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How To Save Money On Event AV – This is it! When planning an event, AV is always responsible for a large chunk of the budget. We hear you! So this week we are starting a two-part series titled How To Save Money On Event AV. Today, our featured panelists are the iconic Jon Trask from Strategic Meeting Tech and our very own events planning guru, Brandt Krueger! Jon and Brandt, along with host, Will Curran, will be answering your questions and sharing all of the tips and tricks they have learned over the years when it comes to budgeting AV. They’ll be explaining why AV carries such a high cost, some of the best ways to save on AV, and how to get the most bang for your buck!

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Transcription of this episode:

Will: Oh, yeah. We are back and again the audience is already saying Jon we need to have you bopping your head too so he went for some head bop too. We’re so excited. We have an amazing panel today. Superman is back in the studio, but you’ll notice Laura’s missing.

Laura’s in the background doing the live tweet thing. Alex is currently in TSE, the special event over in Long Beach. A lot of shows going on this last week so everyone’s very very busy, but she is here in spirit and on Twitter, so make sure you join the conversation on Twitter.

Anyways, I’m really super excited because this is going to be one of my favorite topics to talk about. It’s probably the number one question I personally get asked as an account executive, someone who works with all of our clients here at Endless, is how to save money on A/V. Really interesting topic because everyone has the perception that A/V is the most expensive … Well, it usually is one of the most expensive things that you’re going to pay for so people are always wondering, “How do I save money? How do I get the best bang for my buck?”

So I have two amazing friends, colleagues, and fellow A/V nerds in the house. Mr Brandt Kruger and Jon Trask. You will recognize Brandt. He’s a multi-time guest on this show. Also now been a host as well. Guest host on the show. So super duper excited to have you today Brandt. If you ever want to check out, just search his name on our blog to find past episodes, you’ll find his back story. We’re just honored to have you here today, Mr Brandt Kruger.

Brandt: Hello.

Will: So Brandt’s background just so you guys all know … Well, let me explain that a little bit later. We’ll save that for later. I don’t want to spoil it. Also in the house Mr Jon Trask. He’s a legend in the events industry for finding ways to save clients lots of money and making sure they’re getting a fair deal when it comes to their A/V for their events.

So I’m just really excited to have him here. We’ve had long long conversations about A/V and, you know, how to save clients money, and how, you know, clients should be treated the right way when it comes to their A/V company. So I knew I could have no on better to be on the show. Mr Jon Trask in the house.

Jon: Great to be here and thank you for inviting me.

Will: You’re very welcome. Also Jon’s been on the show too so if you ever want to check out his episode, the A/V for planners episode that we had a while ago, that’s an awesome episode to check out too. All right. So I want to jump right in because we’re going to have a really awesome debate and conversation today seeing as we have someone who’s an A/V supplier like me, Brandt who has worked for a A/V supplier but also hires A/V suppliers, and Jon, who helps clients find A/V suppliers.

So we’ve almost got this trifecta of competing ideas within the A/V industry right here. It’s going to be really great. So let’s kick it off. I think everyone wants to have a little background to know kind of what got you into events, and what got you into A/V, and kind of what your background is with A/V. So, Brandt, you want to kick it off and kind of let everyone know where your background is from A/V?

Brandt: Yeah, sure thing. If anybody wants the long version, just go to episode two I think it was where I think it was about half the episode was em describing how I got into this. The short version was that I had a theater background and right out of school worked for a rental lighting company and then started working for this crazy old hippy DJ guy who did a lot of corporate events.

Wound up getting hired by a production company here in Minneapolis. Worked for them for about 18 years mainly doing technology, being on-site, calling shows, being a show caller, stage manager type. I always had my fingers in the technology side. About two years ago now, two and a half years ago, I went out on my own and started a company called Event Technology Consulting, which is just a nice big umbrella that lets me do all of the cool technology stuff that I want to do.

Working with clients to help people find the right technology at the right price. Working with event technology companies to help tailor their messages as they’re trying to pitch to planners. Then I still do a lot of freelance. Freelance show calling and freelance audio-visual technology.

I love keeping my hands dirty, so that’s a really important part of what I do. Just being out there, there’s something about walking into an empty ballroom, setting it up for three days straight, working for one day, and then tearing it all down and back to a ballroom. I think it goes back to the theater thing. I really enjoy that moment.

Will: Brandt, do you find that having that experience of working shows and getting your hands dirty is what allows you to know so much about A/V or do you think that you recommend that for A/V planners out there to get their hands dirty too?

Brandt: Absolutely. I mean, education is a huge part of what I’m trying to do and I know you’ve done a lot as well and John as well. Of just trying to educate planners. Get your hands dirty. Get your hands on the gear. Understand how it works.

That’s going to help you and then this’ll be a theme throughout today I guarantee it. That’s going to help you understand your A/V bids better and have an educated conversation with your A/V or your production company.

So yeah, I absolutely don’t want to stop doing live events because it keep you fresh, keeps you on your toes, and it keeps you getting your hands on the latest technology.

Will: I love it. Also, like you said, it keeps you on your toes too because we’re constantly problem solving too. So it keeps you young, right? Speaking of young men, one of my favorite friends who I’ve talked to many hours over A/V industry, Jon Trask. You want to tell everyone a little bit about what got you into A/V and what you’ve been up to too because I know you’ve kind of made some changes since we last talked.

Jon: Well, basically I stumbled into it as I think a lot of people really do. It’s not something … Maybe now it’s more, but 30 years ago when I started, nobody knew what A/V was. It was really I saw an ad in the paper. I had worked in radio and I had done some news-casting and radio and ended up working in retail and didn’t really like working in retail.

I was looking for something back closer to what I enjoyed doing and I saw an ad looking for people who had experience with audio and video and I went and applied and I ended up working at the Disneyland Hotel for about the first five years of my career for a company that no longer exists called AVHQ. AVHQ was very big on the west coast. Had a lot of divisions and areas, and they did, you know, the Oscars and things. They were very hihg-profile.

So I had a chance to start getting acquainted with the larger shows and not just the in-house hotel events that were going on. Although we had some pretty big ones at the Disneyland Hotel obviously. So I ended up just making a lot of contacts and friends and staying in the industry now for 30 years. I actually left once for about six months and someone drug me back in. It’s kind of like the mob I think.

