People all over the country go out of their way to shop at Costco over Walmart, the one stop shop down the street, because they get more for their money. So as an event planner why wouldn’t you do the same with vendors?
A venue’s contract may persuade you to use the in-house services, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most affordable or that you’re guaranteed quality service. Yes, they are onsite with knowledge of the venue and the master bill may roll up into one. However, like Walmart, convenience usually comes at a price.
In-house vendors can be very limiting on what they can provide you, whereas outside companies are usually more flexible. In fact, when client requirements call for something more than an ordinary projector-and-microphone production, the in-house AV provider often contracts with a local company with an enormous mark-up on the price.
With the flexibility and competitive prices of outside companies, they most often beat out in-house vendors. There have been instances where clients have terminated their contract with an in-house vendor, paid the termination fee and hired an outside company. They were extremely satisfied with the results of their production and still paid significantly less than what in-house would have charged them.
What are you paying?
It’s important to understand where all your costs are coming from in order to cut as many unnecessary costs as possible.
For a company to be an in-house vendor, they must pay a commission or liaison fee to the venue. This means for in-house to ensure a profit, they have to increase the rates they charge you. If you need someone to do something as simple as pressing an “on” button or flip a switch, you will have to pay, so be on the lookout for hidden service charges.
Serious budget killers come from power, rigging and internet. The in-house provider will want to sell these items as a “bundle” with AV. It is critical to get separate bids for each element, so you aren’t overcharged. For example, a hotel’s in-house company gives you a $40,000 bid for AV but includes free power and internet. Then, you find out you can get the same AV for $20,000. But when you "unbundle" the services, you find that the hotel is going to charge you $15,000 for internet and $10,000 for power. If you start by negotiating each of these items individually, you would have received bids for power at $2500, internet at $5000, and you would be free to accept any AV bid.
It can be beneficial to work with an outside AV company.
Since the in-house AV is described as mandatory by the venue, the in-house provider will be committed to multiple events at one time. Outside companies send skilled professionals that are only working on one event. They will be onsite and completely dedicated to you.
If you use the in-house vendor, you also run the risk of a limited inventory. If you need an extra microphone or speaker last minute, the in-house vendors may be able to provide it for you, but if there’s a 3-day conference happening at the same time as your smaller scale event, the venue will prioritize the conference’s needs first. Outside vendors have larger inventories which means lower prices and the guarantee that you will get what you need.
Outside companies can also help you keep costs down by ensuring you are using minimal power and rigging. You can still make a visual impact with less power by using things like LED lights instead of conventional lekos, an LED video wall instead of a projector, and other power efficient equipment. Rigging can be an expensive element so brainstorm with your AV company to modify technical plans.
Employees and freelancers at outside companies have specific skills and have worked on events for various clients in different venues. If you want specialty elements these professionals have the technical minds to make sure everything is done correctly. An important question to ask if you choose to work with the in-house vendors is who will be handling those specialty elements.
During the creative process, outside AV companies will offer innovative ideas to give you an impactful show and work with you to provide a final invoice that will be priced specifically to your budget. To help bring your creative visions and brand to life, outside companies are consistently purchasing new equipment to provide clients with the best technology for their boldest ideas.
Overall, the production value will be higher, you will be spending less and you will have gained a trusted AV partner that wants to see you succeed.
Emily Kaiser is the content marketing coordinator at TSV Sound & Vision, an event production and AV rental company with locations in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Austin. She has worked in the industry for over a year and produces content for TSV’s social media and website, while also writing blogs on a variety of topics including AV equipment, advice for event planners and more. To learn more about TSV sound & Vision, visit tsvusa.com.