Industry Experts

Tips for Expediting the Contracting Process for Planners and Hotels

Learn how planners and hotels can expedite the contract signing phase without compromising on details.




The contract signing phase can often become a bottleneck, slowing down the entire operation. How can both planners and hotels speed up this crucial step without compromising on the details that protect both parties?

Industry experts Sean Whalin (Co-founder and CEO of HopSkip), Barbara Dunn (Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP representing groups), and Lisa Sommer Devlin (Devlin Law Firm, P.C. representing hotels) share their seasoned advice on making the contract phase as efficient as possible, blending legal insight with practical strategies to expedite these negotiations.

The information provided in this video does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information in this video may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

What strategies can planners and hotels implement to expedite the contract signing phase of the booking process? 

Lisa Sommer Devlin

I would say the first part is to make sure that you advise what that contract signing phase is upfront, especially if you're an association that requires first your executive director to approve it, and then it has to go to the board, and then it has to go to this or that. Could you inform everyone upfront what your process is and who's authorized?

The other thing that I would recommend is the fastest way to get a contract resolved is, again, you guys are going to think I'm a dinosaur, but do a call instead of getting on all these emails going back and forth and portals and all that kind of stuff, schedule a call where you've got the business people with authority to make business decisions and the legal people with authority to make legal decisions.

You all get one call, go through the contract, and agree or disagree. And sometimes at the end of the call, you'll say, all right, well, there are these three things we have to follow up on and discuss internally, but if you reduce the number of issues that are out there by half, you've made a great deal of progress. What do you think? Barbara?

Barbara Dunn

100%, Lisa, I agree with you. I'm right there alongside another dinosaur. I suggest this frequently, especially when I think the business folks feel like they've exhausted their efforts and are getting close.

I love the strategy you identified, which I also agree, which is by doing that, you have an opportunity to reward yourselves, pat yourselves on the back for the progress you've already made on the whole host of items, identify the issues that are outstanding and then identify what you're going to do about them and even pulling up the contracts on the screen when you can and teams and just agreeing on the language, it's just amazing how much faster that goes. And you find out as well, you might find out that some of these issues, there's just an impasse.

And that can also help because sometimes, in a few instances, the best negotiation strategy might be to walk away. So again, that's an opportunity to do that. So that's key. The other thing is to try not to battle so much on my clause versus your clause.

More importantly, many times, it is important to identify the things that are an issue for you or an issue for your group because often there isn't just one way to say it. And if you can be flexible in certain provisions, I suggest you do that so that the other provisions you can't be flexible make those a little bit more palatable when you've been flexible on the other items.  So again, sharing that up front, trying to do away with the battle of the clauses, that's a good thing.

The last thing I'll say is that I have seen some hotels embrace a strategy, which, of course, many businesses use, which is having groups sign, essentially, a master services agreement with a particular hotel or a particular management company of a hotel chain, and then having all the legal terms live in the master services agreement and then have the specific, the business terms, the hotel, the room block, the rates, et cetera, parked in an SOW, a statement of work or attachment or whatever you would want to say. I have seen that implemented several times over the years with some success.

It might be something to consider; Lisa, you, and I, for many years, worked on templates that groups would negotiate across the chains, but my sense is that was really not necessarily a great way to go about it. We focus on the property approach, but using your global sales team to help shepherd the terms and the things you'd like to see is a great strategy.

Also, Lisa, you mentioned the involvement of the convention and visitors bureau or the destination management organizations, which can greatly help shepherding contract clauses and the like. Those are some things from my vantage point.

Lisa Sommer Devlin
And the final thing is when you're stuck on a contentious clause, step back and, instead of talking about the language, say, what are you worried about? And sometimes, when you talk about the issue and what you're concerned about, the parties can devise language that works for both sides to address that issue.

Barbara Dunn

And I absolutely agree with you, Lisa. I'll only say that sometimes in that conversation, it's like, oh, you don't have to worry about renovation because we just did well. We want to put it in there anyway, right?

Sean Whalin
Well said. In addition to everything Barbara and Lisa said, at HopSkip, one of the things that we always recommend is to make the contract signing process not a surprise moment.

So, including things upfront, like requested contract language, terms, or concessions in the RFP, eliminates the "AHA moment" or surprise moment as you award the booking and are ready to review and execute the contract. 


It’s clear that the key to expediting the contract signing phase lies in upfront communication, the strategic use of calls over emails, and focusing on understanding each other’s concerns rather than getting stuck on the wording of clauses. Embracing technologies to help you streamline the contracting process, making it easier for both parties to agree on terms. Most importantly, addressing potential issues in the RFP stage can prevent surprises, ensuring a smoother path to a final agreement.

These strategies make the contract phase more efficient and build a foundation for stronger, more collaborative relationships between planners and hotels. By adopting these strategies, parties can move beyond negotiation impasses and towards successful events, creating positive outcomes for all involved.

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