Will: You cannot leave.

Jon: Basically that led me up to where we tried to do a company that just didn’t quite work out. The idea was sound, and it was really more of the business model of figuring out how to get it paid for. The idea and kind of a passion of mine for about the past 10 years has been trying to help planners kind of understand and have better conversations with their A/V guys. All of us like to talk and all of us are passionate about what we do.

I mean, I’ve heard Brandt many times speak. I’ve heard you speak Will. If you can tap into that passion as an event planner, we want to help you. We want to tell you what we’re thinking, and how we think we can improve your meeting. It gets very challenging because there was a time in the last decade when it was just all bottom line. Who has the lowest price?

That was really my frustration and what led me into that direction that I went into because it’s not really about the lowest price. Even though we’re on a program here that talks about saving, you can apply the money the right way and that’s the key element of this. Sometimes you can make it cost a little bit less. Sometimes it might cost a little bit more.

You were talking a second ago about reacting and that keeping you young. One of the things that I’ve always talked to people about when I was doing sales for A/V was that I bring an experienced crew. Part of that idea of having an experienced crew is when the inevitable things happen that come up, you have guys who aren’t going to panic, and you have guys who are going to go right through the steps, and they’re going to make your meeting work. Sometimes that’s worth an extra dollar or two on your budget to have that confidence and know the backgrounds of the people who are involved.

What I’ve done most recently is I started my own company similar to Brandt’s actually. We chatted a little bit about it, but in the sense of it’s called strategic meeting tech. It’s basically I would like to have conversations with people and help them strategically look at their audio-visual and help them find ways to save and find ways to improve the quality of their product.

I think both of those can go hand in hand because you can leverage if you’ve got say a lot of meetings into relationships and be able to make that be more cost effective and still kind of up the game at the same time.

Will: Absolutely. Jon, I think no one has seen as many RFPs as you have too. How many A/V RFPs have you seen in your lifetime?

Jon: It has to be thousands at least. I can’t even tell you. When I started doing budgets off of RFPs, we were still writing them by hand and typing them, so that’s 30 years of them. Of seeing probably hundreds every year.

Will: If you want to talk to someone who knows RFPs better than anybody and how to pick the right A/V company, definitely Jon knows it. Then for everyone who’s kind of tuned in right now I don’t talk a lot about my background, but I basically own and do a lot of client interaction for our A/V company which is Endless.

So, you know, every single day I’m working with clients answering their questions about A/V. Why do you need this versus that? It’s something really big. I’m very passionate about being very close to my clients so I’m constantly hearing the things they need to talk about. This is definitely the question that we get all the time.

We get all these questions that we’ve kind of started with to get the conversation started are questions I get every single day. I’m curious though. I kind of have an idea of what I would do if I weren’t, you know, in the events industry. I probably would do something marketing-related. Maybe technology related. Maybe a pure lighting designer for houses or something like that. What would you guys be doing if you weren’t in the events industry? Just curious.

Jon: You want to go ahead, Brandt?

Brandt: Oh, space pirate. Clearly. I’d love to be a space pirate.

Will: Like The Martian, right?

Brandt: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I always wanted to go to space. That’s not even joking. I think I’m one generation off from space tourism here, so I mean, I don’t know if it’ll get done, but I would do that in a heartbeat if I didn’t have kids and you could probably die.

Jon: Yeah. There are a few inherent risks with that.

Will: Little bit of a risk. Jon, what about you?

Jon: You know, I really enjoyed working radio and the biggest reason that I left it were some personal reasons at the time back in the 80’s and the low pay. I love reporting and I love digging into a story, and finding ways to ask good questions. That’s really a lot of fun for me.

Will: Absolutely. I agree 100%. That’s probably the reason I think that I like this too. You get a little mix of the technology, mixed with the reporting, and the big news stories. So I like that too. I might have to do the reporting space pirate as my new future.

All right, so I want to jump right in because we have a ton of questions and I know we’re going to talk a lot about this because it’s a passion project of mine. The first question I’m going to ask, which I know you guys have heard this a million times, and we’ve written so many articles on it, and I’ve probably answered it so much, but for those who hire A/V companies, we get this question all the time.

Why does A/V cost so much? So I know that’s a leading question and it gets some people riled up and excited, but give everyone a little bit of a thought as to why you think that A/V costs so much money. Jon, you want to kick it off?

Jon: Sure. I actually did a talk on this subject in the past few years and put together a lot of numbers, and did a lot of research. One of the things that I found is people don’t have a concept of how much a lot of this equipment actually costs. They see that you can go to Office Depot and buy a projector, but they don’t realize that we’re bringing in professional quality equipment.

That they’re putting cases that can cost thousands of dollars around them. They’re putting maintenance into it and there are a lot of hidden costs that set behind this stuff. One of the things that stuck with me just to give you kind of a dollar for dollar example, and this is probably about three or four years old, but I looked up just a random 7,000 lumen projector. Now when I was buying …

Will: For anyone that doesn’t know, what’s a 7,000 lumen projector?

Jon: That’s kind of a medium-sized projector. You would use it in some larger rooms, but you’re going to maybe top it out on a 16 foot screen. Something like that.

Will: Lumens is a measure of light, correct?

Jon: Yes and it can be a little misleading because a lot of people measure them in different ways and there’s some controversies over what a lumen rating really means. It’s like my Fit Bit. I take it as a guideline. It gives me something as a reference point to compare to things, but I don’t necessarily believe that what I’m wearing on my wrist absolutely tracks every step I take perfectly.

Just use a lumen as a guideline and something to compare. Just as a tip, if you’re looking at two of your quotes side by side and someone’s offering you a 3,000 lumen projector and someone else is offering you a 7,000 lumen projector, that’s a great opportunity to have a conversation with both of those vendors. Ask, “Why did you make this choice for my show?” because they should have a reason.

It shouldn’t be, “That’s what we have in the warehouse.” it should be, “I’ve picked it because of your screen size and because of these factors. [inaudible 00:16:06] but not to lose track of the one thought, when I looked at this projector, it was around $42,000. The street rental price on it was about $750. When I had been purchasing equipment in the 90’s for a company, our rule of thumb then was the rental cost should be 10% of the purchase price.

