Running an event can be a complicated, incredibly involved affair. It’s easy to make mistakes – easy to overlook minor legal issues here and there. But you cannot afford to do that. You need to do everything in your power to keep your event above board. Here’s how.
As an event planner, you don’t want to fight the law. It will win. Every time.
Yet time and again, I see many people in the event management profession—both novices and veterans—overlooking stuff that can land them in huge legal trouble. They fail to account for liability. They neglect the proper permits. They don’t bother with a cancellation policy.
Don’t be like them. Don’t push the potential legal issues of your event to the back of your mind until you receive a summons for a lawsuit. Take care of things beforehand by addressing the following areas of concern.
Get The Proper Licenses and Permits
Will you offer catering services to your attendees? When and where is your event being held? Will you serve liquor at the event? How many people will be attending?
You need to know the answer to these questions and more. Every single one could potentially represent another license or permit you’ll need to acquire in order to keep your event legally above-board. Depending on your venue, certain licenses may not be necessary (for example, if you’re hosting at a bar, they’ve already got a license).
Other considerations include what services you’ll provide, and the scope of those services. Are you going to hire a security contractor, or handle security on your own? Will you organise travel to and from the event? Will you provide room and board for your attendees?
Do some research, and consider speaking with an attorney.
Consider Your Cancellation Policy
One of the most frequent mistakes made by novice event planners involves their cancellation policy. They either don’t think much about how (or if) they’ll refund their clients, or they assume it won’t be an issue. Both approaches can be a recipe for disaster.
Many things can result in an event’s cancellation – criminal activity, acts of God, a vendor’s failure to live up to their end of a contract; you get the idea. You need to account for the possibility that any of these incidents may occur. And you need to figure out how you’ll approach refunds with both your client and your attendees.
What happens to the customer’s deposit? Will your business still invoice them for out-of-pocket expenses? What about the tickets you’ve sold – are they refundable?
To cover your bases here, it’s worthwhile to invest in event cancellation insurance. This will provide you with a windfall that protects you from circumstances beyond your control.
Figure Out Liability Beforehand
In my experience, there are two issues that most frequently end with an event management company being dragged to court. The first is a breach of contract – which we’ll assume you’re responsible enough to avoid. The second is liability.
As an event planner, you want to include disclaimers and a limited liability clause in every vendor, venue, and client agreement. You do not want to be held responsible if a guest injures themselves on-site at a trade-show, or if someone is allergic to the food you serve at a gala. Nor do you want to be held liable if a keynote speaker doesn’t bother to show up or an event starts late due to technical difficulties.
I’d strongly advice investing in liability insurance, even with limited liability clauses. Most event planners don’t, and that’s a huge problem. You are not infallible, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll make a mistake not covered by your liability clause – it’s why you need insurance.
Cover Your Bases
Other legal considerations go into running an event: vendor contracts, keynote speaker agreements, volunteer management; you get the idea. What we’ve listed here are a few of the biggest ones. The ones that are most often overlooked, and the ones that can land you in the most legal trouble if you fail to account for them.
The good news is that now that you’re aware of them, it’s pretty easy to ensure they’re covered – and to get back to hosting the best event possible.