Negotiating Post-Pandemic Event Contracts

How may the pandemic affect event contracts in the long term? Here’s one legal view.

Author: Tyra Warner, PhD, Esq, CMP       

Contract negotiation

When negotiating contracts in the future, planners and suppliers alike will have to realize that there may always be something unexpected that we think
will never happen.

Convene asked individuals from inside and outside the business events industry to talk about behaviors and other changes brought on by the pandemic that are lasting, and in particular, to share which ones they think are likely to transform events. We offer their insights and opinions on this page and in the rest of our July-August CMP Series, What Will Stick?

Tyra Warner

Tyra Warner

I chuckled a bit that you phrased your question what will change for the “long-term,” because I find that we in the meetings industry tend to have short memories. So, in the short term, I think there will be great scrutiny of force majeure and cancellation clauses, pleas for greater flexibility as people come back to in-person and hybrid meetings, and some unusual sleeping-room-to-meeting-space ratios that were unheard of pre-pandemic.

In the long-term, I expect things will return largely back to the way they have always been, as they did after 9/11, after avian flu and other health crises, and after various natural disasters. My hope is that we will learn a lesson from COVID-19 — all of us, not just those who suffered immediate legal and financial effects from it. My hope is that planners and suppliers alike will realize when drafting and negotiating contract language that there may always be something unexpected that we think will never happen to us. That the force majeure clause often is invoked for the “gray area” issues, so it needs to be written accordingly. The time spent negotiating the terms of a contract is time well spent and it is important for both parties to truly understand what the contract language means, not just what they are “allowed” to negotiate.

Tyra Warner, Ph.D., Esq., CMP, is department chair of Hospitality, Tourism, & Culinary Arts at College of Coastal Georgia.