Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Sam Erkonen to Speak at Upcoming Small Market Meetings Conference

An attorney who says he appreciates smaller markets and the outstanding meeting possibilities they offer will address attendees of the sixth annual Small Market Meetings Conference September 27-29 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sam Erkonen of the Chicago law firm of Howe and Sutton counsels the hospitality industry.

Erkonen knows planners often use glamorous big cities like Las Vegas; Orlando, Florida; and Atlanta for their high-profile meetings. “But most of your really successful meetings are at smaller venues,” Erkonen said. “If you really want to have a good event, have it in a smaller place where people are really together as opposed to being spread out.”

Erkonen’s specialty, hospitality law, covers meetings, conventions, trade shows and trade association industries, travel, entertainment and not-for-profits. Howe and Sutton’s team frequently represents clients in the hospitality industry.

Erkonen will present a lively PowerPoint talk called “The Lawyer Is In: A Survey and Q&A Regarding Current Issues in the Meetings Industry.” He’ll touch on such matters as contracts and negotiations and how to sidestep the typical pitfalls meeting planners bump into. Erkonen says he plays that subject right down the middle. “I don’t take an antihotel point of view like many other speakers do. Hotels are not the enemy; they’re our friends and partners. If planners are happy, they’re happy.”

That’s not to say meeting planners shouldn’t be cautious and smart. The most common mistake made is fixating too much on the numbers in the deal, like trying to drive down room rates, and neglecting important matters, such as liabilities.

“What happens at your catered event if salmonella breaks out?” Erkonen asks. “Does the contract protect your organization against claims that may come from that? Same thing if somebody slips and falls and is injured, or someone smashes their car into a tree after alcohol was served at your event. Maybe a person’s last resort, or only resort, is to name your organization as a defendant,” he said.

Small Market Meetings Conference attendees will be able to pepper Erkonen with questions to help ease their legal entanglements. But Erkonen promises his presentation won’t be overly serious.

“My typical presentation involves humor and the whacky war stories I run into from time to time,” he said. “Attendees tend to enjoy those the most. They add a real-world aspect to the lesson. I’m not going to stand up there pontificating about what to do in a perfect world that we know doesn’t exist.”

Erkonen earned a B.B.A. in finance from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He chose to focus his legal work on the hospitality industry because it covers many areas of the law he enjoys, like negotiations. Erkonen said he also welcomes the personal side of the business, complete with the emotions that go with it. He loves to solve people’s “real problems.” He appreciates that hospitality law is often project oriented, with a definite start-to-finish quality.

For more information go to

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.