Welcome to the AV audit where we dissect AV proposals every single month. We break them down live on air, showing you the good, the bad, and the ugly. We love to educate and empower event planners about event technology, production, budgeting, and more.
AV bids can feel confusing but they don’t have to be that way. Each line item can be broken down and explained in layman’s terms as you see in these AV audits. If your event production or event management 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.
AV Audit Essentials: 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 AV quote. Often though, if the number falls within their budget, we often see planners assume that the quote has everything they asked for; 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 AV 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, and that’s why we’re including it in our AV audit.
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 event 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 “bad WiFi for free is still bad WiFi”.
You want to vet this event WiFi, making sure you can make the most of it. Ask what the WiFi speed is and how many connections are involved. Do your homework, run speed tests, and make sure you are the only event using it. Bad event WiFi 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.
AV Audit: Labor
Labor is one of the most confusing parts of an AV quote. There are so many different AV roles, and everyone bills labor differently. 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 that the stagehand rate was the same as the audio engineer rate. This was cause for concern as stagehands are generally entry-level. They are used to push cases, run cables, and do other less specialized labor. On the flip side, 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 if this labor team is trained properly.
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 are on the quote. They 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. Consequently, your banquet can pay the price.
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.
AV Audit: Scenic Design
When you look at your quote it’s extremely hard to imagine what the stage will look like reading AV terms. You know what a 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 setup 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 setup will look like. Be aware that 3D rendering takes a lot of time and can’t be done 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. The quote shows a 12×21.4 widescreen and 2 additional screens at 9×16 on either side. The projectors on the quote were likely not bright enough for the screens. A lot of AV companies quote too big of a sizing screen for the projector they are bringing.
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.
Check for Missing Items
With any AV quote always check for missing items. A common item we see left out is 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 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. Let’s say for example you have two sessions back to back, with four speakers each. You need more than four microphones, though. 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 turnarounds.
One final item we commonly see missed is 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.”
You should have all of this information confirmed before you sign a quote. If you don’t have this figured out and anything changes, your bill can 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 Big Red Flag On AV Audit
The next clause we saw is a big red flag. “Final charges TBD at the conclusion of the event” is 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.
Conclusive Thoughts On AV Audit
We hope you enjoyed this AV audit and learned some practical tips you can apply when reviewing your next set of AV bids. If you want to learn more, check out our content on event AV.