Tuesday, 24 January 2017 20:15

Do I have to use in-house A/V?

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Recently, I responded to a question from an event planner on Linkedn about the use of In House AV. My comments generated quite a bit of interest and have been picked up and quoted on several other websites both in the US and abroad. As a result of this interest, I am posting the exchange here. I hope you find it useful.

 

Question:

I am considering not using the hotel's preferred vendor. My hesitation is that I am fairly demanding and really need excellence and attention. What experience have others had with outside A/V? I have done this at a convention center, but not at a hotel. 

My Response:

Great Question, it's one I run into a lot but one that I wish more people would ask. I am an independent meeting AV producer and director and have had a lot of experience with both in house and outside AV companies. One of my clients requires the absolute lowest price on every one of the roughly 20 meetings I do for them each year. As a result, I determine the AV requirements for each meeting (they are all different), send out floor plans, AV requirements and RFP's, evaluate the bids and corresponding AV packages and then recommend, contract and manage the AV for each event. 

Over the years I have been doing this, I have noticed a number of things. 

First, the in house company is seldom the lowest cost provider. In house AV is really a convenience rather than a good deal. It is presented as a value added service, but is in reality a profit generator for the hotel with up to half the cost of the AV rentals going back to the hotel. I usually get a better and more complete AV package from an outside vendor for no more than in-house and most of the time less. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that an outside vendor works for you and you alone. .They are there to make sure your event goes the way you want it. You are not just the group in the Ballroom on Tuesday who will be gone on Thursday. In house AV ultimately works for the hotel and in any issues between the hotel and client they will do what the hotel tells them. This has happened to me on a number of occasions. 

Another thing to consider is that just as AV companies are different, all in-house AV is not equal. The quality of equipment and service varies greatly from property to property. I once had an in-house AV department revise my RPF and try to tell me that it was impossible to do something my client wanted to do in a particular room. Using my outside vendor we were able to do just that and at less cost than in house. It turned out that what my client wanted was not physically impossible, in-house AV just did not have the equipment required and did not want to rent it because it would reduce their profit for the job. 

So, if you are demanding in your expectations, as well you should be, it makes more sense to use people who are there strictly to fulfill your expectations. 

Now, all that being said, there are occasions when I find in-house AV useful and will use them. This is generally for small breakout style meetings, for breakout rooms at a larger event, or for small to mid-size meetings (less than 50) that take place at remote venues where the transportation and crew accommodation costs drive up the price of an outside vendor. 

When selecting AV companies for my events I normally try to use local vendors whenever possible. I do this for a number of reasons, first they are generally already familiar with the venue, it's requirements and idiosyncrasies. This is often very valuable as it makes them more efficient and therefore less costly. Second, I am generally able to save on the cost of transporting the equipment and housing the crew as it is all being obtained locally. Third, if there are any last minute changes, the warehouse is nearby or they know how and where to obtain what is needed quickly. 

 

Question:

Why do event planners, especially new planners, feel they HAVE to use in-house A/V?

My Response:

It's not just the new planners. This issue keeps coming up and every time with a new wrinkle. I have had planners with many years of experience get tripped up on this from time to time. Since the hotel has a financial interest in whether a planner uses the in-house AV or not, they are not likely to mention the fact that you are not required to use their in-house AV department. 

I tell all the planners I work with regularly that the best time to deal with the AV issue is before they sign the contract with the venue. Check the contract for any clause stipulating that they must use in-house AV or if they choose not to, be assessed a penalty and strike it out. 

If there is nothing in the contract they signed requiring them to use the in-house AV, they are under no obligation and I am free to get them the best AV services for their event. 

Read 116 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2017 20:24

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