The vast majority of meeting planners choose their venues before they choose their AV providers. But in-house AV companies work so closely with hotels today that choosing the venue often locks you into using the in-house AV provider. And while pricing varies, we found that using an in-house AV company can cost up to twice as much as using an outside AV company.
Of course, a hotel can’t tell you not to use your own AV company, but they can add on fees and restrictions when you do.
For example, a hotel in Washington, D.C. that we worked with a while back included this policy in its venue contract:
“When third-party suppliers are utilizing the XYZ Ballroom or 50 percent of our meeting space, a mandatory 25 percent Technical Service Charge will be assessed on outside audiovisual equipment and services based on the equipment rental price for the same or similar equipment from ABC.”
Here’s a sampling of fees planners may encounter:
• Service fee: typically a percentage of the total estimate/invoice
• Internet/telecom fee
• Rigging fees: These can range from a fee per rigging point (a point from which you hang motors and other elements) to a requirement to use the in-house trussing or rigging elements.
• Power fees: For power usage on the venue. Talk to your outside AV company to find out how much power will be needed.
• AV liaison (“babysitting”) fees: When using an outside AV company, the in-house company will typically require a liaison watch the outside AV company. If the outside AV company is competent, this person will be doing nothing.
• Loading dock fees: for using the loading dock
• Freight elevator fees: for using the freight elevator
• Outside AV company fee: A flat fee for using an outside AV company
• Damage deposit: A required deposit (which will be refunded) in case of damage of the venue
• Permitting/engineering fees: The venue may require fees for permitting and engineering, if there is complex staging being hung or needing to be supported by the building
• Floor/wall covering fee: to protect the flooring or walls
The important thing is to understand which fees are being charged to you because you are using an outside company and which are fees you would have encountered anyway. For example, if the in-house AV company is not required to use floor coverings, the outside AV company should not face this requirement either.
Flip Your Process
For some planners, the added cost of an in-house AV company is worth it for the convenience of relying on their team. But what if you don’t want to use their provider, what if you have an outside company you use and trust?
I recommend finding your vendors (especially your AV company) before you book your venue. Flipping the traditional planning process and involving your vendors early can save you a lot of money. Vendors will help you navigate the fees and, more importantly, give you some leverage to say no.
It can still be a challenge to try using an outside AV company at a venue with an established in-house provider. We’ve got more help for you in a downloadable guide, “How to Remove In-House AV Restrictions.” Click here to download.
Will Curran is president and chief event einstein of full-service production company Endless Events.