Many years ago I had a boss who was the “King of Clichés.” His office was filled with motivational or thought-provoking sayings, like “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” I’d often sit and wonder, “Why? What was the point?” As I got older and had more experience, I realized it was not the saying, but how it applied to me — and  you — that matters.

Case in point: In a recent conversation with a planner with nearly 20 years of experience, she mentioned that over the years, she had created many meeting planning templates, documents and tools. She stated that these would make everything come together easily and seamlessly. “Great!,” I thought.

As the program approached, however, I took the time to review, in detail, all her templates and tools. Templates, by definition, are made to be modified and customized. Unfortunately, these had not been, and although they were technically complete, they did not contain the necessary level of detail I needed to ensure the success of my program.

It’s tempting to think that we can hammer a meeting into a set format and plan by template, but remember:

Templates only are a suggested starting point.

  • Often, it may take more time to modify a planning or contract template that it would to create one of your own. Especially if the software program versions are not compatible.
  • Always make a list of what you need to have included when using or modifying a template so you do not forget.
  • Always allocate enough time to edit, recheck and check the math. Excel spreadsheets are famously wrong when you forget to check the calculations or forecasts.

Some standardized contract templates may be older than you are!

  • If you or your company has a set of “standardized” agreements, take the time before each planning cycle to make sure that they are current and up-to-date. I had a client tell me he used an old addendum in a contract, which inadvertently made him liable for ridiculous attrition stipulations.
  • Today’s economic times often nullify older contracts. Terms of past meeting contracts may not be applicable to current events and may cost you in a big way.
  • If you have signed a multiple year agreement, go back and review what the future may bring. Based on the current hospitality climate, you may be able to “update” upcoming events that were contracted in the past.

Read, re-read, take a break … and then check the contract one more time.

  • First, always look for major gaffs, errors or formatting faux pas. They should stand out.
  • Then, look at all the variables (i.e., room night totals, dates and days, guarantees, miscellaneous charges and concessions) and make sure that they “jive.” The only way that you will be able to walk away with your head held high, when all is done, is if you have protected yourself by making sure that everything your group needs is in the document.
  • Lastly, put the document down for a while. Do something else, and then go back for one more look. You may be surprised how many times there are still one or two items that you need to change, or that you may have forgotten to include.

Truly, you can’t expect what you don’t inspect. If you assume it’s all there, you may get surprised. It may be belated, but now I think fondly of that manager with all the sayings on his walls. This one in particular has saved me more times than I’d like to remember.