So after 10 rentals, you’d cover the cost. After 20, you were into profit with depreciation and those factors. In this case, you needed something like 42 or 54 rentals to get to the $45,000 you were going to pay for this projector. So you have a lot higher capability. You have a lot better projector, but the price of it hadn’t gone up.

The price had actually come down slightly. It’s a little deceptive I guess is what I’m coming around to say. There are some costs underneath that you need to be aware of if you’re just looking at a bottom line dollar and you need to account for it.

Will: Well, what sort of hidden costs are examples that you’re kind of talking about?

Jon: Well hidden costs, maintenance. Projector bulbs burn out. There are filters in the projectors. You need to have someone one staff to do quality control on your projectors after each show before they go out to the next show so all those things are checked. The lenses on them can cost thousands and thousands of dollars, especially from specialty lenses that are sometimes required and oftentimes you’ll find those are just thrown into the rental cost.

You know, they’re paying for this specialty lens to do your show, but they’re not really passing the charge through except in the overall charge of the projector itself. Cable is another thing underneath that. Cable can be very expensive and cable gets lost, and broken, and you know, trashed on-site accidentally when someone rolls an air wall over it.

Now all of those things are hard costs that they’ll never really get discussed about the actual price. Even the time on the truck, if you’re sending a porjector out to a show, it’s out of your inventory, you may be charging one day on the show, but it may be a week that it’s been in your inventory so you can’t rent it to someone else.

Will: Yeah, absolutely. Brandt, are there any other hidden costs that you’ve kind of seen that kind of go into the rental of equipment?

Brandt: Yeah, I mean there’s a couple of different things. I mean, one just to tack on to the projector idea is it’s very similar I think to the world of high-end camera. People say why are DSLR cameras so expensive? Why are those telephoto lenses for those cameras so expensive because of the options, because of the quality that they have in them.

You know, yes, you can get a camera included with every cell phone now? Cameras are cheap. Yes. You can buy a porjector for very cheap. The good noes, the high-end ones have lenses that you can swap out just like a DSLR camera and those lenses are incredibly expensive. Especially if they’re a very short distant throws or very very long distance throws.

Those two things, so the environment that you’re going into can have a very big impact on the price listings as well. Cost of the equipment absolutely. All those hidden costs, but then the other reason that the A/V bill always winds up being so high is labor. Labor is a tremendously large part of the audio-visual bill because there’s so many people even a small mid-sized show these days.

You’ve got someone calling the show, someone running PowerPoints, someone potentially running s teleprompter, audio, lights, video, cameras. I mean, it adds up incredibly quick. Then you’ve got to pay people to set it up, tear it down, rigging. All of those things added to a tremendous amount of labor. So even if all of the equipment is paid for and we’re into that, we’re well into profit-making time. Event companies can discount the equipment maybe, but you can’t discount the labor.

Will: Awesome. Fantastic. I think one of the things that not a lot of people think about, so that’s obviously why A/V is so often so expensive too, even breaking now into why business is so expensive too. I mean, a lot of times people don’t think about they have the overhead, they have their office, their salaried employees, the commission that employees get for selling the deal. Everything.

The marketing budget, everything that goes into running a company they have to make that money too on top of that. So not only do you have them just trying to make their money back on the equipment, but they’re trying to keep the doors even open too. Definitely keep that in mind when you’re looking at different companies is that definitely there is models out there, I’m tooting my own horn on that, that are a little bit different that help benefit that sometimes you can get an advantage by, you know, finding companies that figured out ways to do things a little bit differently.

All right, so we actually have an amazing question coming from the audience. It might take us down a rabbit hole. This was on my questions to ask too so we can go down this, but a humongous issue in the A/V industry now is this battle between, Brandt knows this is coming, between in-house and out-house providers. I’m an out of house provider. We aren’t on property and now a lot of clients are running into the issue that they don’t sign up for the Hilton, or the Hyatt, or the Marriott, or wherever they’re going to be and then they find out, “Oh, I have a restriction.”

For example, I have an amazing client who just found out that they signed a contract, the venue signed a contract, to be exclusive with a vendor for the entire year and she’s hosed. She can’t use anybody to [inaudible 00:22:02] it. Luckily she’s very smart and kind of gave some pushback and said, “Hey, I already signed the contract before this happened. What if we do?” but what we’re finding is these in-house relationships and the out-house are fighting like this and some clients out there, for example, Abigail. Is it Brotum? I’m totally slaughtering your name. I apologize for that.

Abigail has an amazing question out in the audience and she asks, “How can we as clients ask an event director or a catering manager at a hotel who you’re working with about their guidelines or about using out-house A/V companies without offending them?” For example, she met with a social events manager and they stated that any and all clients had to use their in-house lighting and A/V services. Doors shut. What is your reaction to that, Brandt?

Brandt: It has to be negotiated at contract time. Anything before the contract is a negotiation. Anything after the contract is begging. You have to do it at that point in time. You can’t wait and find out later. Then if they try and pull the shenanigans later, you say, “Hey, that’s what you said. We already signed a contract. We had discussed it. It was part of our negotiations.”

It’s not about, you know being a jerk about it, you know? Part of the question was how to do it nicely and just say, “We want to have the option. I’m sure you have a wonderful A/V crew. I’m cure you have a great in-house crew. We want to have the option,” or “We’ve someone that we’ve worked with for the last four or five years. They know our show. You know, we’re very good partners. They know us inside and out. We want to have that option.”

That should always be available as an option as part of the negotiation. If they shut it down as part of the negotiation say, “That is not an option,” then you’ve got a choice. You can accept that it’s not an option or you can move on. It’s just like buying a car. You have to be able to walk out. If it’s important to you, you have to be able to walk out. You should always be able to bring in a third party.

Just to tack onto that, because I know we’ll go on deeper into this, but even if they’re going to charge you a fee or something. You know, they’re going to give you a penalty for not using the in-house rarely do they say no. Usually they just want money out of the deal. If they’re charging you something for it, still get a quote from a third party company.

