Welcome to the AV Audit where we dissect AV proposals every single month! We will break them down live on air showing you the good, the bad and the ugly. With over 10 years in the events industry and producing thousands of events, we wanted to do a live that helps educate and empower planners by breaking down AV bids. AV bids can feel confusing, like a lot of smoke and mirrors but they don’t have to be that way! Each line item can be broken down and explained in layman’s terms like you see in these audits. If your AV company won’t do that, it’s time to walk away! So without further delay let’s jump into the AV Audit and the highlight reel below!
The Summary Page
It’s easy to not want to read through pages and pages of terms that feel like another language. So naturally, everyone always flips to the final number to see if it is in their budget or not. If the number is too high planners will begin to take a hard look at the quote. Often though, if the number falls within their budget we often see planners skip looking through the quote looking and assuming it has everything they asked for and need, no more, no less. This is a big mistake and part of why we created the AV Audit.
The details on quotes matter, you need to be sure that everything you need is accounted for in your quote. You will also want to check the dates and show location. Quotes are often based on events dates and locations so if either is wrong it could break your entire event budget. To ensure that your quote is not missing anything, it is always in your best interest to request a quote walk through with your AV company and review your quotes line-by-line.
Beware of Free Internet Services
10 years ago it was common to see a charge for using 3rd party AV vendors and AV restrictions on your quotes. Now we are starting to see a similar fee arise with the Internet. When you are at your venue, you may hear “If you use this AV company we will give you the internet for free.” And we won’t lie, this seems great! Who doesn’t want to save and get something free? We have heard of WiFi costing upwards of 30K at venues. It’s a giant cost! However, all that glitters isn’t gold. This can be a great deal but you want to ask a few things before signing the contract and locking in. As Will stated in the video “crappy WiFi for free, is still crappy WiFi.” So how do you make sure it’s not crappy? Well, we have a whole webinar dedicated to this you can check out . But in short, do your research!
You want to really vet this WiFi. Ask what the WiFi speed is, reliability, and how many connections are involved? Do your homework, run speed tests, and make sure you are the only event using it. The last thing you want at your event is free internet that really sucks. It could ruin your live streaming, attendees experience and so much more. Make sure the WiFi is good and the AV company you would have to work with is a company you actually want to work with. If either of these doesn’t turn out to be the case, you can probably negotiate this out of your contract but only before signing!
Labor is one of the most confusing parts of an AV quote. There are so many different roles, and everyone bills labor differently. You might not even understand what each position does or if it’s really needed. Here are a few labor items to look out for on your next AV quote.
Look at all the rates for all the different positions. In the bid Will dissected in the video about, the stagehand rate was the same as the audio engineer rate. This was cause for concern as stagehands are generally more entry level, they are used to push cases, run cables and do other less specialized labor. On the flipside, an audio engineer is a highly educated and experienced technical position. So why would those two positions have the same labor rate? Be sure to ask is this whole labor team trained and operated in the equipment I want to use?
Look at the Labor Details
Always look into labor details. Do they have a rate breakdown? Are they showing overtime rates? What does the actual labor schedule look like? Does this labor include rehearsals? To avoid additional labor fees make sure everything on your quote is clear. Ask what each position does, labor is expensive you do not want it over fluffed. Everyone bills labor differently make sure you understand how your AV company bills and what overtime is.
Every event needs a project manager. Be sure to see if they on the quote! Project managers can be really extremely helpful for you at your event. Often it’s hard to find the right person to talk to at your event, you aren’t sure off the top of your head who is running lights or your presentations and chasing them down seems like a headache. When you have a project manager you don’t need to worry about that. Project managers are the main point of contact for you and make your life a lot easier. Always make sure project managers have a little bit more time budgeted on your quote. This allows them to get there early, to be there before set-up, and stay late to make sure everything is ready for the next day. Project managers are a member of your team and help your event run smoothly.
Be Careful When You Cut Labor
In this quote, you see labor is reduced during the banquet. This is a way you can save money and reduce costs. However, when labor is cut to save money on smaller sessions or banquets there is a risk you take. If something goes wrong and the qualified people who were running the larger show earlier aren’t there noticeable problems could arise. The smaller staff may not be equipped to handle the issue and unfortunately, your banquet could be toast.
