been given the daunting task of planning an upcoming department
meeting. How did I get myself into this? you wonder,
breaking into a cold sweat. How will I find a convenient
location? What if a fire breaks out? What type of activity
should be planned? What are all the costs involved with a
hotel? Don't panic. An awareness of legal issues will
help ensure that your meeting runs smoothly and you avoid
any unnecessary risks.
Analyze the Risk
If you're planning a meeting that includes team-building activities,
choose wisely. While rock climbing may help your team bond,
it could cause physical injury. And if something does happen
to go wrong, you could be held liable. Make sure the benefits
of any activity outweigh the risks and then take all the necessary
precautions to minimize those risks.
One way to reduce risk is to be prepared. Considering potential
risks is an important part of the planning process. It may
seem overly cautious, but make sure attendees are familiar
with fire exit locations, emergency phone numbers and any
other pertinent information. This can often be accomplished
in a brief announcement at the start of your meeting.
Confidentiality Is Key
Many organizations require their employees to sign confidentiality
agreements, which stipulate that company information cannot
be shared with the outside world. If you discuss confidential
information with someone outside the company, you can be held
liable. Remind others that everything you hear in meetings
is confidential, even if no one explicitly states that it
is. Depending on the circumstances you could pay damages,
especially if it means lost revenue for your company. If you're
speaking at a meeting where an outside guest is present, make
sure any topics you discuss are already public information.
Whether you're speaking in a meeting or there's an outside
speaker, you need to make sure that you have permission from
the copyright owner before reproducing or including any material
from outside sources. And if you're the owner, you should
also ensure that your materials are copyrighted. While this
is not a legal requirement, it does put your audience on notice.
Read the Fine Print
If you're planning an off-site meeting and it requires hotel
accommodations, make sure you read the contract's fine print.
Some hotels require a 90% room pick-up (for example if you
book 100 rooms they expect you to use 90 or more). If you
don't use 90%, they may include a clause requiring you to
pay attrition fees for any lost revenues that the hotel would've
received had the rooms been used. These fees could include
in-room movies, telephone calls and even drinks in the hotel
lounge! Our advice: pay a set fee or, better yet, negotiate
a sliding fee. Also, if any of the language in the contract
is vague, or if you're unsure about a clause, make sure you
address it before you sign.
By carefully planning your meeting and avoiding the risks,
you'll easily step around the legal minefields and come out
1.The Wharton Center
for Applied Research