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Tackling the Eternal Question: In-House or Third-Party AV Company?

Tackling the Eternal Question: In-House or Third-Party AV Company?

The June 30 #Eventprofs Happy Hour, "Ask Me Anything About Event Production,” showcased more than just hot trends in production technology and things planners should avoid doing to maximize their production and AV experience. Led by Adrian Segar, participant-led-conferences advocate, author, and facilitator, and featuring Brandt Krueger (owner, Event Technology Consulting), Christopher DeArmond (managing director, Freedom Event Services), and professional conference moderator Glenn Thayer, they also got into the always-interesting in-house versus third-party AV company debate.

Brandt said there were four choices for planners whose organizations don’t have their own AV department (which is most everybody): the venue’s in-house AV, a third-party AV company, a production company, or you could do it yourself—rent the gear, pick it up, and set it up yourself. (The latter is not really an option for most planners, he said.)

While AV companies used to be the ones who owned the gear and did the actual on-site work; and production companies would handle the paperwork and scheduling and work with the venue, the lines now are blurring, he said. More AV companies are taking on the traditional production-company role as well.

“In-house gets a lot of knocks, sometimes legitimately so—everyone can tell a horror story about an in-house AV company, but the same goes for external AV companies,” he said. The biggest issue usually comes down to cost—why does an in-house company cost so much more than a third-party company? “It comes down to why a candy bar in the lobby costs $8 and you could buy the same candy bar down the street for $1. It’s convenience.” That 18 percent service charge goes back to the hotel, and, he said, you may be able to negotiate that commission with the hotel before you sign the contract. Maybe.

As to why the cost varies from venue to venue when it’s the same in-house AV company within the same hotel chain, it’s because each property negotiates separately. That’s also why the in-house company can’t cut you a break on price; those markups are baked in.

The entire Happy Hour discussion is available here.


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