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Today we’re teaching you all about negotiating AV prices. Have AV quotes bamboozled you before? You’re not alone there. And if you don’t understand the quote, it can be tricky to know how to negotiate the price, or if you hold any power to negotiate whatsoever! The good news is that you do have that power. And all you need to put it into action is a little knowledge, which we’re about to arm you with!
negotiate av prices

Learn AV lingo to get the right answers

Sadly, it’s not unheard of for AV companies to use confusing terminology to lead you astray. Without a basic understanding of AV terminology, it’s difficult to feel confident questioning what your quote includes.

For instance, some people might see ‘Voice of God Box’ on their quote and think it’s either a really great piece of the latest AV equipment or that it’s a must-have item. And so, they wouldn’t think to question it. But, with a better understanding of AV lingo, you might wise up to the wool they’re trying to pull over your eyes and call them on it. If you did, you’d discover there’s no such thing as a ‘Voice of God Box’. It’s just a microphone! You’re not getting something extra and exciting; it’s just a regular microphone. And when you know what it is, you can find out if you’re being quoted appropriately for it.

But, if you’re thinking ‘I don’t have time to learn the lingo, I’ve got to choose an AV company today!’, then there’s another simple solution. If you don’t know what an item is, highlight it on the quote and simply Google it. New AV equipment is coming out all the time, and it can be hard to keep track of the advancements in technology. That’s why Googling what an item is, can also help you determine whether you’re getting old or outdated equipment that might disappoint you.

What’s more, when you look it up, you can also see images which help you to visualize it. That way, when you get to the site, you’ll be able to recognize that item and confirm it is in fact there. If you don’t see that piece of equipment on site, then you are in good standing to negotiate with your vendor. Ask them: where it is? Is it needed? Then, what are they going to do about it? And if it’s not required, make sure you’re not getting charged for it.

Understand pricing and quotes

Some AV companies can, unfortunately, be found to hand you a quote in the hopes you will be confused and accept it without question. But, that doesn’t have to happen to you. When you understand everything that’s in the quote, you’re going to be in a much position for negotiating AV prices. The best way to get a thorough understanding is by a quote walkthrough.

What does that mean? You ask your AV company to sit on a call with you so they can walk you through every line. They should tell you what each line item is, what it is for, and particularly – how it will be used at your event.

During the AV quote walkthrough, don’t be afraid to say an entry looks weird and ask them for clarification. Calling them out on ‘tricky’ entries is a great way to gauge a company’s integrity and establish trust with them. If an entry sounds confusing and they can’t be bothered explaining it clearly and simply to you, they might be trying to confuse you on purpose. Every single line item can and should be explained in layman’s terms. If they are unwilling to explain, it is a red flag! However, if the company gives you a great answer, reasonably justifying why the item is included, this could be the start of a great working relationship.

Over time, your understanding of AV quotes will increase, so you may not have to sit through a full quote walkthrough each time. You’ll be better armed for negotiating AV prices in the future because you’ll have a better idea of which items do need clarifying.

negotiating av prices with quote walkthroughEstablish payment terms ahead of time

There’s often some good scope for negotiating AV prices if you’re willing to be flexible on payment terms. Bigger corporations might be paying accounts on Net 60 or even Net 90 day terms. Although, you might find there are some extra charges built into their quote for that.

You can often get a good discount on your quote by offering to pay much sooner, for example, 100% of the contract upfront. AV companies can be willing to discount their quote if it means they can boost their cash flow with upfront payments, to offset some of their contracts that pay on those longer terms. As you can see, there’s some great power for negotiating AV prices there.

While we’re talking about terms, it’s also essential to solidify the finalized pricing of your quote. It’s not uncommon to receive a quote, only to find that when the event takes place your AV company has forgotten a piece of equipment or that something hasn’t gone entirely to plan, like the event running overtime. After all, no job runs precisely to schedule. The result? You end up with an extra bill at the end of it. Make sure they have allowed for an overtime buffer, and they have confirmed they have indeed quoted for enough equipment.

negotiating av prices to avoid extra billLearn how to take control and make the right decisions

So, what about when you have multiple quotes, and you’re trying to compare them? Well, there are a few tactics you can use when comparing quotes to make negotiating AV prices possible.

Compare apples to apples

You’re probably already familiar with the saying ‘compare apples to apples.’ But, is it at the forefront of your mind when you’re reviewing quotes and negotiating AV prices? It should be – that is comparing the same inclusions from quote to quote. It’s so easy to glance from one quote to the next and assume you’re getting the same equipment and services because you made the same request. But in fact, you could be comparing apples to oranges.

You see, quotes are the blueprints to how your event AV is going to be executed – from the equipment, through to the scheduling. Just because the quotes look similar, doesn’t mean your event will be executed as successfully from one company to the next. It’s all in the details. Take this example:

  • Quote from AV company A includes a 7,000 lumens projector
  • Quote from AV company B includes a 12,000 lumens projector

To drop the price, company A is using a projector with a lower brightness. Although the price might look more attractive, you could end up with a dimmer, less impressive display. When comparing quotes, you need to make sure it’s apples to apples and matches up with your requirements. That will give you the foundation you need for successfully negotiating AV prices.

negotiating av prices by comparing apples to applesAnother way to compare

What if you’ve received two quotes that are considerably different in price, but you can’t see why? One option here is to white-label the cheaper quote and share it with the company who produced the higher quote. Don’t be afraid to do this – as long as you’re ethical in your approach. The AV company with the high quote should be able to explain why it’s more expensive in a simple way. It may reveal something helpful to you, like that the other company underquoted, for instance.

