Steve Wildemann is president of Rental and Staging Network (RSN), and president and owner of Advanced Staging Productions in Pennsylvania. With more than 30 years of experience in the event technology business, he leads RSN, a top-tier network of live event production companies throughout North America. The network allows event planners and producers to access the very best in live event production anywhere on the North American continent. For more information, visit RentalandStaging.net.
Audio-visual is a critical — albeit often overlooked — component of successful events. Depending on what the planner needs, an event’s A/V may appear invisible or it can take the spotlight. Either way, every event needs some kind of A/V.
A/V providers come in as many shapes and sizes as there are kinds of events. There are large and small companies, and in-house and independent providers. Event planners should evaluate these options as carefully as they would a venue and caterer.
Each event you hold should fit into your organization’s long-term strategy and mirror the brand’s image. A good A/V company will take the next step and ensure your event will build your brand, achieve the company leadership’s goals and align with audience expectations.
If you want your event’s A/V done your way, you need to be proactive. Before you sign the venue contract, you need to maintain your freedom of choice between the in-house A/V company and an independent provider.
Once you sign the venue contract, you’ve lost your negotiation power. At that point, you’re stuck with the in-house A/V or a variety of additional fees if you opt to bring in your own A/V partner.
Start off early with the request for proposal (RFP), which should include the freedom to bring in outside providers. Provide the venue with terms that maintain your freedom of choice with no additional fees. All fees are negotiable during the contract stage.
Here is a sample clause you could use in the RFP:
Due to the unique nature of our meeting program format, [Company name] has a partnership with an A/V provider that is familiar with our needs. We will plan to utilize their services for much of our audio-visual 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 [Company name] or our A/V partner. It is incumbent upon the facility to remove clauses from any proposals prior to submission to [Company name]. [Company name] 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 during venue negotiations:
[Company name] reserves the option to use our own A/V provider for all of our audio-visual needs with no additional charges, fees or penalty of any type to [Company name] or our A/V 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.
Requirements to use floor or wall coverings when not practiced by the house A/V company.
New labor/union contracts if there were none at the submission of the proposal or when signing the contract.
Wi-Fi rates higher than if you used the in-house A/V company. Your choice of A/V provider should not impact the cost of your Wi-Fi service.
Your A/V partner can also assist with the contract language and provide sample terms and negotiating advice.
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 A/V vendors pay venues commissions for ‘preferred vendor’ status. Ultimately, as the event planner, you pay these commissions as in-house vendors set prices to cover the costs. Outsourced A/V partners don’t have the burden of paying the facility, so they have greater flexibility to provide solutions with the most impact.
Whether or not you use an independent A/V 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 A/V company to compare. | AC&F |