In-House AV Vendors vs. Independent AV Services

Which is the best choice for your next event?

Are you starting to plan your next event? There are lots of boxes to check when working on events. Most venues offer a variety of in-house services, one of those being audio visual (AV). AV can be a very important part of your event. You want your brand to stand out, and for every moment to be seen and heard as you imagined. So, the question becomes who should you trust with your AV? An in-house vendor or independent agency?


While it may seem more fiscally effective and efficient to just go with the venue provided AV services, that’s not always true. In-house is neither a signifier of quality or value. There are many different factors that can impact both of these attributes relating to in-house teams. There is a significant difference between what you get from in-house versus independent. And, in the end, it may be more cost-effective to go with an outside vendor.


What does a venue provide AV service mean?

If a venue has an in-house production company this describes one of two scenarios. Either the AV services are a part of the venue staff or that an event production company is partnered with a venue in some way. This mainly depends on the venue. Convention centers and hotels most likely have a relationship with a provider that does everything from electricity to AV to Wi-Fi. This type of vendor is considered “preferred.” Whereas entertainment venues often have AV professionals on staff.


“Preferred” vendor doesn’t mean it should be your preference

When venues have a standing relationship with an AV provider, it typically means the AV provider has a contract with the venue to be named as their preferred/only choice when it comes to audio visual, wi-fi, rigging and electricity. The venue believes this company to be a professional, reliable provider. Sometimes in this agreement, there is a bit of a kick back. The venue gets some percentage of the fees and costs the company collects for AV services. There’s nothing nefarious about the relationships, but it’s important to understand they exist. This is necessarily going to be transparent, but you can be fairly certain it’s a common practice.

Just because it’s an acceptable practice, however, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. When AV companies owe a percentage back to the venue, you can expect higher markups. These extra costs can often be a budget breaker, causing you to rethink what you can afford. Do you want to pay for this “preference” or would you rather invest more in the look and sound of your event?


Whereas an independent outside vendor could come in at a much lower price. It will be important to note whether or not the venue adds a fee for using outside services. This notwithstanding you can still find better deals by seeing what else is out there.


In-house AV teams may wear many hats

The other option for in-house is that the venue itself has an employee or team that provides all AV services. This is typically the worst choice scenario. These employees may wear many different hats and don’t have the expertise you deserve. It’s impossible to have confidence in these providers. Equipment may be outdated and not be setup correctly. The wrong equipment could be used. Or, something could go wrong during the event, and employees are nowhere to be found. Lots could go wrong, and if it does, there must be a quick response. Otherwise, the only thing memorable about your event is what went wrong.


Working with AV equipment proficiently takes specialized skills and training. That type of expertise is easy to discern from professional AV companies, but almost impossible to verify with in-house services. There are numerous reasons why you don’t want to be stuck with this option.


Developing long-term relationships

One of the most important reasons to choose an independent AV team is that this type of provider can become long-term partners. If you regularly host or participate in events then it’s in your best interest to work with the same company to ensure consistency in your events. Over time, this provider becomes an extension of your event team and can anticipate your needs. Creating a relationship also allows the vendor to help you plan events from the very beginning. When you work with a team from the start, you can understand what you can and can’t do based on budget or other factors. It helps you stay on task and not waste time dreaming out something that’s just not doable.


Convenience doesn’t mean excellence

It’s hard to beat the convenience of an in-house team. They’re already there and should know the venue well. Convenience is no way to ensure excellence. You may be disappointed with the final results. An in-house AV provider is a bit stuck in its own box. They see the same venue every day, use the same equipment and probably have a few designs from which to choose. They aren’t going to bring you lots of new and fascinating ideas. They are usually focused on doing the same routine. Whereas an independent AV provider will look at each venue with new eyes and be able to offer many possibilities to achieve your goals.


Making the best decision

Looking at the differences between in-house and independent, it’s obvious which option is going to be your best bet. An independent AV company is more likely to offer you more options and is more often than not at a lower price. The first thing you should do is determine the venue rules about outside vendors. Then get quotes from their preferred vendor and another company that has the ability to meet your needs at that venue. Compare, ask questions and make the best decision for your event.


If you’d like to learn more about what the AV Agency can offer at your next event, get in touch with us for a free, easy to understand quote. As an agency that focuses solely on AV, we help every event been seen and heard as expected.

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