Do this as a way to make a better decision in your vendor choice, instead of going into it purely as a way to drive the price down. You see, a good company will explain if they can’t do it any cheaper and turn business away. A company like this knows their value and won’t just discount and make a loss to get the business only for one particular event.

negotiating av prices with good intentionsOne to watch out for: underbidding on AV labor

One reason why a quote may be considerably cheaper is if the AV company underbid on labor. This is a common occurrence because labor is costly. You see, the market dictates that engineers get paid well. Safety is so important, and you must have very well qualified people when they’re dealing with rigging and other structural elements. Paying engineers less, just means they will go elsewhere because there will always be well-paying opportunities for them.

So, as you can see, with the cost of labor being expensive, AV companies can quote on providing the same quality of labor, but underbidding on the length of time they need them. Let’s say an event is one day long. It might require half a day to set up and another half day to pack down. That’s two days total, so you would expect a quote for a two-day rate. But if you aren’t aware of these details, and you only get quoted for one day, that quote is going to look quite attractive.

Unfortunately, accepting this quote won’t mean you pay any less in the long run. Because when the event is over, you’ll receive an end of job invoice for that extra day that the quote didn’t include. And that’s not going to make you or the budget happy, so keep labor in mind when you’re comparing those apples!

We hope that’s given you helpful insight into the labor component on AV quotes, but for more info, you can always check out our Epic Guide to Event AV Labor.

negotiating av prices and event laborKeeping transportation costs in mind

In a way, looking at the transportation component of your AV quotes is much like the labor component. These costs can be surprising, so you need to be prepared for them and make sure your quotes reasonably allow for them. Transportation costs depend on circumstances and the market. Your AV vendor should be able to clearly explain the reasons for transportations costs within the quote. These costs could range from flying staff in, to paying for their parking.

For example, at Comic-Con San Diego, the parking costs were considerable. Although parking is usually free at the Convention Center, parking for Comic-Con was up to $100 per day. To make the event even worth working at for AV staff, their parking costs would, of course, need to be covered.

This is just another instance of why a quote walkthrough is so important before you make any vendor decisions. Obviously, if company A could explain these parking costs in their quote, you would be able to see the red flag for company B who didn’t include parking. Imagine the repercussions on your event if you went with company B and some of their AV team didn’t show up because their exorbitant parking costs weren’t being covered!

Tactics for negotiating AV prices

So now that you know a few of the top things to look out for when reviewing quotes let’s talk about using a couple of tactics for negotiating AV prices, so there aren’t any surprises later.

Making revisions during the quoting process

If things are changing during the quoting process, always make sure you receive an updated quote. Don’t just take their word for it that it’s all good and now included. Make sure you receive revisions in writing and get another quote walkthrough. Changes in schedule can be expensive. So you’ll need to understand how those changes have manifested in terms of increased costs.

negotiating av prices and revisionsTo prevent that dreaded extra invoice

Before you sign an AV contract, ask your vendor “is this everything you need, and as long as I don’t change anything on site, can you confirm that the final invoice will equal my quote?” We cannot stress the importance of asking this question enough. You need to make sure you feel 100% confident that nothing should change. Make sure the quotation includes all the equipment you need, and we usually recommend a backup microphone and projector too. If you do this and don’t change anything on site, you should not expect any additional charges.

It’s a common problem to get hit with extra charges afterwards. It’s too late to negotiate then because they can bill you and then send you to collections if you refuse to pay.

Although as a side note – don’t expect a refund on those backup items if they don’t get used. They have probably been pulled from the warehouse and transported to site, maybe even rented for the occasion. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Depending on the circumstances and your relationship with the AV company, they may be able to work with you on it.

If you do change something on site, after contract

If you do change things on site, get a verbal agreement at the time. Then make sure they provide you with that additional cost in quote form. You need to see that price before you agree to extra work going ahead.

negotiating av prices and extrasLearn to remove in-house AV restrictions

The area of in-house AV restrictions can be tricky to navigate if you aren’t aware that you do have the freedom to choose. And removing those restrictions helps with negotiating AV prices that are often much more budget-friendly.

To preface this, we want to advise you that there are exceptions to this. For instance, rigging and ground support is essential for safety. We suggest negotiating for lower in-house prices, but not actually negotiating this out.

Everything else, however, can be negotiated, like power and projection screens. Even if your outside AV company is using the in-house lighting system, you can incur a ‘babysitting’ fee. This is a liaison to watch over the AV company, and really may not be doing anything other than watching. They do this to limit the damage that can happen to their equipment. If you can’t negotiate your way out of this fee, a cheaper alternative might be to rent a projector rather than use what’s in-house, so the ‘babysitting’ is no longer required.

negotiating av prices and removing in-house restrictionsKey tips

The time to negotiate these in-house restrictions is in two parts:

  1. When you’re doing your RFP process for venue choice. Make sure you involve your vendors before you make a decision.
  2. During the contracting process. Don’t sign a venue contract before you negotiate it out. Otherwise, you will be in a bad position, with a contract you have no choice but to abide by.

A third-party vendor like Endless Events can help you with a lot that isn’t specifically AV; they can help you choose a venue, navigate fees and help you negotiate power and wi-fi with hotel venues. We also have a helpful guide to removing those restrictions, which you can download.

negotiating av prices with help from EndlessArmed with this new knowledge and a few simple processes, you can take the guesswork out of understanding quotes and negotiating AV prices. After all, knowledge is power!

If you have any more questions about negotiating AV prices – just let us know! We’re always happy to make the AV quoting process as transparent as possible.


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Kristen Cooper

Author Kristen Cooper

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