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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 you he has you covered. Let’s jump in!
Video Transcription – How to Audit Your AV Budget
Hey, what ups Endless fans, Will Curran back here again with another Whiteboard Wednesday. Today we are talking about How to Audit Your AV Budget. The word audit it sounds confusing, it sounds like finance, it sounds oh my gosh boring, but guess what we’ve all had to do it at some point. Whether we think we’re spending too much on AV, or we just want to make sure we’re getting exactly what we need, this is for you. This is our chance to get to the nitty-gritty, get into the weeds, and peel our way back from the onion that is event AV. I’m going to show you how with a bunch of tips, rapid fire, and quick succession. Typical Whiteboard Wednesday style, and let’s just jump right on in.
Quantity of Items
Let’s start off with 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, whatever it may be 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, maybe you have one MC as well who’s going to come up on stage, and after the stage, and you want them to have their dedicated microphone. Let’s say you have one question and answer microphone, that’s a total of six microphones. Well, now you can do that counting, and look at your quotes, and say oh my gosh there’s 10 microphones. Ask your AV company to get right of four of them, and bill you down to six.
So, that’s just a simple way that you can save a little bit of money, but sometimes when you do that, especially at Endless we see that when we’re trying to save money with clients is you do that it’s just a little bit at once. If you do it across multiple categories, lighting, sound, video, staging, that’s where you start to see big dollars shaved off. So, focus on the quantity of items.
Google Line Items
When it comes to items also let’s talk about those line items and using a little handy tool I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Google. As complicated as AV sounds, it’s all not proprietary equipment. We all buy the same equipment, utilize it, so what happens is on those quotes they should list out the specific models, names, number, everything like that. Copy and paste that, plug it into Google, and what you’ll find is that 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. What this also does is you’ll find it will help hold the AV company accountable, because when you Google it if you can’t find the information on it, it allows you to ask that question. What is this? Please explain it to me, and we’ll explain what they mean in just a little bit.
While speaking of someone to explain what everything means let’s talk about requesting a quote walkthrough. I’ve talked about this in previous webinars, and videos, and everything like that, but a quote walk through essentially is where when you’re getting your quote ask your AV company to walk you through everything line, by line, by line, by line, by line, by line. Yeah, this sounds like an extraordinarily excruciatingly painful experience, especially if you have a big event, it can take a long time. What you can find is that that’s the chance for the AV company to explain what everything does, so it allows you to ask the hard questions. Which we’re going to talk about next about asking hard questions about what things do, and why do you need it.
Audit Your AV Budget: Get Critical
Speaking of asking those critical questions, get critical when it comes to your budget. If you’re looking to save money, and do that formal audit process we’re talking about asking the hard questions when you’re doing your quote walkthrough. Or after you’ve gotten your quote say, hey what is this, and do I need it? I promise you every AV company this is going to drive them nuts because they want to say that every single little piece is absolutely necessary to the execution of their event. Well, it might be that it’s just more of a nice 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.
Well, if you ask the critical questions the good ethical AV company should say you know what we can get rid of that, we’ll save a little bit of money, but here’s how it’s going to affect you. Also, I love to say that when you’re asking these critical questions about what something is and do I need it the AV company should always, and I repeat always, be able to explain any line item on their quote in a simple to easy and understand manner. I’m sure when you Google it, it could still be a little confusing, but if they are not able to explain it in a simple easy metaphor, and what it does, it means they likely are trying to confuse you. You don’t want that. You want a company that you can trust, and is going to help you through the entire process.
Ask for A CAD Drawing
Speaking of which, understanding how things are, and what things do, let’s talk about getting things really visual, and understanding what somethings going to look like. That’s where you want to ask for what’s called a computer-assisted design, or what we call a CAD in our terminology I should say. A CAD is essentially where someone takes what you are getting, and renders it in three dimensions. Imagine creating a visual model, and a visual representation of your event in three dimensions. What this means is that you’re going to be able to see exactly what you are getting for your money.
The reason why this is important is a big area that you’re going to find you spend all of your money in is going to come down into lighting and decor. To be honest, as much as we want our stuff to look really cool with cool lights, and we want to have great scenic pieces, and greats designs, when it comes to that décor a lot of times if we have to save money it’s the first to go. The reason why is it’s one of the areas that not a lot of people are going to realize cost a lot of money. So what happens is when you get a 3D render, a computer-assisted design, a CAD design, it’s going to allow you to see what the event looks like.