If you’re not 100% in on the idea of using the in-house, still get a quote because a lot of times even with that fee it can still be cheaper than using the in-house A/V. Now there’s plenty of time. I’m sorry I’m babbling on, but there’s plenty of times … I just want to be real clear about it because sometimes the in-house gets a bad rap.

There’s great crews out there that I would work with any day of the week. It’s easy, it goes on the master bill, it’s convenient. It’s just like buying something down in the lobby bar, right? It’s going to be expensive, but it’s convenient. So there’s absolutely a time and place to use the in-house A/V, but if you want that option you can have the option for a third party.

Will: I agree 100%. Real quick before I let Jon jump in on this, the chat and the question panel is blowing up, so shout out to everyone tuning in live right now blowing this up. Including one of my favorite people ever who we’re actually going to have on … I never talk about next episodes, but next week we’re doing part two of this conversation because we know how intense those can be.

One of these amazing people is joining the conversation, Megan Powers from Event Collab. She will be on the show next week so big shout out to Megan Powers, who is also she’s “The small guys are awesome,” you know? Talking about the in-house relationships and everything, but she basically agrees too. It is not true. You always have a choice. Jon, hat’s your reaction to being stuck with being told that you have no choice?

Jon: Well again, I agree with everything Brandt said there. It’s you start at the beginning and you put it into your contract. It doesn’t have to mean you’re adversarial and it doesn’t have to mean that you are not going to be willing to consider their in-house unless you aren’t and you have a reason like a company that maybe you’re contracted with because people sign multi-year contracts.

Maybe you’ve committed to a three year contract to a vendor that you really like. You need to keep that into your negotiation when you’re going in. When Brandt was saying that they want money out of it, it’s very true and oftentimes you can kind of do a give and take to find ways to make sure that they’re still getting the profit they’re expecting.

Realize that they’re hiring an outside company in most cases. Most hotels don’t actually own the company that does the A/V so they’re bringing in an outside company. That company is guaranteeing them a certain amount of revenue coming back. They’re splitting the profit a certain way. Oftentimes you can look at that and find ways to kind of keep them happy and feel like they’re not losing out.

For example, something I do often when I have a large general session, I will certainly consider the in-house company to do the breakout rooms. That way I’m still working with them. We’re still coordinating. They’re getting some of the work that’s going on on the property. They’re not just stuck sitting in their office all week.

I’ve found that if I come in as a good guest and have a nice conversation with them and say, “I’m willing to have you guys do these rooms. Can you support them for me?” Oftentimes we get a great relationship and things go very smoothly in both areas at that point.

Brandt: Then if something goes wrong you’ve got the in-house on your side. If you need something suddenly at the last minute, your third party company might have to drive to the other side of town to their warehouse, but if you’ve got the in-house on your side working with you to produce a portion of the event, they can say, “Okay, don’t worry about it. We’ll grab it,” and get it out.

Jon: I need a speaker timer and they have one in their office and it saves you having somebody run across town.

Will: Absolutely. I agree both on Brandt building a good relationship because you never know even when you’re a out of house company and you want to go int with a good foot so for example with us, as the outside company, a lot of time we’re considered the adversary because a lot of times the clients make me the adversary because I want you to have a good time. I don’t want you to have to worry about the stress of that.

A lot of times we try to go in there building a good relationship with in-house to start with too because yeah, you just never know. Even though we are very complete with our quotes ahead of time. I mean, Brandt and Jon really know how completely [inaudible 28:47], but a lot of times what we end up finding is that a client says, “Hey, oh my gosh.” Three of my clients who during the World Series they were from Chicago and they were doing their meeting in Miami and it was game whatever it was and they were like, “We have to show the World Series during our happy hour.”

We’re like, “Well, we can pull it up online, but you know, if this doesn’t work maybe we’re going to try a lot of backups.” So the in-house is like, “No problem. We’ll go get a cable box, HDMI it into your switcher, boom good to go.” They were willing to do that for free because we were so calm with them and collected with them, and not adversarial towards them and they were willing to do that.

We didn’t end up using the cable box, so I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have charged them for it, but they were very very helpful in that aspect. Yeah, it’s definitely the same way you never know when you’re going to need something for sure. One recommendation that I have to piggyback on your guys’ conversation is that, and you guys know it’s coming, we talk so much about A/V. I wrote a guide called The How To Remove In-House A/V Restrictions Guide.

You just Google how to remove in-house A/V restrictions or if you just check the show notes afterwards when we post this online on Tuesday, basically we wrote the contract language they put in your RFPs that say, “Hey, I want my choices when it comes to everything.” You could literally swap out A/V for catering, or décor, or whatever you want to put in there.

Then it gives you what you put in your contract as well, but making sure that you’re clear about your A/V process and your contact process. Even if you’ve already singed the contract, it’s sometimes not too late. I’ve seen clients if you put pressure on them and you’re spending a lot of money, it’ll probably happen for sure.

Brandt: There’s a chance of a multi-year deal. I mean, if there’s a possibility that you would be back to that venue, then you can use that as leverage with sales and say, “Look, come on guys. I know it’s in the contract, but we’re really thinking about coming back here next year and maybe again in 2018.”

Jon: I’ve seen the other side of it too where things are adversarial and that’s where it does get uncomfortable and that’s something that we have to acknowledge and recognize. There are those situation that have come up. I had a situation where rigging for example is often exclusive to the venue and the reasoning for that being that it’s a safety and security issue being attached to the building just like power.

I got a tremendously high rigging quote and I had to work with my planner because they were quoting $16,000 for something that should have cost a couple thousand. It was simply talking to my client and explaining what it should cost, she came back around and called them herself, and she had in fact used that same company in town in a different venue previously and so she was able to pull those numbers up and say, “When I was in this venue, you only charged me this much. Now I’m here and you’re charging me four times as much.”

We were able to bring the budget down significantly just by having that discussion. There are ways that you can strategize to not overpay even if you’re locked into certain things.

Will: I love it.

