Event Planning Business in Singapore: How to Handle Licensing, Etc.
Singapore’s longstanding status as one of, if not, the most bustling business hub in the world, presents itself as the foremost ideal destination and opportunity for entrepreneurs to kickstart their journey into starting their own event planning business.
For those less well-informed on what event planning entails, event planning can stretch from the fundamental logistical and entertainment parts of an event, to the more complex and less considered: press coverage, security, and catering aspects. Each aspect has its own unique set of considerations and factors, and when thoughtfully put together, can create unforgettable memories and leave lasting impressions.
In this article, we will cover:
What is an Event Planning Business?
An event planning business can cover, from the start to the end, the proposition of ideas/ themes of events (e.g., weddings, reunions, corporate gatherings), the subsequent implementation, management, organisation, co-ordination of works pertaining to the event (e.g., logistics, press coverage, catering, budgeting, security), and general liaison works with third-party vendors. The scale of which these events are carried out varies from event to event, and is dependent on the goals and limitations of your clients.
The unique part of this industry is the breadth that business owners can be stretched by. Their service infrastructure revolves around concurrently managing different events by clients who have vastly differing sets of needs. Due to the possible scalability of the event comprising of the involvement of a plethora of organisations/entities, it is important to ensure that the relevant approvals/licensing has been granted throughout, to ensure that the whole event runs smoothly. Any hiccups in a particular area of the event may have a domino effect on others.
What is the Importance of Determining the Scope of Services Your Event Planning Business Provides?
As an event planning business owner, it is essential that you determine the scope of services you will provide to your clients. This could include the provision of security, food, drinks, entertainment, travel accommodation, inter alia other services that you wish to provide.
The benefits of scoping your business clearly goes both ways. It allows your team managers to have an understanding of their responsibilities, to then plan better and work more efficiently with their subordinates to value add. It also allows the right clients to be clear on what they can expect, and understand the mission/values of the company well.
While innovative ideas or bold promises could prove to be a good way to distinguish yourself from competitors, it is important to remember that any service you provide, will create a binding obligation on your business to mete out these duties well. It is essential that you do not oversell yourselves and create any false/unrealistic impressions/promises to prevent disputes and disagreements. To protect both parties and to crystalise mutual expectations, do clearly delineate what services will, and will not be provided in your contract agreement. It will be prudent for us to remind you that while saying “no” to clients is one of the hardest things to do, doing so wisely may save you copious amounts of both time and money.
How Do You Handle Licensing-Related Issues In the Course of Running an Event Planning Business?
It is important to understand that as regulations and processes change with time, it will be wise to seek clarification with relevant authorities wherever necessary, or consult any experienced arts managers/ parties who have gone through similar processes before to double-check all your blind spots. Permits have different validity periods, fees, and coverages.
Each event has its own unique set of licensing requirements and processes to be undergone. According to the National Arts Council Singapore, examples of permits that may be required include:
- Content-related permits like the Arts Entertainment License from the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA);
- E.g., Musicals/ performance art/ stage plays/ stand-ups
- Location-based permits like a Temporary Change of Use Permit by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). The Public Entertainment Licence (Location-based Permit) by the Singapore Police Force is one that is frequently required by organisers and applies regardless of whether your event is outdoor or indoor, subject to certain exemptions. You may refer to our other article for more information on the Public Entertainment Licence; or
- E.g., Circus, singing/dancing/gymnastic performances or parades, events using crane/game machines
- Other permits like The Music Permit by Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS)/Liquor License/Electricity Generation License/Event Permit from PUB
- E.g., Outdoor festivals/performances/concerts
Some relevant conditions/required documents for the satisfaction of granting the various licensing requirements may include:
- The exact area/ location that your event will utilise;
- The full list of food stalls operating at your festival;
- Estimated audience numbers;
- Fixed entry and exit points;
- Usage of an electricity generator without a power source; and
- Usage of a public water tap/ discharge of wastewater.
Do note that different permits have different time frames for completion, and it is always a good rule of thumb to prepare and apply well before the event to ensure that you are able to comply with, and obtain the relevant licensing.
Failure to adhere to various licensing requirements may result in varying penalties such as fines/ demerit points/ reduction of permissible operating hours under the licence or even suspension or cancellation of licence. For example, any breaches of conditions of a Public Entertainment Licence and the Liquor Licence may result in a fine of up to $10,000.
How to Limit Your Liabilities When Running an Event Planning Business
While it is important to keep a close eye on any potential loose ends due to the broad coverage of responsibilities across various activities, it is arguably more important to prevent loose ends from forming in the first place. This is done via the inclusion of iron-clad disclaimer provisions/clauses that can limit your liabilities.