What you might find is on the quote you just see this alphabet soup, all these crazy lines of items of what it is, and all these things like that, but when you get it in three dimensions you go oh wow. Wait, why do we have five screens? Why do we have this scenic piece? Hey, this looks a little excessive for what we’re trying to pull off. Hey, what if we do this? It allows you to see what it is and allows you to communicate, and again audit the AV company. Make sure to hold them accountable for what they’re giving you. It doesn’t just come in as a piece of paper saying blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah equipment, instead, you get to see what it’s going to look like. Again, auditing, and keeping them held accountable.
Let’s jump into more areas that you can audit your av budget, and get into the nitty-gritty. That is labor hours. Believe it or not, I’m sure you know this already, labor is one of the most expensive parts of AV. The people that need to execute, build everything, run everything, they come at a pretty price. So, one of the quickest areas that I see all clients try to save money is the labor, but usually, they take a wrong approach. Instead, they usually say, hey can we get rid of this whole person? Or can we reduce the number of this many people? Can we do that? Instead what I recommended is look at the schedule. What you should be able to do is look quickly at their quote, and understand when our guys going to be there. When do they leave? When do they have their breaks? And then compare that to your schedule.
I know a lot of AV quotes look really confusing when it comes to these labor layouts, and say things like day rates, and travel per diem, all these things like that. What you want to do instead is if you can’t understand it talk to your AV company, and have a conversation with them. Ask them to say here’s our schedule, here’s where they are. Count up how many hours that you’re going to need the AV people there. Usually add a one hour break somewhere in there, and then you should be able to see in a day how many hours there’s going to be working.
What you’ll find is a lot of times AV companies do one of two things. They hardly seem like ever get it perfect the first time. They either undercharge for labor, or they overcharge. The obvious thing when it comes to an audit is we want to make sure they’re not overcharging, right? They’re not putting too much labor on there just to pad themselves, and then hey they don’t end up working, and they take that money home at the end of the day. Ewe, no one wants that, right?
Under Quoting Labor
The other option though is that they under do it. I know this doesn’t really relate necessarily to bringing the cost down when it comes to your audit, but this is also an important part because sometimes what they’ll do is they’ll under budget their labor. Then what they do is do the event, and go oh my gosh we didn’t realize we were going to go into over time. Your event went later than expected, this, and this, and that, here’s another bill. Oh my gosh, I’ve seen this so much, and this is a nightmare! No one wants to be billed after the event. So, what I recommend that you do instead is to go over the labor hours and labor schedule in detail, and make sure it’s accurate from the beginning.
You should be able to ask your AV company, and say as long as I don’t change anything is this the exact quote, and exact invoice I’ll have after the event? As long as I don’t change anything? If they can’t confidently say yes, chances are they’re probably under budgeting. You don’t want to have that, so get really nitty gritty with your schedule, and make sure that’s accurate. It’ll help you avoid bills in the end, and it’ll also avoid you being overcharged for labor as well.
Alright, what else do we got here? 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 this and that, 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.
What’s great about this is 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, everything like that. 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. I kind of go right down the middle, I agree and see both parts of the parties. First thing is the categorized people say, hey I don’t want to show my clients every single line, because then they’re going to nitpick the little pricing. They’re going to ask the critical questions, but usually, they’ll a little bit less informed. Obviously, you’re watching this video, so you are very well informed. The other camp says, no clients should have full control, and they should be able to see every single line item.
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.
So, when it comes to your budget the first area to look for again is that labor hours, making sure that’s accurate. Then it’s asking things like hey do I need this? How does this affect the budget? When you have conversations if you find out that a majority of your money is being spent on this high end, expensive projectors you might say to yourself well what can we get away with? Can we get away with a cheaper projector? You can ask again critical questions that allow you see oh my gosh this is how my money is being spent, this is where it’s going, which is the whole point of that audit.
