Event AV Questions

How To Compare AV Quotes

By September 16, 2015 One Comment

So you’ve found your AV company (or preferably companies), and you’ve had meetings or calls with them to discuss your needs and they have created quotes for you. Now you have to compare AV quotes and make your decision. Stressful! Not only have we done thousands of quote walkthroughs with clients and helped them compared quotes, but we have also hired AV companies ourselves. Our goal is to share these secrets for reading and comparing AV quotes and AV vendors with you. This is how to compare AV quotes. So let’s jump right in.

Apples To Apples

First concept we want to discuss is when comparing quotes make sure you are comparing apple to apples.  You’ll hear this a lot when comparing  AV vendors (for example, AV company A vs AV company B). For example, AV company B might ask what exact equipment AV company A is providing so they provide an identical quote with the same equipment. Apples to apples is the idea that in order to provide a realistic pricing comparison between A & B, it’s important to know exactly how the other company has structured their quote. That does NOT mean the AV company B needs the pricing from A. When creating quotes, there are hundreds if not thousands of options for equipment, and while there are some common industry standards, there can be a huge amount of difference in the equipment chosen.

For example, at Endless, we tend to pick higher end equipment to provide the best possible experience at your venue  At Endless, for a large area which needs sound, we’ll put a large concert line array on the quote (which is ideal in some scenarios) but not all companies have the capability to do this or have the equipment in their inventory so instead they place multiple speakers around an area to get the same effect. One can cost as much as two times as the other. By doing multiple speakers, it might not be the best option for your event, but it will seem cheaper and if you’re looking to save on the budget, we would recommend the multiple speaker option but it can create a false comparison between companies when comparing quotes.

So when you compare AV quotes, look at the specific equipment and make sure it matches up to the identical model in the quote you are comparing it to’  and if not, ask how it compares or do a bit of research on your end.

Brand DOES Matter

Did you know that generic pharmaceutical drugs are just as effective as brand names? This is due to laws that require them to be as equally as effective. You can save a lot of money going with the generic choice over the brand, however this does not apply to AV equipment, and brand DOES matter. Make sure you are aware of what the warning sign brands are, and what companies are known for providing excellent equipment. You will be able to tell the quality brands because when you search for them on Google, the top industry publications in AV will be discussing them and their use in the largest events.

Generic Equipment Descriptions

Have you ever gotten a quote that just says “2 wireless microphones?”. Beware of this! Have you ever gone to a car dealership and said: “Give me a sedan with 4 doors!” Probably not! Don’t do the same with your AV equipment. Similar to the the above points, if they don’t give you a brand or model at all, how will you be able to compare AV quotes apples to apples? Often companies do this because then they can put cheaper gear on your event when really you were paying the price of the nicer equipment. Sometimes companies will be VERY vague with their equipment names and use something such as “4 intelligent lights” when this could be a scanner fixture (let’s say that cost $50 to rent) instead of a moving head fixture (which could cost $250 to $750 to rent). Having generic equipment descriptions does not allow you to compare apples to apples and also it does not give you an exact idea of what you are paying for.

Note: Many AV companies will say this is done to simplify it for the client so it’s easier to read but here’s the thing, yes AV quotes are complicated and no one expects you to know what a JBL VRX932LAP line array speaker is, but you should always be able to ask what it is, and they should be able to then explain it to you in plain English (if it’s confusing when they explain, they are trying to confuse you- they should be able to explain it in layman’s terms).

Itemized Pricing

I’m going to get this one out of the way really quick. We’ve discussed this in pervious blogs, and this is a huge debate amongst the AV community. As a technical person, I personally am a fan of itemized pricing as it allows me to see the exact pricing of a piece of equipment for quick apples to apples comparison. However, Endless and many other companies will agree that group pricing simplifies things for clients quite a bit as it helps eliminate picking and choosing of equipment (which is sometimes impossible since a lot of AV equipment relies on each other), but here’s my argument for why itemized pricing versus group pricing should not matter. If both quotes have identical equipment in quantities, brands and models, then it should not matter how pricing is displayed, whether one total or itemized. If you prefer to have it either way, a sophisticated company should be able to generate you a quote in any format you desire to see it.