A good disclaimer provision/clause will clearly set out what your business will distinctly not be liable for, and if there are any circumstances that prove you to be liable, their maximum claimable amount. It is relevant to the client, uses clear legal language, and is factually worded.
Examples of disclaimers include:
- Accuracy of Information Disclaimer. This absolves the business from responsibility for any errors that may arise from the provision of such information.
- The content contained on our website is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice. Content may be modified, suspended or removed without prior notice.”
- Testimonial Disclaimer. This states that the experiences/results shared in a testimonial are not guaranteed to be replicated, thus protecting the business from clients who believe they were promised certain results.
- The testimonials listed on our website reflect the real-life experiences of individuals who used our services. However, individual results may vary.”
- Cancellation Disclaimer. This is also to absolve the business from responsibility for unforeseeable and unavoidable events that interrupt the reasonably expected course of events that prevent stakeholders from fulfilling their obligations.
- “In the event of unforeseen circumstances such as extreme weather, natural disasters, or any situation beyond our control, we reserve the right to cancel or postpone the event. We shall not be held liable for any damages, losses, or inconveniences resulting from such cancellations or postponements.”
You can also include Health and Safety, as well as Photography and Media disclaimers, amongst others. It depends on the type of event held and the risks you pick up from the event.
While disclaimer clauses can be used to limit liability, you must still adhere to the Unfair Contract Terms Act (UCTA) and other relevant laws in Singapore. Unfair or unreasonable clauses, subject to the examination of the requirement of reasonableness, will be rendered unenforceable and invalid if so. This may in turn cause the contract to be void/voidable.
For example, as per section 2 of UCTA, death/personal injury/unreasonable loss or damage arising from negligence cannot be protected by the inclusion of any clause. A person’s agreement to or awareness of such clause, does not amount to voluntary acceptance of any risk. Essentially, negligence committed by any party cannot be protected by a contractual clause.
For more information, please refer to our other article on the UCTA.
Why Should You Input a Cancellation Policy for Events?
Event planning requires a lot of preparation work that may take up both time and money, and to cancel in an unduly manner may result in a significant loss of both factors. It is important to set out a good cancellation policy that lays out the criteria and consequences for both a fair and just cancellation, as well as an irresponsible and untimely one. This is a deterrent from last-minute cancellations and to protect your company in such event.
A good cancellation policy is clear, concise, and enforceable. It should include a time frame to cancel a service with/without penalty, contact information for cancellations, and your clients’ signed acknowledgement of the policy.
To help define your cancellation and refund policies, you should first ask yourself:
- Do you want to give customers a refund?
- If so, to what extent?
- Full/ Partial refund of deposit/ payment?
- If not, do you want to offer any other restorative remedies?
- To alleviate any inconvenience; you may offer credit for future events/ rescheduling/ waiving of rescheduling fees.
- If so, to what extent?
- Are there any further penalties?
- Late cancellation penalties for any expenses incurred and services provided up to the deadline, regardless of whether these amounts have been invoiced yet or not.
- When do they have to inform you by? How many days before the actual event date?
- Are there any exceptions?
- Force majeure clause (I.e., an act of god – unpredictable circumstance that cannot be prevented)?
Examples of a cancellation policy include:
- “Cancellations made 28 days or more in advance of the event date, will receive a 100% refund. Cancellations made within 3 – 6 days will incur a 50% fee. Cancellations made within 48 hours of the event will incur a 70% fee. You can cancel or reschedule an appointment by emailing us at …@mybusiness.com/ or calling our office at XXXX XXXX.”
- “No refund of any deposit will be furnished, there are no exceptions. Please be certain that you want us to execute your project before paying any deposit. You might ask, why no refund? Your initial deposit is only a partial materials deposit which consists of a combination of your money and our money. Once you pay your deposit, we begin to order your materials. Almost every material in our industry is heavy, alive, comes from multiple other states, requires payment up front in order to source, etc. Once it’s ordered, there is no returning it. If you request a cancellation of your project after the deposit is paid, your materials will be discarded, or you can choose to receive the portion that your partial materials deposit paid for that will be delivered to the cancelled project location. […] If a cancellation occurs, payment for any labor that has already occurred will be immediately due.”
To recap, 2 key pointers that you should pay extra attention to, would be the importance of scoping your services well without biting more than you can chew and limiting your liabilities in a fair and equitable manner.
You are recommended to seek a lawyer (e.g., corporate/ contract/ intellectual property/ event liability) to obtain legal advice if you need assistance when starting such a business (e.g., business incorporation/ licensing/ contract drafting). Different lawyers will cater to different needs throughout your whole planning process, and will help lubricate the entire process, while also pointing out blind spots over certain key technicalities.
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