Alright, so we’re onto our last and final item, which is the idea of a reality check. The best way to audit your AV budget … I’m not going today the best say. Another way, I should say, for you to audit AV your budget, and your AV budget is to do a very simple task. That is to get outside opinions. First, there is two ways to do this, the easy way is for you to find someone who knows AV really well. Whether it’s someone on your staff, or it’s a consultant, it’s someone who used to work at an AV company, or it’s someone who just loves tech and is obsessed about this. Can go on those four-hour-long calls at the AV company, and can find out everything they do, and everything that they love.
Totally okay, but keep in mind there are people out there in the events industry. For example, Brent Kruger who was event technology consulting actually sits down, and walks clients through their quotes, and negotiates, and looks at the hard and fast, and the best stuff when it comes to AV. Makes sure you’re getting exactly what you need. They kind of do the negotiation for you, so you want to get someone like that on your team. It’s really quick and easy way if you don’t feel comfortable with technology to have someone help you.
Send Reference Quotes
The other way that you can do it if you don’t have someone like that at your fingertips is to do a really, really simple task, that is to take your existing quote, take the AV companies pricing 100% off … This is extremely controversial by the way. Take all the pricing 100% off, and just have just the list of equipment. Feel free to copy and paste just the list of equipment and labor, send that to another AV company, and say quote me this exact thing. Don’t give me discounts, give me exactly what it is, and compare the pricing apples to apples. That’s why I have a picture of two apples right here, is that far too often when we hear about this stuff.
For example, you’re bidding two companies against each other, or you’re comparing AV quotes, far too often it’s comparing apples to oranges. You say, hey I need a projector in this room, and the companies come back one with a super high-end projector, one with a really low-end projector. You definitely don’t want that, you want exact comparisons. You want to have the exact model to the exact model, and make sure the pricing is right. This will allow you to get a really quick audit on your pricing to see hey am I being cheated out of something? Am I being given a really great deal? What could be going wrong? What’s great about this is a great AV company who you are comparing the quote to should be able to say, well why are they doing it this way? Do you do this? Do you do this? It gets you that basically free consulting that allows you to see are you getting what you need?
Again, I’m a big fan of AV companies being extremely transparent, and extremely helpful today. So again, I’m not talking about just taking a quote, copying the price over, saying oh my gosh this is the cheapest we have to go with them. This, and this, and that, it should be the company that explains things the best, and treats you like a human, and interacts with you one to one. That will be the best way for you to audit your AV budget. To find that partner who will take care of you.
Audit Your AV Budget: Recap
So, we’re going to recap everything that we’ve talked about. First quantities of items, things like microphones, projectors, screens, make sure that it’s accurate to what you actually need. Next is labor hours, have it match your schedule. Make sure that it’s 100% accurate in that it is really, really close to what you’re looking for, and that the AV company can say without a doubt this will be the exact same thing as the invoice I give you after the event. Ask the critical questions, ties in all this, but do I actually need this? What does this do? Why do I need that?
Getting the quote walkthrough. Kind of a proactive way to get critical questions answered right away. Knowing exactly what’s on your quote. Again, knowing exactly what’s on your quote a 3D CAD design can allow you to visually represent exactly what you’re going to be getting. Next is a reality check, obviously you want to make sure that you compare quotes apples to apples, but allowing another company to come in and compare the pricing allows you to make sure you’re getting what you need.
Next up is asking the hard questions how does it affect my budget? Can we get this lower in any sort of way? Second to last, Googling items. It allows you to educate yourself in what everything does, and get to see some cool videos hopefully along the way. Then last by not least is doing a quote break down. Related to rooms, and then categories, and allows you to see where your money is being spent in different categories.
So, that’s everything related to how to audit your AV budget. If you have any questions feel free to leave them down below, but what I want to know from you, for all of you guys watching this way, what’s your number one tip? How do you guys audit AV your budget? How do you hold your AV companies accountable to make sure that you’re getting the exact pricing and the exact items that you need? Leave that down in the comments below, and while you’re doing that go ahead and smash that subscribe button. Smack that like button if you enjoyed this very much. If you didn’t like it at all give me a thumbs down so I can get that good feedback, and I’d love to know how we can improve down in the comments.
Well, that’s going to conclude us again for another Whiteboard Wednesday. Will Currant from Endless Events here, wishing you an amazing Wednesday, and we will catch you guys all later. Adios!
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