Not All Labor Is Created Equal

When comparing your quotes, be sure to look at the staff they have designated for your event. Will someone be there during the event to run everything? Do you have a single point of contact such as an event manager or do all of the technicians report to you? Sometimes labor can add up to a large number quickly so don’t be afraid to ask why they chose that many technicians and stagehands. Sometimes less staff might mean the setup/teardown takes longer.

All The Small Things

At Endless, we put EVERYTHING on our quotes down to our clamps, cables, and even bolts for truss. Some people think this is really overkill. Seems contradictory to our mission to make things simple right? However, let me explain why it’s important to see everything on your AV quote, even the bolts, which are free, and you don’t even pay for. At Endless, our quoting system ties into our inventory so when we sell you something, it’s based on what is in our inventory and when we confirm an event, we’ll “pull” the equipment out of inventory so that way we don’t oversell  but also because everything is barcoded in our system, when you see 4 bolts on the quote, you’ll have 4 bolts at your event and that insures you can hold us accountable for what you paid for but also that nothing is forgotten. So don’t be afraid to ask how a company does their inventory, because forgotten equipment can be a serious problem if they don’t manage it properly.

Another point to make is charging for small things versus not charging. For example, some companies will charge you for cables while others will not. While these hardly affect the budget drastically, some people are can be caught off guard if they see this. Typically this will not affect your total budget very much as the cables cost you about 75 cents each (again pricing depends per company) but you can see how this might add up to $30 for your entire event.

Second Chances

While I am not a fan of the “race to the bottom” that can happen if companies are given lots of chances to redo their bid. As a vendor, sometimes you first try  a quote that isn’t lower than the other guy. However if the client likes how we do business, they will give us a second shot at building a quote. During this second shot, it’s helpful for the AV company to know the exact number you want them to get below and for you to ensure them it’s apples to apples (we sometimes ask for the other companies equipment and staffing list) to ensure we are indeed, comparing apples to apples. If you like a company but their price isn’t low enough, give them a second chance and they may make sacrifices to win your business. However, remember giving  in return is important in this.  For example, signing a multi-year contract, doing a testimonial video, referring you to another client, or something similar allows the AV company to make back the money it is losing by giving you a discount. Remember, AV companies have employees with families and if an AV company is doing well, it will be able to expand it’s service offerings and afford to hire the best people for your event.

Your Decision

This portion is ultimately up to you but in our next blog we will be discussing options for making your ultimate decision of what AV company to use for your event. Stay tuned for that coming soon.

In conclusion, these are just some helpful tips to peak behind the curtain to see how AV companies structure their quotes and how to compare AV quotes. We hope this was helpful and if you have any questions at all, please let us know. If you’re looking for a third party to evaluate your quotes, there are websites out there that will do the evaluation for you or feel free to contact an additional AV company such as Endless to be your arbitrator (great idea if the AV company is not located in the market you’re working in.

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Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels. On a serious note, Will does a great job leading the team and thinking of new ways to make Endless excel. His drive and dedication, to Endless, keep the rest of the staff going strong.

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  • Robert Cherny

    Will, Excellent post. The issue of line item pricing is a hot-button with many of us. What many of our competitors fail to take into account is that our clients are not all the same. Some of our clients never read beyond the bottom line on the cover page. They don’t even look at the section totals to find out that the scenic is the most expensive part of the budget. Others will tell me that they don’t like the Shure U4D and want a Sennheiser unit. Proposals need to be formatted to accommodate the needs of the user. Our clients do not care what may or may not be in our warehouse. They only care that we deliver them what we promised at the negotiated price. If it costs us more to deliver their event because some preferred client booked last minute, that is not their problem. Even my most finicky client does not care how many 25′ DMX cables I put on the truck as long as all the lights work except those used to working with “box houses” which dump a load of gear on the dock and drive away. For those of us who provide full service, the only standard by which we can be judged is whether we gave the delegates the best show we could for the budget available. How we got there matters only to us and to the person who signs the check.

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