"Get it in writing", we have all heard this phase and when planning an event, a contract is a form of assurance. Negotiating terms is important prior to receiving a contract for goods and services and knowing what to look for in a contract is vital.
Start by sending a list of items you want included in the contract. Always read every word of a contract and ask for reduced penalties up front in case something happens and you need to cancel. The contracts you receive are only a starting point to negotiate from - remember if you don't ask, you won't get it; if you ask, you might!
The following terms should prove useful:

Attrition - In general, an attrition clause ensures you fulfill your booking obligation in a hotel contract. Attrition fees are applied when a conference group does not meet 80% or an agreed upon percentage of the rooms that were being held. It is vital to have a clear expectation of your room needs to ensure unnecessary expenses. This compensation for unsold rooms within a room block ensures the hotel does not lose business that they could have otherwise picked up if they weren't holding rooms for your event.

Breakout Rooms: Meeting spaces or rooms that are used in addition to a general meeting area; equipped for smaller groups, audio-visual, group work, or specialized training.

Cut-Off Date - The date that is specified on the contract when the hotel or facility will no longer hold rooms or space at the contracted group rate. The rooms are released back into regular inventory and made available to the public. It is smart to include a clause in your contract that rooms booked after the cut-off date would be honored at the negotiated rate. Most properties will do this.

Cancellation - Check the date penalties will apply should you need to cancel your event. Things to look for in the negotiation process include non-refundable deposits and or sliding scale fees/penalties based on the date of the signed contract and number of days leading up the event.

Day Rate: Conference rate for attendees who will be at some portions of the program but will not be staying over night or attending every day of the conference.

Event Order: An outline of the entire event, such as timelines, location of building and rooms, room set up, food and beverage menus, audio-visual orders and needs, attendees per each portion of the program.

Force Majeure - Known as the "Act of God" clause which stipulates both parties are released from liability due to extenuating circumstances beyond control.

Indemnification - Known as the "Hold Harmless" clause that stipulates neither party will hold the other responsible for damages owned or rented by either party.

Vendors - Understand whether you must use the venue services or preferred vendor list or if you may bring in your own vendor. Please note: many restaurants generally do not permit groups to bring in their own food for many reasons, the largest being food safety and compliance.

Signature Authority

ANR Event Services is available to review contracts for you. Once your contract is as you'd like it, email it to us to connect you with staff in the MSU Purchasing for final review and signature. This process generally takes just a few days to complete. If your contract is on a short signing deadline, ensure you indicate this when you submit your contract to us.

It is important to note contracts signed by unauthorized faculty or staff are not binding to the university and supplier invoices may not be honored. Additionally, an individual making the commitment may be held personally responsible. MSU Delegation of Signature Authority memorandum—also available in the Manual of Business Procedures (MBP) Section 270—lists who has been granted authority to execute contracts and other legal documents.

Helpful Links

The MSU Professional Service Contract is no longer required. Instead, complete a Speaker/Performer Checklist.

A good resource to look at when dealing with event contracts is the APEX Contracts Accepted Practices and the APEX Industry Glossary. This site provides definitions and resources to help give you a better understanding of contracts.