It’s a universal constant: planners are always being asked to do more, with less. In good times and in bad, there’s always room for a little belt-tightening. As a result, most experienced planners have become master negotiators and creatively thrifty in all aspects of their events. Whether it’s finding the perfect, off-the-radar venue, finding just the right caterer, or DIYing up some centerpieces out of parts they found on Amazon, today’s planner has an internet full of ideas at their disposal to save money on AV Rentals, without sacrificing quality.
But what about one of the biggest budget line items for many meetings and events? What about audiovisual services? Occasionally a planner will try to cobble together their own lights and sound systems in order to save some money, and it doesn’t usually end well. Does that mean that AV is off limits? Or is there a way to save money on AV without compromising quality?
Fortunately, there are many ways you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on your AV bill, without anyone being the wiser, which can make you look like a budgetary miracle worker!
Knowledge is Power
For a lot of people, contracting audiovisual services is like going to the mechanic to get their car fixed. They just hope and pray that they’re not being taken advantage of, and that the price is fair. Just like most mechanics are honest, most AV providers are too, yet many planners express a concern that they’re being taken advantage of, and getting a lot more than they need. This feeling can come from AV providers using terminology that may be unfamiliar to the planner, or because they provide a bid that’s overly-detailed and so full of model numbers and widget quantities that it’s virtual indecipherable.
The good news is that if you take some time to learn a little bit more about the basics of AV rentals, it can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable about your bids. Take some time to learn the lingo, and be sure to check out our previous blog article, AV Glossary: The Terms All Event Planners Need to Know.
Once you start to learn what’s what, it will be easier to compare your AV bids from different providers. You’ll be able to ask better questions, and more effectively compare apples to apples. If it’s easier to compare quotes, it’ll be easier to tell which companies provide better value, giving you more AV bang for the buck.
And just like you don’t need to know a lot about cars to know there’s no such thing as “signal fluid” or “summer air” in your tires, it doesn’t take much AV knowledge to feel more confident in reading your AV bill. If you see a “3256 Skjorg BD23” on your bill and they can’t explain what it is in a way that makes sense, you might want to get a second opinion!
Just a little education and basic knowledge can go a long way to making sure that you only get the gear you need, for a reasonable price.
The More Things Change…
One of the things we recommend to planners is to start thinking about AV earlier in the process. By engaging your AV providers as early as possible, they can help with creative design, site selection, and event venue contract negotiation – all of which provide opportunities to save money. It’s also an chance to make sure your quotes are more accurate, and prevent having to add or change things at the last minute, and we all know those can be the biggest budget busters.
Frequently, the response is, “So much is going to change, it doesn’t make sense to even think about AV at this point.”
You’d be surprised, however, at how much you know about your AV needs. Even at the earliest stages of the planning process, having a plan – even one you know is going to change – is always better than not having a plan at all.
Take a look at the agenda from last year. How many individual presenters were there? Were there any panels? Did they go up one after another or were there breaks in between them? Are there breakouts? Are there any regular presentations that happen every month, quarter, or year? Do they announce a big trip every year? Is there a big, splashy awards program? Or is it just a barebones lights up, lights down kind of stage?
A lot can be determined from how you answered the above questions, and most AV providers would have a significant portion of their bid figured out after a single phone call. From the offset, you’ll have a better idea how much your AV is going to cost at its most basic level, helping you to know how much you can spend on things that are a little more flashy or fun.
Once again, you’re going to have accurate quotes, and once again, you’re going to be making sure you only get the equipment you need. More accurate quotes can prevent (ok, reduce) those on-site, last minute additions to your program that can really blow your budget.
We’re not going to get into the “3rd party AV vs in-house AV” debate. There are plenty of good reasons to use either, and the product solutions Aria offers can complement either perfectly. It’s fairly well accepted that in-house AV vendors tend to be more expensive, and what you’re paying for is convenience.
While many people insist on bringing in 3rd party AV vendors, many people are just fine with using the “in-house” AV company. Whatever your preference, be sure to get multiple bids. Even if you fully intend to use the in-house, you should get a 3rd party bid, and the reason is simple: negotiation power. Being able to hold up a 3rd party bid that’s significantly lower than your in-house bid gives you the power to negotiate them down, potentially shaving thousands of dollars off your bill.
“What about the contract?” you ask. Don’t be bullied by pressure from venues to use their in-house supplier! You should still get a bid from a 3rd party vendor, even if the venue has penalties, fees, or other disincentives. Using an in-house provider should be your choice, not theirs. 3rd party bids are often so much lower than the in-house that even with the fees and charges, you might still come out ahead. Or, as we mentioned above, at least get the in-house to come down in price.
But with great power, comes great responsibility… There are, unfortunately, a small subset of planners that see negotiation as their primary reason for existence. Negotiate, yes. But please remember to be respectful, and reasonable. There’s a huge difference between, “Can you meet me halfway?” and chiseling your vendors to the point they can’t make a profit and never want to work with you again!
Bonus Tip: Inquiring Minds
While not directly a way to save money, consider this tip to be part of your education! You should never, never be afraid to ask questions about your AV proposals or final invoices. Aria’s team is standing by 24/7 to address any and all questions or concerns. Any AV supplier should be able to explain exactly what you’re getting for your money in a way that is easy to understand. If they can’t, it might be a red flag.
Ready, Set, Save!
Audiovisual can be a significant portion of your budget for any meeting or event, but like many other aspects, it’s possible to save hundreds or thousands of dollars if you’re armed with a little knowledge, and are willing to put in a little time and effort. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to know enough so that you’re able to have an educated conversation with your AV providers.
Take the time to do a little homework, and you’ll save time and money in the long run!