How are you modifying contracts involving groups with a hybrid component… the “unknown” of attendance, room blocks and pick up and attrition?
What makes this the most difficult is that the return of meeting business isn’t constant throughout the industry.
I belong to the AIMP (Alliance of Independent Meeting Planners) and this is the hot topic. There is some verbiage going around that discusses the attrition sections of contracts. What makes this the most difficult is that the return of meeting business isn’t constant throughout the industry. Depending on the local guidelines and views of both the locations and the groups hosting, the level of business returning is quite varied.
Hybrid events though are definitely going to be a staple for the rest of 2021 at least, and a hybrid component will be a wish for clients. IF and only if hotels, venues and locations will work with attrition time lines and percentages.
Clients can’t ask for the venue to “give away the store” BUT if we make the ask to attendees you should be able to gage your slippage from live to virtual attendee. What we should focus on are ways for both client and venue to benefit from this new form of event.
There are venues that are offering zero-attrition, zero-cancellation penalties as well, so we prioritize those resources over others where possible.
We’ve been working with our vendor partners to amend their Date Change policy to allow flexibility to change the event date should a vast majority of the guests determine they are not comfortable with attending the event. We also have them reduce or remove the minimum spend requirement, having it contingent on food quantity rather than attendees.
There are venues that are offering zero-attrition, zero-cancellation penalties as well, so we prioritize those resources over others where possible. Where it pertains to the Force Majeure Clause, we try to have the venue list examples of what would qualify the event for cancellation. This provides more clarity for both parties should the decision come to cancel the event.
As states begin to change their mask mandates at different times, it’s important to now list out what you will require for everyone on-site.
When signing a contract now, there are even more things we need to think about than we did pre-pandemic. For instance, when listing safety measures, I mention COVID-19 specifically and our plan for dealing mitigating the risk to attendees (and liability to the host and our vendors.) As states begin to change their mask mandates at different times, it’s important to now list out what you will require for everyone on-site. In Florida, for example, there is no mask requirement. This may work for state residents but if your client or their attendees are coming from out of town, it needs to be mentioned directly.
I also think that travel bans need to be added to the force majeure clauses. If say 30% of your respective attendees cannot travel due to a ban, like being from another country where lockdowns are happening or exposure to COVID, then it could be a force majeure event. This is a point that we’ve negotiated a lot working with people from Europe.
As for attrition, we are finding that some properties will waive this if you ask them, particularly if you’re a good customer, on the theory that it’s better to have some business than no business because you might not sign the contract. Alternatively they might give you more room for attrition. So instead of 20% permissible attrition, maybe they give you 30 or 40%.
Working with a vendor team that has built elasticity and flexibility into their contracts is paramount as we plan hybrid events.
As more and more people get vaccinated, state and county authorities are allowing in-person meetings, gatherings and events to grow in size and come indoors. With that brings a variety of variations on rules about masking and social distancing and on the numbers allowed to gather and where. The event industry has spent close to a year preparing for reopening and is ready. We are in Maryland, where our Governor has recently abated the gathering numbers to not exceed 50% of the facilities maximum occupancy and as a result people are planning events.
Despite this recent update, not everyone is ready to meet in person. We recently read that FOMO (fear of missing out) is being replaced with FOGO (fear of going out). Whether it is FOGO or that we have gotten a bit used to the safety and convenience of online events, we are still receiving a lot of interest in planning virtual conferences and meetings through the remainder of 2021. At the same time, we are booking and have begun planning in-person social gatherings beginning as early as the end of May 2021. It has been our recommendation to plan events that accommodate everyone invited by hosting a hybrid event. Hybrid events are a great solution for this combination of in-person and online attendees as the restrictions slowly increase. These events can accommodate those that are ready to meet in person as well as those not quite ready, or those who simply can’t take the time or have the money to travel to your meeting, conference or social event. The size of each attendee group will certainly fluctuate and as time moves forward we expect the in-person attendee number to begin to outweigh the online attendee numbers, although we do not know when or if we might take a sudden turn back.
As a result, our planning must include the ability to fluctuate and accommodate varying attendee numbers in either direction as we access guests desire for in-person and online events. We have spent the better part of the pandemic producing online events, and as a result our planners are ready to plan and produce hybrid events. Keep in mind that hybrid events take a significant amount of time to produce as we must plan and oversee vendors for both the live and virtual event components. Expect a higher number of planning hours in total and additional expenses when planning a hybrid event. We highly recommend working with a company that has the ability to change with your needs as well as the knowledge to plan and produce both your in-person and virtual experiences. This applies not only to your planning team, but also to your venue where you host your event, the tech team who will be coordinating the live and online streaming and to your caterer who could potentially serve your live attendees and also send you online attendees a meal in a box. Working with a vendor team that has built elasticity and flexibility into their contracts is paramount as we plan hybrid events.
Since last March 2020, almost all is or has become flexible from suppliers.
OMG GAME CHANGER! Since last March 2020, almost all is or has become flexible from suppliers: starting from attrition agreements – insurance coverage – sanitary safety measures – date flexibilities – meal plans – rentals – transportation – event spaces – activities – I could go on and on …