what has been agreed upon.

  • Never cry wolf

    Ask for contract approval to be expedited only when absolutely necessary. Remember that it's not just you who needs contracts approved by the legal team, and everyone who has contracts waiting for approval tends to believe that theirs is the most important, so the legal team is typically under a lot of pressure. Demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the demands of their jobs, and when the time comes that you will legitimately need contract approval to be expedited, your legal team is more likely to work with you to make that happen.

Rachelle Nall, CMP, currently is a corporate meetings and events manager at Infor Inc. Nall is a 15-year veteran of the meetings and events industry, working mainly in the technology industry and with a meeting management firm.