Can You Use an Independent AV Provider?

Learn when it’s permissible to contract with your own AV firm and why it could save you money

As an event planner, you’re probably well versed on how many venues will charge outrageous prices for rather simple things. From furniture rental to AV equipment, the charges might be two to three times a standard rate. It’s enough to sink your whole budget.


While you certainly want your brand to shine, your budget may not be equipped to handle such steep pricing. The first thing to consider is if you can use outside providers. Not every venue mandates you use their services. They might look that way, but don't assume you don't have a choice. With AV rentals especially, if you can work with an independent AV company, you’ll have the chance to save lots of money as well as enjoy other benefits.


Situation One: Venues with No In-House AV

If the venue you are using does not have an in-house AV provider then there is no concern about whether or not you can use one. This will likely be the exception not the rule. The venue may have no restrictions on what vendors you can use. Others may have a list of preferred vendors. While they are labeled as preferred, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you must choose one from their list. Don’t just accept that their list has the best reviews or ratings. The list may be purely based on kickbacks.


Most likely, these venues are smaller so it’s cost-prohibitive for them to offer an in-house team. The best way to determine if there are any limitations to vendors is to read the terms and conditions. If limitations aren't covered in the terms and conditions then simply ask the venue. In this situation, you can choose to contract with the AV provider that you prefer.


Situation Two: Venues with In-House AV

This will be the situation you encounter most often. The majority of venues, especially larger ones that host lots of events, offer their own AV solutions. It makes more sense for the venues to have their “own” AV provider because most of their events require audio, visual, staging and lighting. From their perspective, this controls the quality and consistency of AV. But it also adds an additional revenue stream for the venue, which is great for them but may not be so for you.


When faced with this situation, the first thing you’ll want to determine is if outside vendors are allowed. The venue may allow the use of other AV agencies; however, please be advised, there could be a fee for this. The venue may attempt to “punish” companies that choose to use other vendors by dropping a fee on you. This should all be spelled out in your contract with them. Be sure to review this language.


If there is a fee, you still may reap savings with an outside vendor. As noted before, venues and their AV vendors assume businesses won’t bring in their own company for simple convenience. They think you value perceived convenience versus actual cost savings. At this time, you’ll already have pricing for the in-house capabilities and be aware of any fee. You can then use this information to determine if it’s worth it to go out on your own. If it’s a $200 fee for an outside vendor, and the in-house firm charges $100 more for each piece of equipment. It’s not long before the pricing becomes dramatically less than the in-house solution.


When there are no fees related to outside vendors, you should be able to make a clear comparison. The most glaring differences you may see here are in terms of customer service and equipment. An in-house AV company may not have the extra time to provide personalized service. They have other events at the venue that they are in charge of also. They might not have access to the most advanced or newest equipment. They may not even offer certain services because they only offer generic packages with the gear they have onsite. You’re less likely to be able to customize specific audio and visual effects. If this is the case then your decision may be based more on capabilities over costs.


Labor costs could be significantly different based on specific rules the venue and its provider have, including overtime fees after 8 hours, meal penalties, weekend and late-night rates. An outside AV vendor may instead offer a flat hourly rate. Resolve all these questions to determine the bottom line on rates.


On average, you may save hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, by seeking out your own firm. It’s certainly worth investigating. You may also be surprised to find that an outside agency can provide more personalized service. Outside firms can collaborate with you to help you pull off your vision, while also focusing on saving dollars. They will usually supply scaled room drawings, 3D renderings, and scheduled calls which are critical in the pre-planning process. These extras may not be available from in-house providers, giving you even more reason to seek out your own experts.


Situation Three: In-House Vendors Are Mandatory

Hopefully, you don’t ever face this situation. In fact, it may be a make or break on choosing the venue. However, you may have no choice if the event is a trade show or industry event. These circumstances don’t offer much in the way of choice. The offerings are probably very standard. If you are relegated to using an in-house vendor that doesn’t mean you can’t ask other AV experts for some advice. If you have an AV partner you’ve worked with previously, you may want to just touch base with them about your event. They may have ideas for you to maximize what you have to work with.


Independent AV Teams Offer Savings and Other Benefits

The decisions you make about your AV equipment and crew have a big impact on the overall success of your event. So, it’s critical to trust your AV team. That’s more important than if they are an in-house solution. Along with a great working relationship, cost is a major factor in your decision. You could enjoy significant savings by bringing in your own team. And, you’ll get great service from the start.


The AV Agency helps brands all over the country in venues small and large. Our many years of experience and lean operational model allow us to offer responsive, personal service, access to more equipment and considerable savings versus in-house teams. Share your event details with us today for a quote and recommendations.

Call: (702) 848-3128 

Email: hello@avagency.com

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