Taking the time to have an initial consult for event AV can save you many headaches later in the planning process. Did you know having an initial consult for event AV can save you time, money and more? The initial consult for event AV allows you to get into the fine details of your event and ask clarifying questions that may otherwise be missed in an email. This consult also allows you to really get a good feel for the people and teams you will be working with prior to the event. 

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In this edition of Whiteboard Wednesday, Will Curran of Endless Events will be taking you through all the reasons you need an initial consult for event AV. Will is going to walk you through what to ask, what needs to be covered and more so you can save time going back and forth via email, cut through confusion and hopefully even save some money in your AV budget!

Event AV Initial Consult

Video Transcription – 11 Reasons You Need an Initial Consult for Event AV

What’s going on, endless fans? Will Curran here again with another Whiteboard Wednesday, and today we are talking about why you need an initial consult for your next AV event. You might be thinking to yourself, “What’s an initial consult?” It’s something that we call at Endless the first meeting you’re going to have with your client when you are ready to start talking details of your event. We’re not talking a sales call to find capabilities, anything like that. We’re just simply talking the nitty-gritty call.

I definitely do think it’s always helpful to obviously learn a little bit more about the capabilities of your company and everything like that, but today we’re talking about initial consults, basically, the first contact that you will have with an AV company beyond the first email or the first call that you get.

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Initial Consults Save Time

Far too often I think planners love to send out a generic email to five different AV companies saying, “Here’s what I think that we need,” and all the details and schedules and things like that. And sometimes it’s not. It just says, “Here’s my event dates. Here’s my venue. I need AV for this many people.” And the AV company comes out and says, “Well, I have so many questions,” and then what ends up happening is the AV company also doesn’t want to set up a meeting. They just trade back emails and, before you know it, there’s just so many emails flying back and forth, so many phone calls.

I’m going to tell you about a strategy that will save that thousands of emails down into a one-hour meeting. Obviously, this can be a little bit longer if you have a very complex event and a lot going on, like a gigantic convention, but most of the time you can cram this into a one-hour event or one-hour meeting I should say.

So, I’m going to show you how to save a ton of time and the ultimate goal is less emails. We all write far too many emails. It’s so easy for, “I’ll answer this email late at night” or “I’ll respond to them when I feel like it,” and we don’t want to schedule times to have meetings. And the reason I know this is that a lot of times planners come to us and say, “I want to talk to you, but I don’t have time for a meeting. Can I just give you all the information?” That’s obviously a very bad idea. We want to avoid that.

So, I’m going to tell you why you need one and how it’s about to save you a ton of time. So, when you’re setting up this initial consult, schedule it for an hour. I highly recommend to do a video call meeting. Do it in person. Don’t just do it over the phone. If you absolutely have to do it over the phone because the AV doesn’t have the ability to do a video conference or be able to it in person because you’re in another state, phone is fine, but doing video allows you see their reactions, allows you see what they’re like in person, see how they react to certain questions you have. Again, it helps build that relationship. And that’s something really, really important.

Address Problems and Goals

So, we’re going to start off with a conversation about problems and goals. This is usually the first thing people love to talk about because, actually, usually it’s more related to the problems. Here’s all the problems that we’ve run into with AV, and how can we get this fixed so this never happens again?

Well, when it comes to that, that’s really good because then it allows the AV company to say, “We’re not going to allow it to happen because of X, Y, and Z.” So, for example, I’ve heard before clients say, “I really hate it when the AV person doesn’t seem to listen to me” or “They fell asleep on our event.” Well, that gives me a chance to highlight the fact that we have really good labor. So, what’s great about that is it allows me to bring you at ease to tell you a little bit about how we plan to not allow it to happen. Super duper easy, right?

But then also sometimes, for example, we’ve had it where a client will say, “Yeah. It just didn’t sound good in the room,” and we’ll say, “Okay. Well, what did you guys have?” “Well, we had two speakers to cover 2,000 people.” Well, there you go. There’s the problem right there. So, here’s how we recommend building a better sound system, all this yada yada yada. Right?

So, talking about the problem that you’ve had in the past is really, really good. But then branching that further, and usually the conversation I love to have from the get-go when it comes to the initial consultation is sharing your goals. And you might be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, the goals of AV. I want to look good, people can be heard, I don’t want to have to deal with it.” Right?

Well, this also deals with your goals as an event. So, for example, asking and learning about the goals as an AV company that, for example, you want your brand presence to be heard and that everyone knows it’s your conference. So, therefore, we’re not going to talk as much about how great the audio sounds and good the video. We’re talking about how we can use lighting to draw in the brand colors and use gobos on the walls and maybe we’ll do video content then to have your logo show up, so everyone knows that, hey, this is your conference and you sponsored this. That might be really important.

Or let’s say, for example, your number one goal is that you’re a nonprofit, and you’re trying to get that to a specific budget. Well, making that very clear from the get-go, what your major goal is, is going to allow you to get that goal achieved. And your AV company hopefully should work with you to achieve that goal.

