AV… audiovisual… likely the most misunderstood of all event and meeting elements. At its best, it’s set up when it’s supposed to be set up, and works when it’s supposed to work. And at its worst, it’s a list of seemingly unconnected pieces of equipment expressed in combinations of acronyms and numbers that give no clue as to how they serve a meeting or event, and end up costing more than any planner really wants to budget.
Complicating the platform even further is the abundance of providers supplying the wide variety of equipment that comprises audiovisual, the disparity in technical ability that exists within the ranks of those providers, and the lack of guidelines around oft-confusing audiovisual estimates. Apples to what?
Sifting through the myriad of confounding questions that accompany each audiovisual purchase cycle (What does that do? Do I really need it? What is the daily cost?), it’s no wonder that planners often choose the simplest route, that of the in-house audiovisual department. Is that really the best choice where cost and value are concerned!
Before you sign on the dotted line with not only the in-house audiovisual company, but also with the venue itself (months or even years in advance), consider these tips to strengthen your AV procurement prowess and to choose the provider that offers the best value:
When a venue’s in-house capability is identified by the venue salesperson, ask to interview the department as part of your pre-contract signing site visit.
Request adetailed description of the services that are offered, including charges for rigging points & motors, scissor lifts and rigging/non-rigging labor, power supplies and connections, basic equipment rentals (projectors & screens, microphones & sound systems, lighting instruments & lecterns), wireless and wired internet drop fees, and teleconference services (if applicable).
Request documented guidelines from the in-house company and/or hotel that define terms for bringing in outside production support.
Audiovisual discounts offered at time of venue contracting are generally of little value, unless you know exactly what you need at that time, and don’t include labor costs, which are not typically subject to that 20% discount, but are subject to service fees of 18%-23%.
Power and rigging fees are often used by the in-house AV department as bargaining tools. In other words, they’ll eliminate those fees for “going in-house,” but will likely make up for lost revenue by charging higher equipment and labor fees.
Where in-house audiovisual departments exist, there can be a division of services… meaning that the venue itself, rather than the in-house AV department, may handle Internet and/or power supplies, and these items may not be subject to discount.
Vet the venue contract for penalties to use outside (non-rigging) providers or laborers, and negotiate these clauses out. They show up as “oversight fees,” “elevator/loading dock fees,” fees to lay Visqueen on the ballroom floor prior to load-in, and other assorted nonsensical costs.
Despite what the venue will have you believe, reputable audiovisual providers successfully and respectfully work within their walls. Understand that being in-house is a right that the in-house provider pays for and that the cost is ultimately passed along to you (in one way or another).
For more robust production needs (meeting setups, multi-day presentations), the crew on your job that you believe works for the in-house company, may be the same crew you’d be paying less for (and without services fees) through another provider. A crew pool is a crew pool is a crew pool.
With very little exception, an in-house team cannot provide creative support or solutions should they be needed. More so than in your branding needs, they’re interested in selling sets and equipment they’ve likely sold to the client the week before you arrived (which is why it is setup when you arrive).