Take a Deep Dive into What Matters When Choosing an AV Vendor
Details Matter, So Does Selecting the Right AV Provider
As an event planner, you spend lots of time on the details. You know the details matter, from carefully chosen menu items to the lighting. But one area of event planning that may be leaving you frustrated is dealing with audiovisual needs. There may be times you just hope it gets set up on time and works. And, you’ve probably experienced the worst—equipment failure, inexperienced staff, and other disasters.
AV shouldn’t be clouded in mystery or be a pain point. Working with the right audio visual provider makes this one less detail for you to worry about. However, not all audiovisual providers are the same.
To help you make the best decision, there are certain things every event planner needs to know about audiovisual providers. When making your choice for an AV partner, consider these points:
Does the quality of service meet your standards? They should be answering all of your questions in a timely fashion no matter the price tag of your event.
What type of discounts are available? If you’re building a long-term relationship with an audiovisual provider, you may be able to fees. You’d never have that opportunity using in-house AV providers.
Will you have a dedicated point of contact? This is minor but very important. You don’t want to be passed around to numerous people.
What is their experience level? This goes beyond the number of years. It also includes having specialized experience in different types of venues.
Do they explain their quotes and recommendations? Unfortunately, many AV providers are out to confuse you. They use jargon in their proposal instead of talking to you about what you want and how they’ll make that happen.
Next, you’ll experience a deep dive into these points, learning everything you need to know about audiovisual providers.
The Business Model of Your AV Provider: Why It Matters
A traditional audiovisual production company has a high overhead model. That means, for every project they work on, they have to pass some of their labor, equipment, and other expenses on to you. Even if the vendor has a large volume of jobs, it may have extra expenses that a more modest-sized operation wouldn't have to worry about. So, what exactly are you paying for when dealing with traditional models:
Equipment: You should expect to pay the rental fee. But often in this number, firms pass along their lease fees and any upkeep or maintenance of the equipment.
Space for equipment: All the equipment must live somewhere. And the costs associated are probably figured into your quote or service fee.
Full-time employees: Paying for set-up labor is one thing, but when a company has a large pool of staff, additional labor charges could find their way to your quote.
Shipping/Freight charges: The equipment must get to your location, but paying for cross country shipping adds up to substantial freight fees. Allocating local gear houses makes the most financial sense.
With this model, you can clearly see that hidden fees could take up too much of your budget. Luckily, there’s an alternative: the lean model.
Running “lean” has become a popular buzzword in many industries from software to marketing. It applies to audiovisual providers, too. In this industry, a lean model is the most optimal way to receive a turnkey solution. This means you only need to work with one agency for everything AV. This eradicates the time-consuming coordination of multiple vendors.
This type of organization provides you the consultative approach of determining what equipment you need for your setup, but also all the equipment and labor. Using local labor is also part of a lean operation. Cutting down on hotels rooms needed and flights. All of these factors lead to savings for you and peace of mind knowing you have true experts for your AV needs.
Discounts: Working with a Partner vs In-House Staff
First, it’s important to point out that you most always have a choice to use an outside AV company. You are rarely obligated to use in-house AV staff. Venues count on you believing there is more convenience in using their staff. And to a point, it might be more convenient, depending on your audiovisual needs, however, it comes with a price. And you’re unlikely to be able to negotiate fees.
The cost of services and equipment from an in-house provider can be up to four times as much as employing an outside agency. All these extra fees add up and may impact other parts of your budget. So, get that money back by comparing in-house quotes and the pricing model for independent companies.
Choosing an independent agency also provides you the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship. With this arises the chance for discounts, giving you more room in your budget to create fantastic events for your clients. If you choose an agency to be your provider across different events or shows over a full year, it’s certainly reasonable to negotiate a better rate based on volume. This isn’t possible when using in-house staff.
Point of Contact: Don’t Get Passed Around
Your event is a big deal. You are trying to design a vision, of which AV equipment is necessary. From the concept to the layout to set-up, wouldn’t it be great to have a dedicated contact? Someone who understands your event, needs, and challenges. When dealing with a larger AV company, having a central contact may be impossible. Every time you have a question, you may encounter someone new. Then, on the day, a new set of staff members you’ve never seen before may show up to set up for your event.
If you don’t have a dedicated rep, communication may be fragmented, with different people delivering bits and pieces of information. This can be confusing and overwhelming. Set clear guidelines with your communication expectations from the start. If a vendor can’t agree to adhere to these, this may not be the right firm for you. On the other hand, with smaller agencies, you are likely going to receive continuous communication from one source.
Being passed around should not be the norm. It is possible to work with the same core group for your events. With many boutique AV agencies, you are more likely to interact directly with the owner or lead producer. This communication and the development of a working relationship continues from beginning to end. Expect consistent, excellent service from these firms. You’re more than a number or paycheck to them.
Industry Experience: Equipment and Venues
You can be fairly certain that any AV provider knows the basics of equipment. But, that may be the extent of what they know. Because many businesses that offer AV rentals do other things, their expertise may be limited. These vendors may have low prices but this is not a time to be cheap or roll the dice. Poor AV services can quickly ruin an event.
So, study up on your possible vendors. Do they explain their experience? Do they have thought leadership content on their site that’s meant to educate event planners? If they do, then they probably have the expertise you need.
Beyond equipment knowledge, your provider should have a full understanding of different types of venues. The setting of your event has a lot to do with what equipment is chosen. There are huge differences between an intimate setting and an auditorium. So, it’s best to choose an audiovisual provider that is versatile and has designed events in a variety of settings. You’d never want to hire a company that only does trade shows to set-up an event in a 75,000 sq. ft. location. That could be a disaster. When deciding on which organization to partner with, ensure they have the experience for your venue type.
Quotes and Recommendations: Seek Clarity
This is probably the most important consideration when selecting an audiovisual provider. You should never walk away from a conversation feeling confused by a vendor. Confusion is rampant in the industry and often leads to event planners spending more than they should. If a quote or proposal is heavy on jargon or has no explanation, you might feel completely lost. Quotes don’t have to be so challenging. There are specific things event planners should know about quotes, with the first one being, not all quotes are the same. In fact, it’s often hard to compare them.
In this context, what’s critical is understanding that a true AV partner won’t waste your time with information that’s not relevant. Details are great, but you don’t need a paragraph of technical mumbo-jumbo. What you need is a clear plan that highlights your vision and how to get there with equipment. You need clear, concise costs for equipment and any other fees. You shouldn’t have to hunt through lines of tiny text to find all those hidden fees.
Find Your AV Ally
Audiovisual providers should be your ally in event planning, not a source of frustration. The right AV experts give you the best equipment at the best value to create the right environment and ambiance for your event.
When looking for the right provider, be thorough and skeptical. Do your research and find the firm that checks all your boxes.
During your evaluation, it’s a good idea to keep these questions in mind:
What’s their quality of service?
Do they offer discounts for long-term relationships?
Will you have a single point of contact throughout the process?
Are quotes and recommendations easy to understand?
Find the Right Partner with Us
At the AV Agency, we deliver event production, stage design & show management with a consultative approach. Personalized service, competitive pricing and years of expertise make the AV Agency the right partner for your next event. Get in touch with us today.