We saw additional notes in today’s quote, but you will not always see this effort. Additional notes are a great asset to a quote. They can be used to make everyone’s responsibilities crystal clear and set expectations. In additional notes be sure to add in who operates power, calls the show, managers the speakers. Also be sure to add important times like set-up, rehearsals, start-times, and breakdown. This way you can make sure everything is accurate and matches the schedule.
When you look at your quote it’s extremely hard to imagine what the stage will look like reading AV terms. You know what truss is but what does it really mean? You see your lighting section but is it really enough? To eliminate the guesswork and ensure you are getting the set up you really want request a 3D render or CAD design of your scenic. This will allow you to visualize and see exactly what the event set up will look like. Be aware that a 3D rendering takes a lot of time and can’t be overnight, so make sure to give your AV company the time they need to create one for you.
In this quote, the client wanted a large middle screen with a smaller screen on each side. When you look at the quote it shows a 12×21.4 widescreen, and 2 additional screens at 9×16 on either side. Then you move onto the projectors, and the projectors on quote were likely not bright enough for the screens. A lot of AV companies quote too big of a size screen for the projector they are bringing. Partially, because projectors tend to be one of the most expensive line items and AV companies want to come in with a bid within your budget. We also see companies assume the room will be very dark, but at events, we know that is rarely the case. Lumen counts matter. You have to heed the advice of an AV company and you always want a 2nd opinion from a Video Engineer.
There was an additional problem aside from the lumens, there was no model or brand listed. When it comes to projectors brands and models matter, there are some models that do not require as many lumens and use newer technology to produce just as bright of an image as an older projector with more lumens. Always make sure the product models are on the quote so you can research them and make sure they are a good fit for your needs.
Check for Missing Items
With any AV quote always check for missing items. If you aren’t sure if an item is needed ask! A common item we see left off are laptops, always ask if your AV company will be bringing the laptops or if you need to supply them. Additionally, you want to make sure they have a backup laptop or you do ready to go with presentations in case your primary laptop has issues. We all know technology seems to break at the absolute time, so cover your bases and have a backup!
Microphones are another item you may be missing. You will probably see some microphones on quotes but make sure you have enough. You may need more microphones than you think. Microphones are easily forgotten. Let’s say for example you have 2-panel sessions back to back. The first panel has 4 speakers, the second panel has 4. So it makes sense to think you only need 4 mics right? But, if you have tight turn arounds you will want to have your 2nd-panel mic’d and ready to get on stage before the first panel has finished. In this case, you will need a minimum of 8 mics. You also want to add a backup in case any malfunction so really you are looking at more like 9-10 mics for a smooth show and transition. If you are trying to save costs another way around this is to just be mindful and not schedule panels back to back with tight turn arounds.
One final item we commonly see missed are additional headsets for your ClearCom. AV companies will supply these to allow their team to talk such as engineers and the project manager, but if you want to be on the com be sure to let your AV company know and have them include your headset on the quote. Never assume you will just get one or you could be without a way to quickly communicate with the team!
This page had some alarming clauses that should send up some red flags if you see these on your quotes.
The first clause we saw “Quote is based on room availability for set-up per date of quote 04.18.2018. If the room is not available 8 hours minimum prior to; and 4 hours after rehearsal and/or show, additional labor charges will apply.” This is interesting because you should have all of this information confirmed before you sign a quote. If you don’t have this figured out and anything changes, let’s say you don’t have 8 hours before your labor rates can change causing your bill to skyrocket and ultimately kill your budget. You want to make sure your quote equals your invoice. As long as nothing changes on site or with the schedule there should be no surprise invoices and costs at the end. The quote should not change.
The Big Red Flag
The next clause we saw is a big red flag. “Final charges TBD at conclusion of event” extremely terrifying. Essentially the AV Company is saying “here’s a guess at the cost, hopefully, it’s right!”, This clause gives the unbridled ability to charge whatever they want at the end of the event. Again this is a big red flag. Is the quote even final? What needs to happen to make it final? You do not want to sign a quote agreement with a clause like this, you will have little power to fight any additional charges they throw at you and it could end very poorly for your budget.
We hope you enjoyed this AV Audit and learned some practical tips you can apply when reviewing your next set of AV bids. Do you have a bid you would like us to review? Please submit them ! If your bid is selected we dissect it live on air and make sure you are getting what you need!
Do you have tips for people receiving AV quotes? Comment below and let us know!