Why Event Planners Should Keep Their Freedom of AV Choice

January 28, 2020

Audio visual (AV) is a critical — albeit often overlooked — component of successful events. Depending on what the planner needs, an event’s AV may appear invisible or it can take the spotlight. Either way, every large event needs some kind of AV.

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

It’s up to you to see what AV company will work best for your event. But if you want your event done your way, you need to be proactive. Starting before you sign the venue contract, you need to maintain your freedom of choice between the in-house AV company and an independent provider. Here’s how to preserve your freedom:

Freedom of AV choice starts with the RFP and contract

Once you sign the venue contract, you’ve lost your negotiation power. At that point, you’re stuck with the in-house AV option or the venue will charge a variety of fees if you opt to bring in your own AV partner. These extra fees can get very expensive.

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. All fees are negotiable during the contract stage and are easily avoidable if you take a proactive stance during your site selection process.

Sample language to protect your freedom of choice

Here is a sample clause you could use in the RFP to preserve your freedom of choice:

Due to the unique nature of our meeting program format, [Your company] has a partnership with an AV provider that is familiar with our needs. We will plan to utilize their services for much of our audiovisual meeting requirements. They in-turn may rent equipment and/or labor from the in-house provider to augment their needs while on-site. When replying to this RFP, please address our requirement to exclude any fees or charges or requirements to [Your company] or our AV partner. It is incumbent upon the facility to remove clauses from any proposals prior to submission to [Your company]. [Your Company] expects the facility to openly bring up and address these items for a detailed discussion and acceptance prior to including any of them within our final agreement.

Here is sample language you can use in the contract when negotiating with the venue:

Audiovisual Services Provider
[Your company] reserves the option to use our own AV provider for all of our audiovisual needs with no additional charges, fees or penalty of any type to [Your company] or our AV partner. Examples of these include but are not limited to:
  • Requirements for supervisory labor to move-in/ out of the facility
  • Fees to prepare rooms for use
  • Charges for podiums, basic power, staging, heating, air conditioning or lights within the meeting room
  • Flat daily outside vendor fees
  • Require the use of floor or wall coverings when not practiced by the house AV company
  • New labor/ union contracts (if there were none at the submission of the proposal or when signing the contract)
  • 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.

Your independent AV partner can also assist you with the contract language and provide sample terms and advice for negotiating with venues.

Independent AV is often a better value for your investment

If preserving your freedom of choice seems difficult and going with the in-house option looks more convenient, there’s a reason for that. It’s in the venue’s interest for you to use the in-house company.

In-house AV vendors pay venues commissions for their “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 AV 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.

Each event you hold should fit into your organization’s long-term strategy and mirror the brand’s image. 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 AV 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.

With an outside company, however, 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 AV 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.

Whether or not you use an independent AV company or go with the in-house provider, if you preserve your freedom in the contract stage, you have options later. At the very least, you can have a competitive bidding process, with bids from the in-house provider and an independent AV company to compare. 

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


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