How to Maintain Your Freedom of AV Choice

AV is a crucial element of successful events—and it can make or break your’s.

How to Maintain Your Freedom of AV Choice

It’s a coup to secure the trendiest speaker for your event, but if the audience is distracted by poor audio or lighting, then what was the point? You need great AV that will serve the needs of your event and ensure everything goes off without a hitch. 

AV providers come in as many shapes and sizes as there are kinds of events, large and small, in-house and independent. The right AV partner can make or break your event, and planners should evaluate these options as carefully as you would a hotel and caterer. 

It’s up to you to see what option will work best for your event. But if you don’t work proactively with the venue before signing a contact, you’ll lose your freedom of choice. Here’s how to preserve your freedom: 

Start With the RFP and Contract

Once you sign the venue contract, there’s very little room for negotiation to use a provider other than their contracted AV company. Before signing, make sure you have the ability to evaluate and select your preferred service partners—otherwise you may end up with an AV option you don’t want. Bringing in an independent AV partner after you sign the contract can be very expensive because venues commonly add clauses with extra fees if you go outside for AV.

Start off early with the RFP which should include the criteria to have freedom to bring in outside providers. Provide the venue with terms that maintain your freedom of choice with no additional fees or penalties. Common fees venues may levy for not using their preferred vendor include: 

  • Requirements to pay for supervisory labor for your AV company’s move-in/out of the facility. 
  • Flat daily outside vendor fees.
  • Fees to prepare rooms for use.
  • Charges for podiums, basic power, staging, heating, air conditioning or lights within the meeting room.
  • Wi-Fi rates that are higher than if you used the in-house AV company. Your choice of AV provider should not impact the cost of your Wi-Fi service.

All of these fees are negotiable during the contract stage and are easily avoidable if you take a proactive stance during your site selection process. Your independent AV company can also assist you with the contract language and provide sample terms.  

High Impact and Better Value 

In-house AV vendors pay venues high commissions for “preferred vendor” status. Ultimately, you as the event planner pay for these commissions as in-house vendors set their prices so they can cover the costs. Outsourced partners don’t have the burden of paying the facility and so they have greater flexibility to provide solutions that provide the most impact for you.

Freedom from paying in-house commissions lets independent AV partners deliver the same services at a lower cost, or more comprehensive solutions for the same cost, as the in-house vendor. At the very least, get a bid from the in-house provider but also get one from an independent company to compare. 

A Strategic Approach 

Each event you hold should fit into your organization’s long-term strategy and mirror the brand’s image. If all your AV provider is doing is taking orders for how many screens and mics you need, you’re missing a great benefit. A good AV company will take the next step and ensure your event will build your brand, achieve company leadership’s goals and align with audience expectations. 

The in-house vendor is less likely to do this because they are less likely to get your repeat business. After all, they are tied to the venue. But with an outside company, you can work with the same team for years and take them with you all over the world. If you want to host an event somewhere else, the in-house company may be the same company, but you’ll be working with a different team of people who don’t know you and your organization’s needs. This loss of shared knowledge may impact the overall quality of your event production. 

Maintaining your freedom to choose with your partner is critical to holding successful events and maximizing your AV investment.