Brandt: In that same idea, especially with things like reading, a lot times the way that venues will pressure you to use your in-house is they’ll start asking for insurance and let me see your paperwork, and let me see this, let me see that. You can turn that around as well. When they’re requiring you to use their in-house services or in-house contractor, you can ask to see their insurance. You can ask to see their certificate of being an electrical engineer or something along those lines.

When you start asking for paperwork, it’s amazing how quickly a lot of things will disappear because the sales person doesn’t want to deal with that. Who’s going to have that? It’s in a filing cabinet somewhere. I don’t know. So you can actually use that and turn it around as well. It’s not something you want. You don’t want to bring in Joe’s Bargain Basement Rigging Company, but at the same time if you are getting a ridiculously high quote like that, maybe you can turn it around.

Will: Awesome. You guys mentioned negotiation strategies and this is something I get asked all the time for. What negotiation strategies do you have for maybe if they’re already in a contract? They’ve already signed it. Other than making sure maybe if they use the How To Remove the In-House A/V Restrictions Guide, but other than using that, what would be your recommendation for negotiations with getting rid of these restrictions?

Jon: Well, one tactic that I’ve heard people use is they’ve gone back and said, “Okay, if you’re not allowing me to use my choice, I want a guaranteed performance and if the performance is not to my standards, and we can establish those standards in writing, but if that performance does not meet those standards, then you’re going to give me some money back.” That can certainly get attention of management if you’re talking to them in those terms.

Will: Awesome. Very good. Brandt, anything else on your end?

Brandt: I had it. There’s a lot. Along the same lines I was getting distracted by the chat and I totally went [inaudible 00:34:19].

Will: I really like that idea though of saying guaranteed performances. Instantly they might think to themselves, “Well crap, I can’t guarantee my performance because I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do well.” Maybe they’re like, “Man, we’ve done this kind of thing where it’s outside of our scope and where we’re used to doing breakouts and everything and now we’re just doing this general session. Okay, we’ll give up.” Go ahead, Brant.

Brandt: You can ask for recommendations. A lot of times people when they’re dealing with in-house, they just figure you’re stuck with them. Again, part of the negotiation process, part of the back and forth, if you’re not 100%, you want to make sure that you’re 100% comfortable with that.

So you can actually say, “I would like to speak to the last two or three people that used your in-house A/V services and find out how they felt about that service, because again I want to make sure that it’s up to my standards. I want to make sure that we’re going to be good.” Kind of the other half of what Jon was talking about there, ask for recommendations. Ask for people, you know, to kind of give their testimony as far as how the in-house is done.

Will: Awesome. I love it. Enough of the digging in on the in-house A/V issues topic. Definitely a fun point for all of us to talk about. I’m curious to know obviously people look at A/V quotes, they’re very complex. There’s lots of pieces of equipment. Most of the time they’re itemized. I think we’ve had this conversation before about [inaudible 00:35:49] and everything like that with Brandt’s before.

I’m curious to know, what are some hidden costs that clients need to be looking for to make sure that when they’re looking at those quotes there are hidden costs that you know that you’ve seen on quotes before that you were like, “Hey, I shouldn’t be paying for this. Watch out for this.” What are your pitfalls on the cost side of things? Why don’t you kick it off, Jon? I can hear you laughing there so [inaudible 00:36:18].

Jon: I’m betting I probably have the same answer right off the bat, but I’m going to go back to what Brandt was saying about labor. It frustrates me, and I actually had this conversation earlier today with a vendor on the show that I’m working on about how I want all the overtime accounted for. There’s a schedule that’s been handed to them.

I have the exact schedule of the show and I can see that on this day the people are going to have to work 12, hours or 13 hours, or 14 hours. It frustrates me to no end when I get a vendor who despite having that schedule sends me a quote for a flat day rate.

Will: [inaudible 00:37:01] hours? Can you describe what day rate is for everyone?

Jon: A date rate commonly will be either 8 or 10 hours and a lot of it depends on the market you’re working in. In many of the Right to Work states and the sort of Southern Sun belt, you’re going to find most of the freelance guys are working based on 10 hours or a half day of 5 hours. In some of the other areas where you’re dealing with some union rules and things like that, you may find that they’re doing an 8-hour day and then charging hourly and then charging overtime for that next two even if they’re going to be there for 10 hours.

The key thing that I usually remember is that in most cases after 8 hours, and then 10 hours, and then 2 more hours of overtime, or 4 hours if you’re doing 8 and 4, you’re going to hit double time after that. That’s where the cash register really starts to ring. Additionally not having short-term availability.

In other words, if you have a crew that’s going to be working until midnight and you want them back in at 6 am, you’re probably going to be paying them overtime all the next day until they get an eight hour break. These are all sort of modifications of a lot of union rules that if you think about it, if a guy’s working until midnight, and it takes an hour to get home and then he has to sleep, and he has to get up and drive an hour back to the site, you’re giving him a couple of hours sleep.

So you’ve got to have enough space in there that your crew can come in fresh. Those are the hidden costs that I see quite often are just these pieces of labor that should be obvious and should be apparent because we do have a schedule we’re working from. It may change. Things may modify, but get that information upfront. Don’t just take a flat day rate if that won’t work.

Will: All right. I love it. Brandt, what about you? What are the big hidden pit falls that you see?

Brandt: I think what Jon is alluding to we probably could have done one, two, three breaking points at the same time and done a “Jinx, buy me a Coke.” That’s one that’s still very popular is rigging points. So what’s happening is especially now most A/V companies are going into especially older properties and saying, “We’ll install the rigging points. These are the physical points that are up in the ceiling that you can hang truss and lights from.”

It’s permanent infrastructure. It’s not something that you need to go in and put up and take down. It’s there all the time. They’re saying, “We’ll take on that cost if you’re going to put those points in,” but then they have the right to charge per day rates for the use of those points. Those are usually going to be in the contract buried somewhere.

Again, fully something you can negotiate before you sign the contract. You can say, “We’re not paying for this and we’re not paying for that,” as long as you’re willing to walk away. Those can be several hundred dollars per point per day, so very very expensive nothings. That are often [crosstalk 40:08].

Will: We all know that feeling.

Jon: I’ve also ran into situations where the point included the motor. There’s a value in that. You know, just to take that side of it. The other thing that I would say in an in-house company’s defense of owning those points, and I believe many of them overcharge wildly for them, is that there are insurance cost and things that are sometimes behind that as well.

