Ways To Better Manage Your AV Budget

Today, AudioVisual is an integral part of nearly every meeting and event. It can also be an expensive and at times confusing part as well. If you are really serious about controlling your AV costs the key is to start thinking about AV as early as possible. The best time is during the site selection process and before contracts are signed as this provides the most options, flexibility and control. Here are some tips to help better manage event AV costs.

1. Recognize That You Always Have A Choice

It's your show and it's success lies in part with how well the AV performs. Make sure you maintain the right to choose who provides your AV to ensure that success. Do not assume that the in-house AV provider is your best option and do not be pressured or misled into believing that you must use the in-house provider. Always make sure your contracts give you the option to bring in your own AV provider without penalty. You are the customer afterall and you should always be able to choose what is best for your event.

2. Understand How AV Costs Are Determined

To truly save on your AV costs, you need to know how the costs are determined particularly when it comes to in-house AV providers. Understand that the in-house AV provider is almost never a part of the venue. They are an independent audio visual company who pays a commission to the venue or a block of venues to become their in-house provider and to have access to the venue's groups. In some cases, they may pay large signing bonuses upfront to get the contract.

The AV company owns the gear and also pays the salaries of any AV staff at the venue and as well as any temporary AV contractors that might be needed. The venue isn’t responsible for any of these expenses. They simply provide the AV company with an office and a space to store the equipment. Since the AV provider is the one incurring all the costs, equipment rental rates must be set to recoup the signing bonuses and commissions as well as cover their operating expenses and still provide a profit. As a result, it is usually more expensive to use the in-house provider. Often considerably more expensive. So while the in-house provider may be an easy and convenient choice, the question becomes does that ease and convenience justify the additional cost?

Outside AV providers do not come with as much overhead and can therefore do a job that is just as good if not better than in-house, for less. So, do the math and figure out what works best for your event and budget before committing to your AV provider.

3. Understand Service Charges

When considering AV providers do not overlook the service charges of 20% and higher which venues add to the in-house AV bill. What these charges actually cover is often a mystery. The equipment rental and labor charges are outlined in the AV estimate which are already more than the same thing from an outside AV company in most cases. Don't be afraid to ask, “What additional benefit is that service charge providing to me and my event?”

4. Look For The AV Provider Offering The Best Value, Not The Cheapest Price

Like most things in life, with AV you get what you pay for. So when planning events, it’s always wise to get a few outside AV bids as well as the in-house AV bid for your event. This ensures you are getting the best match in terms of price and service for your event. Give your AV providers as much information and detail about the event and number of people attending as you can to enable them to create an accurate estimate.

Then do an apples to apples comparison. But recognize that with AV there are often several different ways to achieve the same result. One AV company’s interpretation of your RFP may be very different from another’s. So compare the quotes closely to see what the major differences are between them. Watch out for quotes that simply list “Packages” and do not detail the individual components included, as they tell you nothing about what you are actually renting or how it will be used. 

Keep in mind, choosing the lowest price may get you the price you want but not the production value or level of service you need. Look instead for the quote which represents the best value for your AV budget.

5. Do not place too much importance to the discount.

Looking at the AV discount alone will not provide a true picture of the overall AV quote. Quotes with higher discount rates generally come with higher base pricing to begin with. A piece of equipment with a 10% discount  on a base price of $300 from one company is still cheaper than the same item with a 25% discount on a base price of $400 from another. In reality AV discounts exist to allow companies to easily adjust pricing of a quote without having to recalculate the prices of individual items. So look at actual bottom line costs, not the size of the discount.

6. Know the Hidden Budget Killers

Charges like power, rigging, Internet charges or shadow labor can really impact the AV budget if not considered before signing the contract. These charges are generally added to the master and can vary greatly from venue to venue. So be sure to get the details of how each venue charges for these services before committing to a venue to avoid unexpected surprises later on. And finally,

7. Don't feel like to you have to go it alone.

AV staging and production can be complicated and expensive and mistakes can be costly.  You have a lot of choices when it comes to AV. You could work directly with the hotel AV provider,  bring in an outside AV company or work with an AV producer or production company to manage the meeting AV. 

Whichever route you choose, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are unsure, ask your AV provider to explain what they are proposing, why and at what cost. Most importantly, keep all your options open until you have all the facts and costs, and feel comfortable that you’ve made the best provider choice for your event

Starting to focus on your AV costs early and following these tips will help you to better control your overall AV costs.


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