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For all the event planners out there trying to plan an incredible event and make a budget work at the same time, we hear you. It’s tricky. Event planning within a budget is no small task, so it’s no surprise that a question we’re often asked is “how can I save money on event AV?”
Back in 2017, we discussed this very question in two insightful episodes of the #EventIcons podcast which you can check out here and here. A year later, we’re taking a fresh look at it. We’ve compiled all the ways we think we can help you save money on event AV. And now, let’s dive into this juicy topic!
Get Clear On Your Requirements
Planning an event is not the time to make assumptions, particularly in the quoting stage. The more detail you can provide your AV company with, the fewer assumptions they are going to need to quote your event. When they understand exactly what you want to achieve, your AV quote is going to be as accurate as possible. And when the quote’s spot on, it means you aren’t going to have excess equipment or labor as additional costs to bear.
It also means you won’t be missing vital equipment. Imagine for a moment that it’s the day of your event and a presenter notices that the monitor they were expecting to see isn’t there. That’s something that could be a higher cost to produce at the last minute, rather than if it was in the original quote and planned for from the beginning.
If you’re not clear about what you want, you can ask for help. We also recommend checking out this article which provides a guide to some of the information your AV company will expect from you.
Before you run full steam ahead, you should also think about how to be more resourceful. Don’t just have multiple meeting rooms set up if they aren’t really needed. If you need similar setups for different speakers, try to make the most of your set-up by putting those speakers in the same room at different times. You might not need as much AV equipment as you first thought.
Finally, you should book early to ensure your AV company has plenty of time to prepare a successful event, thus avoiding any rush fees. This also means you have access to exactly the right equipment, reducing the need for them to hire additional equipment just for your event. First come, first served!
Knowing how to negotiate event AV is a must-have skill for any event planner. If you’re wondering how to save money on event AV, part of that means understanding what you can negotiate on. In words of Brandt Krueger, “anything before the contract is negotiation. Anything after the contract is begging.”
Negotiate Payment Terms
You should negotiate payment terms ahead of time. When some clients may be paying their accounts on 60 and even 90-day terms, the offer to pay your AV company up front looks very attractive. So attractive in fact, that they might be willing to offer you a discount for doing so.
Get A Quote Walkthrough
This is one of the most important things we advocate and never more so than if you’re wondering how to save money on event AV. Getting a quote walkthrough not only helps you fully understand the service being provided, but you can call out things that don’t make sense. When you know what equipment should be onsite, it also means you can make sure it definitely is there! Because if an item isn’t there, you should be getting a refund.
So, the next time you receive an AV quote, please make sure you jump on a call with them and ask them to take you through it, line by line.
When you’re negotiating with in-house vendors, let them know that you want to bring in out-of-house AV. Ask them whether it’s possible and be prepared that they may have fees involved if you use third-party vendors. And please, make sure you get a quote for those fees. But, sometimes, even with those fees, it can be cheaper to bring in out-of-house vendors. Not every time, but it’s something to keep in mind.
You could also consider a compromise and use the in-house team to cover your breakout rooms. This is ideal if you want things to run smoothly while building great relationships all around. Why? Because if something does go wrong and you need their help, you’ve got them on your side. Your third-party AV company should do the same – be willing to go in and build good relationships with in-house AV. When everyone’s working together, it’s the perfect situation to be in for handling any last-minute requirements.
Despite your best efforts to negotiate on in-house AV restrictions, it may come down to choosing to walk away, particularly if you’ve already signed a multi-year contract with a third-party vendor. But you’ll at least have explored all your options and made the best choice for your event and your budget.
At Endless Events, we’re big advocates of building relationships. There are so many benefits when event planners have great relationships with their AV companies. Some of these benefits even translate into saving money on event AV.
Potential Discounts For Ongoing Work
Your AV company of choice may like to work with you on a multi-year or multi-event agreement. And when they know they are guaranteed to provide the AV requirements for you for a set length of time, they may be willing to offer a discount for their services. After all, when there is definitely work in the pipeline, it gives you an effective negotiating tactic.
The Right Services Every Time
When you work with the same AV company over time, they’ll know your needs inside out. That means they can sometimes preempt your event requirements so that things are less likely to be missed. When your AV company knows a lot about the events you plan, they’ll be better able to ensure the equipment you receive is exactly what you need. That means it will neither be too weak nor too powerful and ultimately, not too expensive.
Leverage Their Expertise
When communication is easy with a business, it’s much easier to ask for help. For instance, you might ask for your AV company’s qualified opinion on whether there’s anything you can scale back, without compromising on the effect you want to achieve. Trust me when I say that AV teams are full of exciting ideas!
For example, if you plan on including projection mapping at an event, they might be able to produce an exciting effect, with simpler technology and develop something just for you with creative uses of projection.
It’s always important to take an attitude of optimizing and compromising. That way, you, the event planner, can meet your budget while the AV company meets the necessary profit margins to run their business.
Remember To Treat Them Like Partners
When you treat vendors like partners, you’ll find they look after you in return. Something as simple as providing food and beverages onsite can generate a lot of goodwill. You never know – it could even mean they don’t charge you for that extra hour of overtime because they were so thrilled with the working environment!
We’ve already talked about how you can leverage ongoing work and a great relationship as methods for how to save money on event AV. But, if you’re working for a big-name client, you’ve got another trick up your sleeve. Sometimes an AV company may be willing to discount your quote if they are really eager to work for that client too. So remember to leverage those clients that make excellent portfolio additions!