Just like the hidden costs on the equipment we were talking about, there are some other costs that could go into that. While the actual piece is pretty inexpensive and a one time thing, there are some liabilities connected to it. That would be something I would definitely push back on though.

Get it upfront. Put it in your contract. Ask “What are the rigging costs? If you’re going to require me to use your in-house rigger, that must mean you have an established price guide. Tell me how much per hour they are. Tell me what their hour minimums are. What’s your list cost? What your points cost.” Get all of that detailed so that you can evaluate it before you sign the final contract.

Brandt: Yeah, that’s another one of those things that they’ll kick in as a negotiation tactic for using the in-house. They’ll say, “You know, we’ll waive those fees but if you bring in a third party then you’re going to have to pay the rigging point charges and things like that.” Again, it’s an incentive to try to make up that revenue that they would be losing by not using the in-house. Again, you can throw them a little business. Maybe you can take it off the table. So it’s all negotiable. Every single thing is negotiable

Jon: One of the things too that I’ve used as a tactic, if need be, you can make pretty much any show run ground supported if you have to. It may not look as good as you would like it to be.

Will: Define ground supported.

Jon: Ground supported would be we’re not using any points. We’re not hanging anything at all from the building. Everything is going to be standing on something that we bring in and stand up. Whether that’s a small tripod holding a speaker or whether that’s a piece of truss holding lighting that’s standing up straight, you can make that stuff be ground supported in a pinch and push back and say, “Okay, I don’t want any of your rigging. Just take it all off the table.”

Will: Oh my gosh. So everyone knows too from the A/V perspective of Megan, she says that once a client accused her of ground supporting to charge you more money, which is funny because typically it’s actually way more inexpensive because instead of the cost of hanging one truss across the back wall is four point [inaudible 00:42:46] and laborers can be almost 1,000 bucks. You can do what’s called [inaudible 00:42:50] or material lifts that lift everything up. It’s 150 bucks each to rent so it’s $300. Something to always keep in mind not only can you avoid those fees and end up paying with them, but save a lot of money too. Brandt?

Brandt: [inaudible 00:43:02] over on Twitter said that it’s refreshing to hear about the union rules regarding overnight breaks being recognized. I just want to add one more point to help drive that home to potential event planners who because they’re willing … You know, a lot of times these are annual events and those couple weeks leading up to the event it’s their Superbowl so they’re staying up until 2/3 in the morning, getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning, but they’re only doing it for that week.

A lot of these A/V people, we’re doing it every day day in and day out, so yeah, one week once a year people work ridiculous hours a lot of times on these annual events, but once you translated it, those rules are in place to protect people and make sure you’re getting six hours of sleep, and not trying to do that on four hours of sleep every single day day in day out. So that’s the reasoning behind a lot of that.

Jon: While you’re on that topic, I want to throw in too meal breaks and just breaks in general because I’ve seen clients kind of abuse crews and sometimes inadvertently. They don’t even realize, but they’re not thinking about the fact that when they go to lunch and they’re getting a meal, the crew may still be working on various things. You need to account for people to get off and get some food.

If you do a meeting here in California at the Ritz Carlton [inaudible 00:44:29] Point, it’s about a 20 minute drive to the closest restaurant if you leave the property to get food. You have to understand that you’ve got to give guys time to go get some food or you’ve got to feed them and recognizing that they’re people too, and they’re in the room, and they’re working that whole time. They’re working all morning. They’re working through lunch. They’re working through the afternoon. Just look at that for them as well as for your guests.

Will: One thing I want to jump in on while you’re talking about food from an A/V supplier’s perspective, being [inaudible 00:45:05] that has worked those long hours, some amazing clients I’ve had. For example, I had one … Some of this is just as simple as getting a good wholesome meal. One of mine would arrange for an A/V company to have its own green room. We’d have Red Bulls, colas, and we had full food. I had steak one time.

Here’s the thing. We stayed later than ever, we did an insane turnaround because we felt like they had our back and they understood us and we were willing to [inaudible 00:45:36]. This isn’t saving money. This isn’t going to save you any money, but this allows you to get a really good bang for your buck like let’s say you’re going to have a really crappy turnaround on a show. These shows are really really long.

If you find a way to take care of your team, even for example we just did an event over Christmas. They just said, “Hey, we’ve got all your meals taken care of. Don’t worry about going off-property. Christmas is going to be crazy. We have food ready for you.” The boys made sure we had everybody getting food and we were happy with it. That made us feel like, “Okay, we can focus on our jobs. We don’t have to worry about when we’re going to eat next as well.

Jon: Absolutely.

Will: Brandt, do you have something that you wanted to add?

Brandt: It’s absolutely value. So by doing that, by making sure the crew’s taken care of, like you said they’re more likely to just bust butt for you and then if you go one hour over 10 hours or something like that they might not necessarily zing you for it. You know, unless it’s a union rule and you have to and even then they might even be loosey goosey and just fudge the records a little bit.

I know we’ve all talked about this at one point or another, you know when you treat your vendors as partners, and you’re working with them, and making sure that they’re taken care of, they’re going to take care of you. Yeah, you might spend a little more money on food, but in the end you might actually save money. I having a whole crew go even an hour into overtime could be really really expensive.

Will: One thing that I’m talking about now too is that a lot of times the thing that you see is that you can make a schedule and they still only budget for this amount of hours. One thing I highly recommend and this is [inaudible 00:47:12]. You should push for them and you should ask this question. If I sign this quote, is the English going to be the exact same thing? What would change and [inaudible 00:47:21] different?

They should say things like, “Is definitely different from what you told us. We’re going to have to work longer,” and that will do it or “If you add equipment.” Those are the only two things. If you as a client add equipment and you change the schedule and everything should be the same.” If they don’t have a good answer for you on that one that means that they’re probably missing pieces of equipment that you’re probably not thinking of, that sort of stuff.