But far too often, it’s not a conversation about goals. It’s problems of just specifically AV and then let’s talk details. Can you get me a quote? Instead, have a larger conversation about goals, and your AV company should want to work with you as a partner to help you achieve those goals.

It’s in The Details

So, we then start to talk about we want to get through the goals. You start figuring out. Okay. Well, eventually we’re going to need to get into the nitty gritty, right? Well, this is where everyone loves to spend the most amount of time, and this is probably where you will spend a lot of your time when it comes to the first meeting that you have with your AV company, with your initial consult, and that’s related to the details.

Cover the Schedule

We obviously know events are really complex. There’s schedules, layouts, everything like that. Your AV company should be wanting to talk through you and you walk you through it. For example, I had an initial consult with a client, and they initially sent their schedule over. Then we looked at it, and we said, “Hey. You originally had us coming in this day to set up, but really, in fact, we can actually move that to this day, and if we slightly do this and we move this room to this room, you’re going to save 25% on your labor costs.” It was a super simple change to their schedule that saved them so much money. And the client was not even aware of how that affected their budget.

Now, if you didn’t have that conversation beforehand, and you said, “Here’s the schedule. Please match it.” Boom. You’re spending 25% when something so simple and so easy could be changed. So, that’s why the conversations when you’re talking about schedule and, for example, labor can help you save a lot of time.

Provide Diagrams and Layouts

What’s also great is while it’s important to go over diagrams. Look at, for example, do you guys have a seating chart so far for what your event’s going to look like? And the reason why that’s important is that, as an AV company, I want to consult back with you. That’s why we call it initial consult, not like first sales call or a spec call or anything like that. Really it’s for our chance to consult with you.

So, the AV company should also look at your diagrams and say, “You know what? I don’t think that’s enough room for you to have a projector, so therefore, we’re going to have to move this out, to move this out, and we have to actually ax the amount of seats that we’re going to have in this room,” and you say, “Well, that’s the amount of seats that we need to have.” “Well, maybe need to start looking at a different room for you to be in.” That sort of stuff. This is when the AV company can come in as a partner to help you out and make your life easier.

Just get into the nitty-gritty and do it all over this video call, showing schedules, showing the diagrams and talking through it all to make sure that they understand the event as well as you do. Because the ultimate goal that we all have as professionals is that we want to delegate to get things off of our chest, so we don’t have to worry about it. So, what’s also important, as well, is that this is a stressful job. If you can allow yourself to get one more thing off your plate, wouldn’t that make your life easier? That’s where your AV company should come as a partner, not just as a supplier of equipment.

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Allow for Follow Up Questions

So, we start talking about … Okay. This is pretty 101 stuff, right? But what’s great about doing an initial consult versus doing this via email is that now it gives the opportunity for your AV company to ask you follow up questions. And you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, yeah. They’re going to ask follow up questions via email or phone.” By doing it in one meeting, it allows as you’re explaining things. If you say something really small. Well, the AV company might raise their hand and say, “Well, that’s actually really important to us. What do you think about this?” “Hey, for example, branding is really important to us.” “Okay. So what do you think? Do you think lighting’s more important, video?” It allows them to ask all these follow up questions.

What’s also great is that if, for example, they say something that really worries them, for example, you start explaining this schedule and you realize, “Oh, my gosh. That day’s going to go from 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. That’s going to push us into double, triple-overtime 5,000.” Right? Well, what’s great about that is the AV company can ask a follow-up question and say, “Would you be open,” and that’s why the follow-up question was great about that schedule call I had, is that I could talk to them about, “Hey. If we move this room over here and do this, would you be open to that?” Whereas if I’d just done that via email, I might not have asked that question. I might have just quoted it as is and not been able them 25% off their quote.

So, it gives a great opportunity to ask follow up questions as you’re explaining everything. And once again, it reduces the amount of emails because we know for every email you send, you’re always going to get an email back, right? So, what usually happens when you’re doing the initial emails is that if you’re just trying to download all this information onto someone, more emails are going to come right back, and we don’t want that.

Get To Know the AV Company

So, what’s great is that some other bonus tips I have for you when you’re doing your initial consult is to get to know this AV company more. This has all been kind of logistical, learning about the event and what it’s all about, and the chance to learn about you. But also use this as an opportunity to learn about the AV company. You should learn a lot about how their thought process is, the kind of questions that they’re asking, how they’re understanding your event leading up to this, but we want to go deeper, as well.

Ask About Culture

So, the one thing, we’ll snake right back up, is this is a great opportunity for you to ask about the culture of the company. We all know culture is so important when it comes to events and companies and how everything’s done. You want to know. Are they are a culture of “gonna get this done and client service,” or are they more of a culture of creativity or are they more of a culture of having the latest technology? All these things like that are going to come along in their event. And the one thing I always ask of and I tell people is that ask them to say, “So, tell me about the culture of your event.” Ask them an open-ended question. And, again, this is why video’s important. You can see. Are they excited about it, or is the culture just like values that are written on a wall or, “Oh, yeah. Service is one of our values. We really care about service.” That doesn’t sound exciting.

