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Do you audit your AV budget? If not, you might be overpaying or not really getting the equipment best suited for your event. While auditing your AV budget sounds overwhelming, you need to do it! This will allow you to make sure you are getting exactly what you need and the most bang for your budget.
In this episode of Whiteboard Wednesday, Will Curran will walk you through how to audit your AV budget. He will guide you through the key steps to take to make sure you leave nothing to question. From how to interact with your AV company to critical questions you really need to ask, he has you covered. Let’s jump in!
Quantity of Items
The first thing to keep in mind when auditing your AV budget is the quantity of items. Far too often do we see it on AV quotes where there’s just too much of something. Whether it’s microphones, cables, projection – this is your chance to dive in, and make sure you have exactly what you need. For example, if you have four people speaking on stage at any given moment and one MC, you’ll need a total of six microphones. Make sure to do the counting on the quote, so the company won’t charge you for ten of them.
If you do this across multiple categories, such as lighting, sound, video, and staging, that’s where you start to see big dollars shaved off!
Google Line Items
As complicated as AV sounds, it’s all not proprietary equipment. We all buy the same equipment and utilize it. AV quotes should list out the specific models, names, and number of every piece of equipment. Google it, and you’ll find YouTube videos, articles, information on what those line items are, and what they actually do.
This is also a really fantastic way to teach yourself AV if you don’t have someone who’s there to explain what every single line item does. It will help hold the AV company accountable. If you can’t find the information on Google, go ahead and ask the AV company to explain what it is. And while it might seem time consuming, quote walkthroughs actually save you time in the long run. Ask your AV company to walk you through everything, line by line.
Audit Your AV Budget: Get Critical
Event budget is something that’s worth getting critical about. Don’t be afraid to ask whether you need a specific item on that quote! Every AV will want to say that every single little piece is absolutely necessary to the execution of their event. However, it might be that it’s just more convenient to have. It’s going to make their job a little bit easier, but it’s going to cost you a little bit more money to make that happen.
An ethical AV company should tell you what they can get rid of and how it’s going to affect you. Additionally, an AV company should always be able to explain any line item on their quote in a simple, easy to understand manner. If they are not able to explain it in a simple way, it means they likely are trying to confuse you. You don’t want that. You want a company that you can trust and you can build a lasting relationship with!
A computer-assisted design, or CAD in short, is a visual representation of your event in three dimensions. By asking for it, you get to see exactly what you’re getting for your money.
On the quote, all you see is an alphabet soup, even if you know some major AV terms. It’s hard to visualize how everything comes together. But in CAD, you might notice that you don’t actually like or need that much décor or lighting, for example. It’s much easier to communicate with your AV company with a CAD drawing in front of you. It’s AV simplified and a great way to audit your AV budget.
Labor is one of the most expensive parts of AV, so it’s important to make sure that the AV company is not overcharging you. Clients typically try to save money on labor, but usually, they take a wrong approach. Rather than getting rid of entire teams of people, it’s best to look at the schedule. When is the staff going to be there and when do they leave? Compare that to your schedule.
AV quotes often include day rates and travel per diem. If you don’t understand why, talk to your AV company. Count up how many hours you’re going to need the AV people there. Usually add a one-hour break somewhere in between, and then you should be able to see how many hours of work is needed.
Under Quoting Labor
While some AV companies overcharge, others undercharge. While it doesn’t necessarily relate to bringing the cost down when it comes to your AV audit, it’s important to pay attention to it. Why? There might be over-time or the event might go on for longer than expected, which typically results in extra bills. No one wants to be billed after the event!
You should be able to ask your AV company whether the quote is the exact invoice you’ll get after the event. If they can’t confidently say yes, chances are they’re under-budgeting.
Quote breakdowns when it comes to visually representing the quotes. The most common way that I see quotes broken down is at least breaking things down by rooms. God forbid if your AV quote ever says just thousands of lines of lists of equipment, and you have to guess where things are going, and trust the AV companies knows. At a minimum, hopefully, they should be putting everything into rooms so you can see a room, and then a list of equipment below it.
it allows you to see a subtotal line item for that room, and how much money you’re spending with it. Which is really great, for example, if you’re to reduce the amount of money you’re spending in break out rooms you can see the total cost of each breakout room, and add it all together. Same with the general session, you can see where the reception money is going. What I recommend that you do is break this down even further, at least into categories.
This is where a lot of companies differ in this great debate that comes with selling AV. The two camps are either line everything 100%, and you get to see the price for every single item, every cable, every microphone, everything like that. The other is to see categorized pricing. They each have their own pros and cons.
Again, I see right down the middle. However, what I recommend is to make both companies happy is that you do this categorization in the quote breakdown. Again, when you’re doing a quote walk through it’s going to make this even easier. What I recommend that you do is that you have everything broken down not only by room, for example, general session, but then inside those have categories. Lighting, sound, videos, staging, décor, labor, for just that room. What they should allow you to do is see what major areas, and chunks that you’re spending your money in. For example, if you see that you’re spending a lot of money in light, again if you got a computer-assisted design you’ll be able to say, wow this looks a little excessive. Can we bring lighting down? It’s not as well needed. Or for example, you’re not trying to spend as much money on décor, you’ll see that décor line item.
What’s great about this is that’s going to lead to my hidden line item right here, which is how does this affect the budget? It allows you to ask this great critical question, which is when you’re going category by category, and when you need to save money. When you audit your AV budget is to look and say how does this affect the budget? Going back again to the explaining in easy to understand terms they should be able to say this is how it’s affecting the budget.
Okay, for example, I will tell you right now the major categories that you will always spend a lot of money on is first labor. The people are the most expensive. People are expensive, the best people cost a lot of money, that’s just the simple fact when it comes to it. The second area is video. Video equipment’s really expensive right now because it’s the newest, greatest thing. Everything has to be in 4K, the greatest quality, the greatest look. Projectors bulbs break down very easily, all these things like that, so you usually find that video is the next biggest area. The second biggest area then is the décor, because décor is usually a little more fragile, can’t last as many events, usually has to be replaced a lot, it tends to be a little bit more expensive. From there usually, everything is relatively equal. Lighting and audio tend to be lots of little things put together make a big budget.
The first area to look for are labor hours, making sure they’re accurate. Then it’s asking things like: ‘Do I need this? How does this affect the budget?’. If you find out that a majority of your money is being spent on expensive projectors, you might want to ask whether you can get away with a cheaper one.
Audit Your Event Budget With A Reality Check
Another way to audit your event budget is to get outside opinions, or a reality check, as Will calls it. You can do so by finding someone who knows AV really well. It can be a co-worker, a consultant, somebody who works at an AV company, or a tech enthusiast.
Keep in mind there are people out there in the events industry who walk clients through their quotes and make sure that you’re getting exactly what you need. Brandt Krueger, for example, does all the negotiation for his clients. If you don’t feel comfortable with technology, it’s best to have someone help you.
And Finally, Send Reference Quotes!
Will finishes up this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday by giving a somewhat controversial tip: copy and paste the list of the equipment and labor, send it to another AV company and see what quote they come up with for the exact same service.
When you’re comparing AV quotes, it’s often comparing apples to oranges. If you say you need a projector, one company might charge you for a low-end projector and the other one for a high-end one. You definitely don’t want that, you want exact comparisons! This will allow you to get a really quick audit on your AV budget.
And finally, Will believes that the best way to audit your AV budget is to find a transparent partner who will take care of you. If you’re looking for one, check out Endless Events pricing and don’t hesitate to reach out!