As production manager at Dorier Audio-Visual Global Solutions, Jonathan Potard has worked all over the world providing audiovisual expertise for meetings. He shared his insights for meeting planners abroad on a recent MeetingsNet global meetings webinar:
In Europe, unlike in the U.S., there are rarely exclusive deals between audiovisual companies and hotels, and planners usually get a more competitive price, and are a higher priority client when they pick an outside provider. Audiovisual firms connected with the hotel may have more familiarity with the setup but less incentive to go the extra mile.
There are very few technical unions in Europe, Potard said, explaining that if you book a staff for 12 hours, but need them for an extra hour, you can negotiate directly with the workers in your location, rather than having to wait for the union to give permission. Planners are also free to use any crewmember without worrying whether they are in the union. Another plus for your project is that European venues typically don’t charge for power or hanging points. In the U.S., hotels sometimes charge for electricity consumption and the number of outlets you require for your project.
One area where European hotels are more stringent is in health and safety regulations. Potard said the rules are more rigorous and you may be asked to provide a risk assessment for insurance purposes, so it is important to hire a company who can handle this for you, rather than a single contractor using hotel equipment. Potard warns that it is a myth that people only sue each other in the U.S.; he gives an example of a woman at a project he worked on in the United Kingdom who spilled hot coffee on her own daughter and sued the venue for not posting a warning sign that the drink was too hot. She won.
Potard explained that Europe is small and the borders are open, so decide what is most important to you and choose the company accordingly. If you have a series of meetings across Europe and need continuity and consistency of quality, know that you can hire one firm from any European country and have them work in multiple countries.
Costs: Audiovisual costs on average are less in Europe than in America, and for big productions, European designers and content producers are sought after all over the world for their skills. Although meeting planners can expect to reclaim VAT on many expenses in Europe, they will probably not be able to do that for audiovisual costs. However, if you hire a firm from one country to work in another, they will not charge VAT outside their home country.
Potard said Asia is a fast-growing market for audiovisual firms, and standards for technology and production are comparable to Europe. With the exception of Japan, English is widely spoken in the audiovisual world in Asia, and you can expect technicians to be fluent in English.
Costs: On the whole both labor costs and equipment rental are cheaper in Asia, again with the exception of Japan where most things are more expensive. Potard’s best advice when negotiating in Asia is to not be shy about asking for a discount, even of up to 30 percent. He says companies will respect you for negotiating.
More from the Global Meeting Webinar
Global Meetings Part I: Your Secret Weapon in a Foreign Destination
Global Meetings Part II: Trends and Hot Button Issues
According to Potard, the audiovisual industry in the Middle East is quite new, but business is booming and lots of new offices are opening there from established firms and new contenders. Standards are good and English is widely spoken.
Costs: There is no VAT, but audiovisual services are still more expensive than Europe in the main meeting destinations of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai.
Potard said standards vary but he has found working in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico to be comparable to Europe. He cautions that communication can be difficult, meeting planners should consider booking a technical interpreter, not just someone who speaks Spanish or Portuguese.
Costs: Many countries will negotiate in U.S. dollars so planners can get a break on exchange costs. Labor costs are much lower than in Europe and the U.S., but equipment costs are generally more expensive. Planners should also budget for security; thefts are common and most companies expect the client to be responsible for any loss of equipment, so read the fine print.