But if, for example us, one of our values is excitement in the air, and when I describe excitement in the air, you can hear it in my voice. Obviously, you guys watch these videos. You know how fast I talk.

So, when it comes to the culture, ask them about their culture. Ask follow up questions. Can you give me examples of how your team will come this? How do you guys exemplify core values all the way down to the stagehands you’re going to have at your event or the engineers, not just you as the salesperson, but everyone on the team. That’s super duper important for you, so you should always ask about the culture of the company and understand the culture. Because ultimately gear is great. We want it to work perfectly. Yeah. The skill set’s fantastic, but to be honest? You can have great gear and a technician who knows what they’re doing, but if they’re just not good to work with and they don’t have a great service culture or fun to work with, that’s going to make a really painful process for you, and we obviously don’t want that.

Case Studies

So, the other thing that I always recommend, as well, is to get information from, is to ask your AV company to share case studies with you. This is really, really easy. They should have easy access to this, but case studies allow them to show off what they’ve done. And specifically, you want to ask them to showcase studies of events that are similar to yours because far too often, if you’re comparing the small … Let’s say, for example, you’re doing a small conference for 500 people, and they’re showing you a case study for Salesforces conference with thousands of people, that couldn’t be good at all. There’s no correlation. But if they have a good case study that shows how they handled a 500-person conference, how they kept things in budget, things like that, it’s your chance, again, to see more capabilities of what that company’s all about. And you know, again, why video is really great and why doing this in person is great, they can show you video content and everything like that.

Request References

But what’s also important is you want to follow these case studies up with references. “Please share references with me of conferences that are similar to mine,” and a chance for you to call them and talk to them about, “Hey, how’d they handle this?” Blah, blah, blah. What’s also great is all this stuff that you’re following up on, from culture and whatnot, it gives you a chance to follow up and really ask it. So if, for example, they say they have a real good culture about service and everything like that, when you’re calling their references, you can ask them. You say, “You know, I talked to John over there, and he says that they’re all about customer service. What do you think about that?” What you’ll find, obviously, is no one ever gives out a bad reference, right? I’ve had clients ask for just an exhaustive list of all of our clients, but whenever you’re doing this, as well, just always ask for similar types of events obviously.

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Check Payment Terms

All right. Last thing, but not least, and this is kind of like the bonus tip I’m going to add on here, and that’s related to payment terms. This is a really easy question for you to ask, but it’s something that usually gets brought up until the end of the contract phase of the event. But ask about payment terms when it comes to it. For example, if your event’s usually has to be paid net 45, net 60, whatever it may be because you’re a large corporation and it’s going to take a little bit longer to be paid, the AV company might say, “Hey. This is going to be holding hard on our price because we’re not going to get paid for a while, so therefore, we need to be able to coup up our cost.”

However, if you’re one of those clients that can pay 100% up front, mention that in the beginning because what’s great about this is when they’re designing their quote, knowing that you’re going to pay them 100% upfront helps them know, “Hey. I’m going to get paid. I’m going to get my money fast. So, therefore, I might be willing to give a discount.” So, it’s a great time to have that conversation and say, “So, what are your typical payment terms look like?” All that sort of stuff.

And obviously, this is all customizable based on your process and what’s important to you. Every event’s different. Every planning for every event is totally different. But you can add in additional questions along the way, but these are kind of the ones I recommend as at least a must have to start the conversation. What I find with most clients, as I said, is they’re usually just sending specs over email and just saying, “Here you go.” This is your chance to build a relationship by setting the tone for the conversation to say, “Hey. We’re going to work together, and we’re going to build this together” all at once.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “I have to send this bid out to five different companies. I don’t have time to do this with five different companies.” My recommendation, my pure recommendation would be them all individually, so you can really have a chance to have a private conversation with each one, but if you don’t have the time to be able to do that, then do a group initial consult. Say, “Hey. These are all the companies that are working.” You can figure out maybe a way to anonymize the meeting but then bring everyone together. And I’ve done this a ton of times where every AV company gets a chance to ask their questions and work together, as well.

And then obviously you can do case studies and things like that separately, so then that way they’re not seeing each other’s work. But it’s a great chance for you to get it all out in one meeting versus, again, sending lots of emails.

Conclusion

So, again, that’s how and why you should do an initial consult for your next event for your AV company and how you should hopefully save some time on sending emails. I hope this was really helpful for you. If you have any more tips for how you can have a successful first meeting with your AV company, feel free to share that down in the comments below. I’d love to hear your ideas. What sort of questions do you ask? What sort of things do you ask for from your AV company? I’d love to hear it down below.

But, if you did love this content, I would absolutely love it, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe. Click that subscribe button down below. Also click the little bell icon next to it, as well, so you get alerted every single time we post a Whiteboard Wednesday video, and we can’t wait to share some more awesome content with you, as well.

So, that’s going to be all for Whiteboard Wednesday this week. We’ll see you next Wednesday. I’ll catch you guys all later. Peace.

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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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