When one company can handle your AV, computing, IT and even staging needs, there’s a good chance you’ll save. It’s usually more cost-effective than using two or three different vendors. Why? You may find there are labor reductions when you don’t have separate teams covering your event. Don’t be afraid to ask what you AV company is willing to include in their services to you. You might be surprised.
Above all, when it comes to building a relationship with your AV company, think about the bigger picture. When you’re working with a team who knows your event planning style inside and out, you’re not only going to save money in terms of the actual AV budget, but they’ll no doubt be helping you create better events, driving up your event ROI!
So far, we’ve given you negotiating tools and a general understanding of how you can work with your AV company to cut costs. Now, we’re going to look at some specific aspects of your event and where you may be able to trim the quote if you’re having trouble meeting your budget. Let’s look at how to save money on event AV in some practical and simple ways.
Make Sure You Aren’t Over-Crewed
Having a lighting operator on hand for a full-day might be excessive if you don’t have any lighting changes throughout the day. Turn to your schedule and make sure the labor component makes sense with your requirements.
Lighting is important, but attendees need to hear presenters better than they need to see them. That’s why if you’re wondering how to save money on event AV, keeping the lighting simple could be an option. If you’ve planned several different lighting elements, consider downgrading to just a basic, but pleasant stage wash.
Review Camera Needs
Are your event presentations going to be very content-heavy? Then a lot of what is recorded is going to be just PowerPoint slides. In this case, there’s a good option if you want to know how to save money on event AV. You could change from multiple cameras to just a single camera.
Review Microphone Needs
Wireless microphones are a popular choice, but they are the more expensive option. Consider the presentation style of your event. Maybe your number of wireless microphones could be reduced. Alternatively, changing to a panel of wired microphones on stage could save you up to $100 per mic.
A rigged sound system is no doubt preferable. But changing from a rigged to a ground-supported sound system could save you some money. It may not be as pretty, but you can still get the same sound quality and meet your needs (and budget).
Creative Ideas For How To Save Money On Event AV
If you’re after some more creative ideas for how to save money on event AV, we’ve got you covered for those too.
Piggybacking On Another Event
Have you ever experienced another event planning team trying to cut corners on getting their set-up happening before your event has completely finished? Perhaps it’s been you, trying your best to get into a space while the staging and AV from the previous event are in the way. This sure is stressful. And it doesn’t make sense if the setups from one event to the next are similar.
Do you see what I mean? The answer to “how to save money on event AV” could lie in better planning and better communication.
When the squeeze is on for venue space, it makes sense to capitalize on events that are booked back to back. Why set up from scratch when a similar set-up was in place the day before? Sharing your resources saves you time and money.
So, I encourage you to call your venues and find out what’s booked around the time your event is taking place. Get communicating and see if you can piggyback on the set-up of another event’s AV. Don’t be worried about asking your venue this either. They are motivated to put you in contact because it means another sale for them.
The AV requirements for breakout sessions can get very expensive, especially if all the wireless microphones you’ve paid for aren’t going to be used. That’s why it’s important to sync expectations for how the sessions will run, with the equipment you’re requesting. Start by asking your presenters what their needs are. Don’t assume, because they may need far less than you expect.
Generally, you also wouldn’t need to make every breakout room highly-produced. You might realistically only need one in five or one in ten breakout rooms to be set up this way. Plan your schedule so that the breakouts best suited to that highly-produced setup can use them and make the most of them.
So, where do you start in figuring out how to save money on event AV for breakout overflow rooms? Well, the option we think is most innovative is to have just one large overflow room, rather than multiple rooms for each session.
Picture this: multiple screens around a large room and each is color-coded to a particular session. Headsets are available for all attendees so they can watch the session of their choice without competing sound. Everyone has been directed to the one place, so it was far less confusing for attendees, and therefore, it’s a better experience. And, the attendees can even switch sessions if they’re not enjoying their first choice.
How’s that for a creative way to save money?
While keeping an eye out for hidden costs won’t save you money overall, it means you won’t be hit by things like surprise overtime at the end of your event. So, if you can take them into account in the planning stage, you’ve got a better chance of remaining under budget!
The labor component of AV is usually charged out at a flat day rate (or half day rate). Anything over the eight or ten-hour day goes into overtime. And more than two hours of overtime means you’re looking at double time! You should also be aware of late finishes and early starts. If there isn’t an eight-hour break between the two, overtime applies again.
With these figures in mind, I urge you to look at your schedule and compare it to the labor you have been quoted for. If overtime hasn’t been quoted, but it seems likely it will occur, you should go back to your AV company and ask for a quote revision. That’s the best way to avoid being charged with surprise overtime costs at the end of your event.
When you’re dealing with in-house AV, you might find rigging points to be contentious. Why? Well, an in-house AV team will have installed permanent rigging points at a venue. But, sometimes they will charge you per-day rates for use of those rigging points. It could be several hundred dollars per day. We suggest you check the fine print before signing your contract to see if there is a fee involved for using those points. If there is – now is the time to negotiate. Although please keep in mind, that the fees aren’t always unfounded because they can include necessary liability costs, like insurance.
I mentioned earlier that ground-support could save you money on rigging. So, you can use this option to push back and even take all the rigging from the in-house AV team off the table if you so choose. After all, if you want to know how to save money on event AV, then opting for ground-support is often much less expensive.
How To Save Money On Event AV: Final Thoughts
So, if you’ve been wondering how to save money on event AV, you can see there’s no shortage of ways. And it doesn’t just come down to sacrificing the style of audio-visual effects you envisioned for your event. A lot of it is knowledge, planning and building great relationships.
Do you have any questions about how to save money on event AV? Talk to us – it just might be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated for clarity on June 17th, 2021.