For example, you might want a [inaudible 00:47:47] as part of the screen at the bottom of the stage so that the presenters don’t have to turn and look at the screen, they might not ask if you want that, but the presenter gets on there and says, “Hey, am I going to get a [inaudible 00:47:56] monitor?” and also the A/V company says, “You know, we can get one for you for $1,000 or whatever that may be,” and you’re like, “Cool. I don’t want to pay $1,000 for it,” whereas it might only be $200 to have it in the first place.

Jon: You should also just as a best practice you’re going to have a contact on site on most of these cases. Some sort of project manager or somebody who’s in charge. Best practice to me is at the end of the day you touch base with them and you go over any changes to the budget.

Anything that had to be added, any hours that had to be added, anything so that you can sign off on it on a daily basis and you’re not three days after this flurry of stuff trying to remember what’s going on. It’s worth 15 minutes to just check in at the end of the day, get that stuff all documented and written down, and accrued. Sign it if you’re the planner. “I approve this additional charge for these reasons.”

Will: Awesome. All right, so we’re getting low on time, which I was so afraid was going to happen because I still have hundreds of questions I want to ask and the audience is blowing up with more questions. Hour two. So for those who are really excited, we’re doing a two-parter of this so next week we’re going to have the same topic.

Megan for example is going to be one of our guests. I’m not going to reveal who everyone is. Maybe we can consider having Brandt and Jon hop on a bit and join the Twitter conversation. I wanted to end with three questions. We’ll do our normal two questions at the end, the one about tips and the one about resources, but the last question I have for you is, “Do you have a go-to thing that you look for to save money when it comes to A/V?”

For example, back in the day … We don’t do this much anymore because the cost is very similar, is that for example downgrading from high definition video to standard definition video. Now their costs are for the same projector about the same, so it doesn’t necessarily say as much.

Is there an item that you’re like, “Man, when someone says, ‘I’ve got $25,000 in a quote and I need to get this down to 15,’ what do you look for first that you say, ‘Let’s save money here?'” Maybe you can scale that up. $100,00, $50,000, whatever it may be.

Jon: It’s an excellent question. I would really just look at the type. Well, I would make sure that my labor is accurate first of all and that you’re not over-crewed in some way. Maybe you don’t need to have a lighting operator because you don’t really have a love of lighting cues and once the lights are turned on at the beginning of the day, there’s not going to be a lot of changes.

Maybe that’s a place you can pull something back a little bit. Look at your number of wireless microphones because sometimes people over-order on wireless microphones and maybe you can change that panel to wired microphones on the desk in front of them and save us much as $100 per microphone right there. I would look at those types of things and I would look at just the types of equipment that they’re using.

Maybe you can go from flying [inaudible 00:50:54] using the rigging we’ve been talking about to doing a ground supported sound system that would still be adequate for the room. Maybe not your optimal way of doing it. Maybe not what we’d prefer, but a way to bring the budget down and still give you the quality expectation that you have to meet.

Will: Awesome. I love it. Brandt?

Brandt: My first instinct was looking at the labor as well. Just making sure that that schedule is exactly what you need and then how many people do we really need to make this work? I mean, I’ve done plenty of shows where a lot of people come set it up, but you really only need one person to kind of babysit it and make sure that it’s going to work all right.

Yeah, going through that schedule. Making sure that you only have as many people there as you absolutely possibly need. On the equipment side, flip it a little bit and say the thing that I would hit last is your audio. For me it’s always the most important is to have good sounding audio.

You can always convert your lights from wiggly lights to just [inaudible 00:51:58] just to get that stage lit, right? Let’s get that stage lit and give it a straight-up stage wash. You can usually put that [inaudible 00:52:05]. You can usually cut back on the décor. You know, the stage décor, and sets, and things like that if that’s part of the package but I would hit the audio last just because you need to hear people even more than you need to see them I feel to have a good audience experience. [inaudible 00:52:26].

Jon: Maybe if you have multiple cameras you can go to single camera when you’re talking about seeing people.

Brandt: Yeah. Exactly.

Will: I was going to say talking about things to hit last one of the first things I’m always inclined to tell the client to cut first as much as I hate it because I am a lighting guy, is the lighting. A lot of times very simple on a typical corporate show we’re going to provide a nice stage wash, a lot of spot lights. Maybe even add a little eye candy with moving lights that turn and spin and do the wiggly.

I feel like that’s going to get turned into a gif for doing that. Definitely [inaudible 00:53:02] lighting just again to give you a nice stage wash. Look in on camera if you’re doing cameras or just fill it in. That way you can dim the lights in the house so that way the projectors look nice and good.

Just having that on basic is very good because then you can just save a little bit of money. Get rid of lights, get rid of everything because as much as they are really nice and they make everything look really nice, to be honest, like you said, being heard, being seen, and I would say looking good on a recording is also probably the main objectives.

Brandt: Camera’s a huge one too. The number of times that I’ve been in a show where they had, you know, a camera operator for IMAG and you’ve only been able to cut to it twice because the content was so heavy that it was just PowerPoint, PowerPoint, PowerPoint. There was no moment that you could cut to the talking head. So they pay for a guy for the whole day, and camera, and the whole nine yards, and then they cut to it for 30 seconds at the beginning of each keynote.

Will: I will agree 100% with you on that one.

Jon: When you’re talking about paying for things you might not need, you can also look at the way you’re allocating your presenters because if you’ve got panels in four different rooms, maybe you can look at that schedule and tweak a little so you’re only leading panels in two of the rooms. Now you’ve cut down a little bit on your requirements there just by adjusting your schedule and your alignment of how you’re going to put your sessions together.

Will: I love it. Awesome. I want to continue to keep going through this, but I want to be very cognizant of your guys’s time because it’s just been … You guys obviously are very very busy. I do want to end with our last two questions that we always ask everyone.

So maybe if you want we can give it a little spin so we can get a little more A/V knowledge in there too, but if you had to pick one tip for 2017. We’re in 2017 right now. If you had to say, “Hey planners out there, this is my one tip to you. Do this one thing I think you will have amazing events,” what would be your tip to planners out there? Brandt you got one?

Brandt: 2017, I’ve been staying away from the hot technology trend article type things and what I’m going with is this is the year to reevaluate. If you’re late on the bus to start getting into mobile apps, and hybrid streaming events, and things like that, that technology is mature now. Now is the time to do it. Now, if you are on the front end of that and you were leading edge and you were doing all of that, 2017’s the time to start looking to the next thing. So VR, AR, drones, all that kind of stuff.

