How to control A/V costs

GettyImages-935049564Are your audiovisual costs out of control? You can take measures to rein them in. A former director of in-house A/V services, I now assist venues in implementing and managing efficient A/V and presentation technology services. Following are some best practices that I recommend in my current role as senior consultant with Electro-Media Design, Ltd.

Choosing a venue

A/V capabilities should be an important factor in site selection. Are the venue's presentation systems appropriate for the type of meeting or event you are planning? Some considerations:

Does the venue provide A/V services through a third party or its own staff?
Are presentation systems built in or portable? Built-in systems are often less expensive since they require less labour for setup.
Will the venue let you bring in your own A/V team? If yes, is there an extra charge for that?
If using outside providers, ask for a copy of the venue's guidelines before signing any agreements. This document tends to show up only after you have informed the venue that you won't be using its in-house A/V services.
Be smart about costs. A 20% discount doesn't mean much if you don't know the starting prices. Also, pricing can vary greatly from market to market; be sure dollar amounts are specified in your contract.

Cost-effective scheduling

Some events require a very high level of technical support, while others need just basic sound and displays. When discussing the costs of A/V, most minds go straight to the big shows, but remember that smaller meetings with smaller budgets have the same concerns. For events that require dedicated A/V support, planners should pay close attention to scheduling to keep labour costs within budget.

Book meeting rooms with enough lead time to allow setup during normal business hours. Avoid requiring overnight setups, which might be at higher labour rates. Avoid turnaround rates. Don't follow a late night with an early morning.
Block meeting rooms on 24-hour hold; otherwise you might be responsible for removing and then resetting your equipment.
Schedule rehearsal time with the presenters. If they show up to rehearse at their convenience, the crew might be prevented from taking scheduled breaks or meals, driving up labour hourly rates.
The A/V industry typically charges for equipment per room/per day. Schedule meetings with similar needs in the same room on the same day to maximise efficiency.
Consider creating a standard room set and informing presenters of what will be available, rather than asking for their needs. This will usually generate a faster response if they need something not listed.

Prevent cost creep on-site

Statistics show that as much as 17% of all A/V expenses result from last-minute changes and additions that can make a big difference in a tight budget. While 'pop-ups' are expected, meeting planners can take measures to minimise surprises when it's time to pay the bill.

Discuss this contingency with your A/V provider in advance: is pricing any different for last-minute orders? Do they have backup equipment on hand?
Set your expectations with the staff. Let them know what is and is not acceptable for presenters to request, if it's not included. Inform the venue staff of your procedure for approving/denying these requests.
Be available (or designate someone) to respond to the staff when a last-minute request occurs. If it is approved, make sure to note it in your records so you can reconcile at the end of the event.

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