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So you’ve found and are now considering a few AV companies for your next event. You’ve had meetings or calls with them to discuss your needs. Then, they have created quotes for you. Now, you have to compare AV quotes and make your decision. Sounds stressful, right? It doesn’t need to be!
Not only have we done thousands of quote walkthroughs with clients and helped them compare quotes, 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. Let’s jump right in!
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on June 5th, 2021 for clarity purposes.
How To Compare AV Quotes: Apples To Apples
When comparing quotes, make sure you are comparing apple to apples. What does this mean? An 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 and 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 of options for equipment. While there are some common industry standards, there can be huge differences in the equipment chosen. And while this type of a comparison might seem time-consuming, it actually saves time in the long run!
For example, at Endless, we tend to pick higher-end equipment to provide the best possible experience at your venue. 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. Instead, they place multiple speakers around an area to get the same effect. Doing multiple speakers might not be the best option for your event, but it will seem cheaper. If you’re looking to save on the budget, we would recommend the multiple speaker options, but it can create a false comparison between companies when comparing quotes.
Brands DO 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.
Beware Of Generic Equipment Descriptions!
Have you ever gotten a quote that just says “2 wireless microphones”? Beware of this! If they don’t give you a brand or a model, you won’t be able to compare AV quotes apples to apples? AV companies can use cheaper gear on your event when really you were paying the price for the nicer equipment. Sometimes, companies will be extremely vague with their equipment names and use something such as ‘4 intelligent lights’. This could be a scanner fixture ($50) instead of a moving head fixture ($250 to $750). Having generic equipment descriptions does not allow you to compare apples to apples. It also doesn’t give you an exact idea of what you are paying for.
Note: Many AV companies will say this is done to simplify the quote 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. They should be able to then explain it to you in plain English and not confuse you further. Everything can be explained in layperson’s terms!
Itemized pricing allows you to see the exact pricing of a piece of equipment for a quick 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).
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 AV 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. Keep in mind that sometimes less staff might mean the setup/teardown will take longer.
All The Small Things
At Endless, we put everything on our quotes, down to our clamps, cables, and even bolts for the truss. It seems contradictory to our mission to make things simple right? However, it’s important to see everything on your AV quote, even the bolts, which are free. At Endless, our quoting system ties into our inventory so when we sell you something, it’s based on what is in our inventory. When we confirm an event, we’ll “pull” the equipment out of the inventory. Everything is barcoded in our system. When you see four bolts on the quote, you’ll have four bolts at your event. That insures that 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 all the small things versus not charging. For example, some companies will charge you for cables while others will not. Typically, this will not affect your total budget very much as the cables cost $0.75 each, but you can see how this might add up to $30 for your entire event.
A race to the bottom can happen if companies are given lots of chances to re-do their bid. 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. 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. If an AV company is doing well, it will be able to expand its service offerings and afford to hire the best people for your event.
Making Your Decision
These are just some helpful tips that allow you to peek behind the curtain and see how AV companies structure their quotes. Now, you understand how to compare several AV quotes. Remember – always compare apples to apples!
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 – we’ll answer all your questions and leave no bolts behind.