That’s my one thing is sit back, and this applies to A/V as well. Just even … Okay, we’ve always done this event. We’ve done it the last 40 years. We’ve just been adding on more equipment and more equipment as we’ve grown. Sit down with the A/V company look at a single flow. How are things [inaudible 00:55:49]? Are we doing this in the most efficient way possible or have we just been strapping on more laptops and more and more things?

I’ve definitely been in that environment where we sat down we’ve sat down and like, “For $1,000 more, we can completely redo this entire A/V rig, and we’ll be set for the next three years as far as influence and outputs and all kind of things like that. Take 2017, make it the year that you reevaluate your tech needs of all different kinds. A/V and the rest of your event technology.

Will: Awesome. I love it. Jon, what about you? What’s your one tip for planners?

Jon: It sort of dovetails with what Brandt is saying. The first thing that really popped into my mind was take the time to have a better conversation with your vendors. Realize that this isn’t something that you should just be comparing the dollar total at the bottom of page 12 against three different vendors and picking based solely on that.

You need to budget the time to have some conversations, to get to know the people, to know something about their ideas, their attitudes, how they think they can improve your meeting, and why they’ve made the choices they’ve made on the quotes that they’re sending you. So they’ll be happy to walk you through that stuff.

I’ve never known a vendor who wasn’t happy to sit down and explain line by line everything that’s on all 12 of those pages. Have that conversation and realize that it can’t just be done based on a number.

Will: Awesome. So good. So much cool wisdom. I love both of your tips very very much. We’re going to go to my favorite question with the time that we’ve got left, which is, “What cool resources, blogs, books, scuba masks, cutout of Superman and Batman that you want to share with everybody out there?” How To Remove In-House A/V Restrictions Guide that Endless has written and post it in the show notes or Google it if necessary.

What sort of cool stuff do you guys have to share? Whether it’s cool apps. It can be about art. It can be about A/V. It can be anything at all. Let’s kick off with Brandt’s done this a million times before, so we’ll let Brandt kick it off. He’s like, “Oh, shit. All my cool stuff already [inaudible 00:58:03].”

Brandt: I’ve always got cools stuff. Now we were talking before the show. I’ve gone all in on Google Home. I’m really enjoying that product. I bought one and within an hour I was like, “Oh, man, I’m going to have to buy another one,” because I was just having so much fun with it and once you start talking to your house there’s no going back. Which I love it, but more specifically what I honestly love about it is being able to play music.

They link together, so you you can play music in multiple rooms. They sounds really good for the size that they are. Sure, you’re not getting the full stereo feel, but it sounds really good for a little speaker in the side. You know, in the corner of your room. I’m just truly enjoying it. You can ask it what’s on your calendar. You can hear the news, podcasts, just everything. Really digging in on that.

Will: Well, we were talking about one of our favorite features of that. That it does … Adam recommended the Echo Dot last week, so the big feature thing that we were talking about it does that the Echo Dot doesn’t have is the idea of multi-room audio, which hopefully … I can’t say here name because she’s sitting right there.

The idea is I can say … For example I can have her play multiple rooms with the exact same audio synced together so when you’re walking from room to room it’s just like [inaudible 00:59:23] does, which unfortunately Echo Dot does not do, which I know that we love very much, music lovers that we are. Any other cool resources, Brandt that you want to share?

Brandt: Not that much. Check out I do have a blog on there. I post on it every now and then. I did write an article about the gained value along these lines of, you know, giving your crew food and things like that. I would say the comparison of two clients who were real world clients.

I changed all the names and everything, but of who got the best value for their money and the difference that they spent on their A/V versus who got the best value. I’m reminded of that. I was like, “That’s a pretty good way of laying it out.” So I encourage people to check that out if they’re still questioning that.

Will: Awesome. I love it. Jon what about you? I know you’re a man full of many resources.

Jon: Well, I put a link that I shared with you Will of a document created many years ago. I’ve updated it a little bit, but it was just kind of a handout card that you could print out and take with you on-site when you’re doing a site survey to help you sort of look at a venue from the audio-visual perspective the way that we would evaluate it.

It’s just some of the things that we care bout like ceiling height that don’t always jump out at a planner who’s not experienced with looking at it from an A/V perspective. So I put that in and you can share it with people freely. I do have a website. Strategic Meeting Tech. On my website I do a blog and podcast.

I’ve been on a little bit of a holiday hiatus with some things going on, but I’ll be back on the air. There are some articles like, you know, “What does a fire marshal do?” Just things like that to try and help eliminate a little bit of the questions that people have. There are also some industry publications I can dig up some links and give them to you when you’ve finished the broadcast, but there are a number of magazines with subscriptions that you can take that cover the technology and audio-visual industry.

It’s a good place to look. There are websites like Projector Central you can go to as well and just when you are looking at a projector on a quote, get some information about it and get a better understanding of what ti actually is.

Will: Awesome. Yeah, I will definitely share all the industry publications in the show notes. Down below if you’re watching a recording. If you’re live right now we have the Hello Endless or the Endless blog as we call it. Helloendless/blog. We’ll post this thing on Tuesday, but awesome resources.

Also I know that you guys are super duper active on social media so if you guys ever have questions I know that they can always talk to you on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to answer all those questions. We’re a little bit over time because this is such a passionate article, but if you loved this and you want to know more, and there’s so many questions I still have.

For example, what are the small ways to save money on A/V or how do you not save money the wrong way? We’re going to be talking about this again next week with some amazing guests on part two of this topic on how to save money on A/V next week on next Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern on #EventIcons.

I’ve got to let you guys go because they’re super busy, man, and they’ve got to take over the A/V world some more. So I want to give a huge shout out and thank you to our guests, Brandt and Jon. I should stop talking. Thank you guys so much for being on the show today.

Jon: Thank you.

Brandt: Thank you so much for having us.

Will: Awesome, and thank you everyone to everyone viewing live right now. We will see you guys all next week and we will catch you guys on another episode of #EventIcons.

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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