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As AV Costs Spike, Planners Must Take Countermeasures

Initial price quotes and terms are, in many cases, far higher than before the pandemic. But there are ways to make things more reasonable.

Among the many things that are different about coordinating in-person meetings now compared to before the Covid pandemic is the frequent sticker shock among planners when it comes to audiovisual, production, and internet costs.

In a recent conversation on a popular meetings-industry chat forum, several planners expressed disbelief at some of the numbers that hotels quoted them for production and tech-related
elements for upcoming meetings: $13,000 for internet to support a two-day meeting of fewer than 100 people; $71,000 for AV for a three-day event that spent about $20,000 for similar services before the pandemic; and $43,000 for internet to support a hybrid meeting unless the in-house AV company handled it.

Lisa Burton, CMP, senior vice president for Meeting Expectations, recently encountered a similar situation. For a 350-person event her team was coordinating for a client, “the quote from the in-house AV company was over $65,000 for just the general session and three breakout rooms over two days.” But before responding to the property, “we secured three bids from outside companies to identify discrepancies in both pricing and quality of equipment. The three bids came in about $10,000 less, even factoring in travel costs, higher-quality equipment, and more services and add-ons than the in-house team would have provided.”

When presented with this information, the property's provider came down significantly in price. “Ultimately, the in-house AV company agreed to a 50-percent discount on the equipment, which was of better quality than they originally offered. The company also extended the same discount to exclusive services such as rigging and electrical.” In total, the cost of AV and production for the event came in at about $45,000.

While “we are seeing higher prices across the board [than before the pandemic], the extent varies by property,” she notes. “The higher-tier convention hotels are where we are seeing it most.”

LisaBurtonMtgExpectastions.pngTo counter this, Burton (in photo) starts conversations as early as possible with a property because “response times take longer now than they did a few years ago.” From there, “negotiating with in-house AV teams is more successful when you’ve secured competitive bids, and also when your team understands more about AV equipment. This way, we can determine if each vendor we approach is giving our meeting client the best equipment possible and whether it’s worth the cost.” 

“The area we are most often able to negotiate lower pricing is equipment,” Burton adds. “There’s generally more flexibility with equipment versus labor.” However, planners should consider possibilities they might not have thought about before. For instance, “if you’re able to access a ballroom early, can your rigging be done on straight time versus overtime?”

Overall, “make sure you ask questions if there’s something in the hotel’s quote that you don’t fully understand. The answer might provide you with an opportunity to negotiate,” says Burton. How long will planners have to think like this? “We believe tech and production costs will be a challenge for quite some time due to pandemic-related after-effects—and until planners really start to push back on the exclusives for in-house AV.”

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